Interesting article about social networks: ‘Not a Site, but a Concept’: Tapping the Power of Social Networking from

Li was a speaker at the recent Supernova conference, an annual technology event in San Francisco organized by Wharton legal studies and business ethics professor Kevin Werbach in collaboration with Wharton. Li and Forrester colleague Josh Bernoff have co-authored a book on the subject, Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies.

“The more you know and understand the individuals who make up the groundswell around your brand and your company, the more you can use the new social networking phenomenon to your advantage,” she said.

Such understanding comes from going well beyond traditional user surveys, however. According to Li and other speakers at the conference, too few companies study how people actually interact with the web and utilize online collaborative tools, yet much of today’s Internet revolves around individual users, the content they create, the communities they form and the transactions they choose.

“People’s lives are rich and complex, so you need to get data both in the large and in the small,” said Elizabeth Churchill, principal research scientist at Yahoo! Research whose work focuses on user Internet experiences. “That means quantitative data from large groups to answer the ‘who, what, where and how’ questions, and qualitative data to answer the ‘why’ questions. For example, we know from research done by [photo sharing website] Flickr that while Americans are big sharers of photos, Scandinavians are not. Why? What is the cultural impact on photo sharing?”