Saturday, May 24, 2008

7 Key Attributes of Social Web Applications

The Social Web enables website visitors to come together around shared interests and become active contributors rather than just content browsers. By making the connections between people much more visible, social websites are able to enact a network effect of participation and engaging interactions that result in vibrant communities and compelling user generated content.

This all sounds good, but...

what exactly makes an application social?
what are the key attributes of a social web application?

Since social web applications are built to encourage communication between people, they typically emphasize some combination of the following social attributes:

  1. Identity: who are you?

  2. Reputation: what do people think you stand for?

  3. Presence: where are you?

  4. Relationships: who are you connected with? who do you trust?

  5. Groups: how do you organize your connections?

  6. Conversations: what do you discuss with others?

  7. Sharing: what content do you make available for others to interact with?

Social web applications need not exhibit all of these features, but the more attribute areas they cover, the more engaging they are likely to be.

Examples of social web applications include:
  • General: Blogs, Walls/Forums, Picture/Video Sharing and tagging, Favorites/Social Bookmarks, Feeds, Events, Email/Messaging, Notification, Invitation, etc.

  • Commerce-Oriented: User rating and reviews, Referral programs, Wish List, Wedding/Baby Registries, Gift List, etc.

  • Brand Enhancement/Awareness-Oriented: Forums/Walls, Games/Contests, Polls, Goal Tracking/Rewards Programs, Advertising Engine, etc.

So, to better answer the question of "what exactly makes an application social?", I encourage you to ask yourself which attributes are exhibited by each of the examples listed above. And if a particular social web application doesn't cover a particular attribute, how might it be enhanced to do so?

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