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As our customers' real-life and online lives continue to intersect, social networks are becoming the glue which holds it all together. Take Facebook, which started as a sort of online frat party. Now it's poised to become the equivalent of a 24/7 bazaar, part of an online industry of web applications which research company IDC says will grow from $46.8 million in 2006 to $428.3 million in 2009.

That is a lofty number.
In strictly marketing terms, what does this trend mean for online business segments?
self-service applications used by groups and marketing campaign teams;
brand applications that focus on customer engagement;
and enterprise applications that provide more effective ways of working with customers, partners and other external parties.
But what this means to you customer is the ability to leverage their online relationships into business relationships. According to the New York Times, Lemonadehas just unveiled a service that will let users create kiosks on their Facebook and MySpace pages, among others, to sell anything from old furniture to the products of online retail stores.
The affiliate programs will net commissions of between 5-15% and other incentives to deliver a paying customer. Lemonade keeps 20% of the commissions on behalf of people who create online kiosks, and will pay users the rest of the money.
From lemonade stands to Garage Sale --'s new service that allows people to sell used items on their Facebook pages for a 5% commission .... - the best way to dig out of unused products seems to be online these days.
This nexus further breaks down traditional distinctions between the Customer and the Seller. Pioneers in the new market space will find they are becoming, in a sense, partners with their customers -- who, in turn, are transforming their online social relationship into small business alliances of their own.
And this is the pervasive and permanent nature of what we currently call social networking. One can imagine a day in which the distinction between business and customer; between network and application; between social and entrepreneurial seem dated and artificial.
So be a visionary: what other manifestations of social networking can you imagine? And what are you doing about it?

Continue reading "How Social Networks Are Disrupting Everything You Know About Business" ... Read the full article

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Valeria Maltoni helps businesses understand how customers and communities have changed marketing, public relations, and communications - and how to build value in this new environment. As a communicator she specializes in marketing communications, customer dialogue, and brand management. Valeria has come to define modern business as a long and open conversation. Conversation Agent is recognized among the world's top online marketing blogs. Valeria is a Fast Company expert blogger and a contributor to The Blog Herald. She is a co-author of , a groundbreaking ebook collaboration by 103 of today's top marketing writers. Valeria is a frequent public speaker on brand marketing, customer service, and building successful business teams. She publishes in both English and Italian. Educated at the University of Bologna and Villanova University, Valeria combines New World sensibilities with Italian style. She's an active member of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), the American Marketing Association (AMA), the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia (WACA), and the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).