For all of us, there comes a time on any given day, week, and month,every year and in different degrees over our lifetimes, when we choose to act in some way that is oriented toward fulfilling our social and psychological needs, not our market-exchangeable needs. It is that part of our lives and our motivational structure that social production taps, and on which it thrives. There is nothing mysterious about this. It is evident to any of us who rush home to our family or to a restaurant or bar with friends at the end of a workday, rather than staying on for another hour of overtime or to increase our billable hours; or at least regret it when we cannot. — Benkler, Wealth of Networks
The question then becomes: How do you tap into those times and produce income?
It is not an easy one to answer. An obvious choice would be advertising and many of the social networks are taking advantage of that – some in conservative ways such as Digg.com or Facebook.com – but how does an individual or small business tap into this social need? I think the answer again lies in advertising, only in a more subtle and soft-sell manner.
As an example, I created a MySpace.com page sometime back. As all my friends and clients know, I’m not a fan of MySpace at all, but there is a compelling social aspect to the site. In my case though, I put up page to learn how their template works. Sure, I’ve had some old friends find me there, but even more importantly I’ve had a couple of clients pay me to create them a MySpace template – one without all the eye-popping glitzy bedazzled looking garbage.
Here is another example. On any message boards that I frequent, whenever I post I always put a URL to one of my websites in my signature line. Do I get much business from that? No, but I have gained a few clients and it only cost me my time.
Facebook has become very popular in the last 18 months. I definitely like it much better than MySpace, and I finally created a profile there. Am I looking to generate business there as well? Maybe. It doesn’t hurt to network out. Think of it like going to a dinner party or conference only it lasts 24/7. If I gain some new business great – at the worst I’ve found some old and new friends.
The vast majority of my business has been through word-of-mouth. Social networking parallels that very closely. It costs virtually nothing except time and effort. Why not tap into it?