The Power of Social Networking

It was a bleak day on the outskirts of London. The kind of day that envelopes the world in grey while rain spits on the dirty pavement and even a wool sweater can’t protect you from the cold that seeps into your bones. I was missing home. And then I found Facebook.

From that day on Facebook closed the miles between my college friends and me. I could log-on, look at their profiles, see updated pictures of them and even read how they were feeling at that very instant.

Yet I never understood the true scope of the social networking site until I returned to my alma mater this past weekend for the Grand Valley State University homecoming festivities.

One of the hot spots for those who graduated circa 2003 is the Yellow Jacket Inn. It’s not actually in Allendale, because at that time, there was literally nothing in Allendale. But I know that several of my friends, and their friends, and friends of their friends, would be stopping by for an infamous pink drink on Saturday. So I Googled it.

Local Business Results included Subway, Hungry Howie’s, Beans to Brew and Burger King. I grumbled about today’s spoiled students as I continued to search page after page of results. And then I found it. The Yellow Jacket Inn. I clicked. No website. All I found was a single review saying something about the all-you-can-eat buffet. Nothing about pink drinks.

Yet when I got to my destination on Saturday, it was packed. I couldn’t move for the crush of people. I wondered how they had all found out about this place. Word of mouth is great, but not that great. How had I even known to meet there, for that matter?

Facebook, of course! My friends had posted messages on each other’s walls about meeting up there. I had known within 30 seconds who was going to be at the Yellow Jacket Inn, simply by logging on to my own Facebook account.

In a recent article, the LA Times summarizes Mark Zuckerberg’s explanation of his company’s success:

Humans get their information from two places – from mainstream media or some other centralized organization such as a church, and from their network of family, friends, neighbors and colleagues. We’ve already digitized the first.

What Zuckerberg and Facebook are trying to do is digitize the second. With Facebook, word of mouth information is automatically pushed out to all of your friends, and to their friends. The word spreads almost instantaneously.

And I, for one, can’t wait to see what that means for the future.