Jeremiah Owyang is a web strategist with internet consultants Forrester Research. He writes the deceivingly simple-sounding Web Strategy blog, which is rife with useful ideas about social media.
A recent posting, however, called "What's After the Social Web?", just seemed like so much Silicon Valley namedropping. Jeremiah often tells us who he bumped into, who sent him a private message, who was texting him, and so on. But then I noticed that in a fraction of a single sentence he made three discrete references that are relevant to alumni networks.
I received a private message from Tim O’Reilly himself, we got on the phone and he explained his intentions of the term [Web 3.0] ... and loosely, his vision is that the behavior of networks will populate databases in which organizations can retrieve the data and deliver content....
Let's unpack that and see what it means for alumni organizations:
- "the behavior of networks"
O'Reilly, is talking about the relationships between individuals within a network; how they interact with each other; and how they connect with resources outside the network.
- "will populate databases"
The network members' aggregate behavior will convey their needs and interests. The way in which they use the network will contribute information about the network's value to its members, and we'll store this information.
- "organizations can retrieve the data and deliver content"
The organization will use this stored information to provide tools and resources that satisfy the network members' needs — tools that help solve their problems.
How might this apply to advancement? Can we observe, measure and record how people interact, and identify what they need?
If we can, we will activate the alumni network so alumni can use it to find answers to their problems and find resources they need to achieve personal or professional goals. And to do that, we need to stop worrying about whether we can attract alumni to our "online communities." We never could. But it's ok. We don't have to.
What do we have to do? Steve Rubel said it very simply on the Authenticities blog:
To succeed, brands and content producers will need to make sure their content is portable and can go where the people are.
I'll close with another quote from Jeremiah Owyang's posting (emphasis mine):
...most of my clients (large corporations) haven’t figured out how to fully embrace the social web — let alone think about what’s next...[T]he social web won’t go away, but will integrate, and soon a new type of technology will emerge to provide greater relevancy to content, people, activities and ideas.
If Jeremiah's right (and I think he is), that "new type of technology" has the potential to make us a lot more effective in helping alumni find the resources they need to solve their problems and get things done.