Monday, 3 March 2008

Network contagion

So much is written about social networking these days that you really need to be a hermit to keep on top of it.

Wading through it all, I spotted two stories this week that I found interesting:

The first, in today’s Telegraph, reports a TNS study that shows that British businesses are missing a trick by not investing enough time in taking advantage of the power (for good and for bad) of these networks.

It quotes Jim Nail of TNS as saying: "It is surprising to see that the UK is lagging so far behind other major nations in terms of recognising the business potential for social media. We are already seeing the damage done to brands who ignore negative publicity on networking sights(sic)."

Tsk, tsk.

The second, here, makes the case that it isn’t just fashions in the likes of shoes or music that spread through social networks - emotions, such as happiness, loneliness and altruism - or conditions such as anorexia or obesity - can potentially spread as well. This idea of "network contagion" is compellingly expressed.

If the author, Nicholas Christakis, is right, it opens up a vipers' nest of ethical issues - and a gold rush as a new wave of experts emerge to help businesses exploit social networking's commercial potential.

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