The Next Big Thing, “Vertical Social Networks”

People naturally group together. It is not just human nature, but the way all nature is designed. We group together around relationships, shared interests, economic drivers, convenience, efficiency, efficacy – and the list goes on and on.

Broad horizontal Social Networks like Facebook and Twitter have leveraged our new found global interconnectivity to make it easy to connect – to group together as friends and family. They are based on either very close personal or business relationships or on some broad common goal or interest – I, too, like very cute cat videos.

The power of Social Networking is still woefully underutilized. It seems like we’ve come a long way and indeed we have, but it is only the beginning, like the first trail for wagon trains across the country compared with the interconnected road system we now take for granted. We are entering the next phase with Vertical Social Networks (VSN) – specialized communities around a shared interest, location, need, event or affiliation. Who would want a VSN and would anyone pay money or make money? Here are a few data points:

You are seeing Vertical Social Networks slowly emerge around common goals like Airbnb around travel and Uber around transportation. These crowd economy companies are pioneers forging new trails. Think of everything you do and imagine the “network” to make it easier. Not just a bulletin board to post to masses and search through to see if your answer is in there somewhere. Not just email lists where you are bombarded with a stream of sometimes wanted sometimes not information. Not just a phone number to call and wait to be given an unsatisfying solution.

Every business, brand or interest can spawn a Vertical Social Network where one could purchase, learn, exchange, sell, recommend and generally engage. Blend crowd economy with social networking, bulletin boards and ecommerce and you get a new generation of interconnected networks.

The truly interesting part of this movement is that a critical mass can be much smaller than 10 or 20 % of the world’s population. 1 million people or even 100k people connected together for the right purpose can be immensely useful and powerful. Vertical Social Networks won’t grow or be created only to get rich from a unicorn IPO, although some certainly will take that path. Thousands will simply serve a purpose, provide value, fill gaps, make life more efficient or convenient, or provide support. These are mom and pop businesses, lifestyle businesses, mid-size markets and everything in between. Technology that has been driven and developed by Social Network giants is enabling a whole new generation of Vertical Social Networks. In our lifetimes, connectedness seems poised to change everything.

Technology is Needed to Change the World for the Better #techforgood

childrenThe World Economic Summit in its recent assessment outlined the greatest risks to us all – those most likely and also those with the most impact. These are issues on a grand scale – income disparity, climate chan
ge and weather events, unemployment/underemployment and cyber-attacks, to name a few.

There is one form of technology uniquely able to positively impact all of these – mobile communications. Consider the impact of enabling all the world’s population to have access to information and collaboration. Education, healthcare, emergency alerts, job opportunities, weather warnings, security alerts and more can be delivered interactively, immediately and effectively regardless of whether you are in a small town in Uganda with a feature phone or in an office building in downtown New York City. Anyone, anywhere, anytime – today – can share information, collaborate, communicate.

Of course, as with most products and services, the bulk of mobile communication innovation serves the largest and most profitable potential opportunities. Contrary to what some may believe, development of consumer technology helps everyone advance because it drives costs down due to economy of scale, but in order to truly realize the potential benefit to mankind, dedicated innovation must be geared towards niche opportunities and smaller markets that most often serve the underserved. Fortunately, many smaller companies seek out these markets as a competitive strategy. Non-profits and government entities also drive research and development in areas where the long term gain is not enough to entice those needing immediate investor satisfaction.

Many businesses give back as part of doing business as this is good for business. Employees feel more purpose in what they do. Customers feel better about being loyal to your brand. At Ivytalk, we recognize the need as a business to provide a return to our shareholders and believe excellent service for our customers is the best path to business success. However, we are also pleased to see Ivytalk used to fill gaps in communication that often impact the most vulnerable or less fortunate. There is a synergy that can be achieved in most businesses between optimizing profits and leveling the playing field for those less fortunate, and it is generally a long term view that requires vision and determination.

Technology companies, in particular, should embrace at least a bit of responsibility to push the world forward – out of sheer self-preservation if nothing else. Much of the income disparity – cited as the world’s greatest risk – is a result of the riches earned from technology innovation. There is a moral and ethical obligation to give back – to lift up those who can benefit so much from even small, incremental improvements leading to a better quality of life. In the end, we are all on the same planet and we all will ultimately suffer or thrive together. We are all interconnected. #techforgood