Social media is not something that will burst like the South Sea bubble or the dotcom bubble. This is not something that will pass you or your company by. Social computing has far reaching effects that will permeate every business, reaching all job roles. It is worldwide and pervasive. So what are you doing about it?

Everyone seems to be talking about push—pull marketing, with tools and sites offering get-rich-quick schemes and easy ways to increase your followers. Why has there been so much exposure for this new way of communication? To consider this, we need to look at the key drivers for us to connect with others online.

We need to connect—with another entity across the town, the country, the world. Our need to interact virtually with each other has driven a massive explosion of Web 2.0 applications, designed to help you connect, communicate, snoop and stalk. But it is becoming harder to function effectively in today—s technology-obsessed world without effort or seeming to become an Internet geek. The Web 2.0 world can be looked at from many different angles. You can watch the effect that Web 2.0 has had on ordinary consumers and the way they now interact with the web.

Watching how social networks grow across different environments has resulted in a fundamental change in society, technology and business practices.

We begin by looking at how people interact in social groups, both face to face and online, looking at how Generation Y behave on social networking sites and how their behaviour differs from that of the baby boomers. We look at how the conversation between consumers and companies has changed over time into a two-way dialogue and how some companies have benefited from this effect. We then look back to when online social conversation began and how the early bulletin boards, chat rooms and multi-user dungeons have evolved into forums, instant messaging and MMORPGs. We also look at the evolution of the Internet for consumers, the rise of Internet service providers and proprietary forum software such as CompuServe and AOL. We see how walled gardens prevented cross-network interaction and how browsers worked to get around this issue. We then look at how the concept of Web 2.0 changed the way that users interacted with websites and companies, and how social networks grew to take advantage of this interaction. Finally, we discuss the influencers inside the organisation and explain how these influencers connect, network and propagate information across business groups. We see how adding extra information to the conversation encourages dialogue to flow more readily and effectively builds your network.