Social networks are multiplying like fruit flies! Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce, 8apps, MySpace (out) Facebook, (in), Gleamd, Zaadz, Ning, and Benny Bix's fave, Dogster... whew!

"Socnets" offer a glimpse into the Internet's future .... which will increasingly include mobile communication from devices like the iPhone with small screens. That's what makes them so exciting.
The "Real Work" is changing
Social networks can look like distractions from the "real" work of business. Business is built on relationships and strengthening relationships is much of the "real work."
Sometimes socnets are just a distraction, but more often, they help increase the strength of business and social connections relationships. And I'm surely more likely to respond to an email or call from someone I'm in regular contact with than someone I don't "know."
I've been spending time building my Facebook network, and I've made Twitter a daily habbit (ok, I'm addicted) because:
it makes me and the really smart people I hang out with on Twitter distill ideas into their essence because each tweet can only be 140 characters
The potential to make money from them is vast. I have already had several client inquiries and been granted direct access to several of my heroes whom I might not have met otherwise
Twitter is, so far, free from spam and PR pitches. Or at least if there are pitches they have to be only 140 characters. And if someone is annoying, you can easily block them.
There are already several examples of intelligent marketing use of socnets.
My socnet guru, Steven Streight, aka Vaspers the Grate, is the bard of Twitter. I love reading the ideas, questions and links he and other active Tweeties post.
Twitter's fun
Socnets are changing blogging, and much more
Already this form of micro-blogging has led me to use my blog for longer, more thoughtful posts (well, not always) and put the short takes and links in Twitter, or Facebook, or 8apps.
This type of change by several well-known bloggers has caused some speculation that blogging is dying. That could not be farther from the truth. Blogging is evolving, and only those who are truly dedicated to writing and sharing information are still, well, dedicated.
Some will say that expressing thoughts in 140 characters contributes to the dumbing down of our society. And they're probably right. But honey, fighting that one is a losing battle, so you might as well join in.
Shiny Object Syndrome
The A-list blog crowd is flitting around in what some call Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS) like moths to a flame. Nobody, repeat nobody, has time for active participation in six or eight social networks. As an Internet marketing strategist, I join and test socnets because I want to see if my clients should participate in or sponsor them. Until you join and look at the features and give it a test run, you can't tell which is a keeper.
Soflow, one of the early social networking sites, just announced today that it is closing. Adrants, which had a forum on Soflow for years, recently replaced that with a Ning-based ad industry forum, which seems more feature rich. So the socnet shake-out has begun. And funny thing: podcasting and Second Life seem to be so last quarter.
Many people are heavily invested in creating their LinkedIn networks, and aren't about to leave those contacts behind in any hurry. Facebook is the "in" socnet of the moment among the digerati, who will most likely abandon it a few weeks from now. It'll be a long time before the monster business networking app makes itself known.
Remember the web portals, bulletin boards and chat rooms of the 90s? They were all the next big thing once.
We've come a long way baby. And we've got a looooong way to go.

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B.L. Ochman is a social media marketing strategist for S&P 500 companies, including McGraw Hill, IBM, Cendant, and American Greetings. She publishes What's Next Blog and Ethics Crisis, where readers can confess their worst ethics transgressions and others can rate them on a scale of one to ten. She also blogs for MarketingProfs Daily Fix Blog.