SAN FRANCISCO -- Social networks not only give companies broader access to new customers, they do it at unprecedented lower costs, according to Clara Shih, author of "The Facebook Era."
In a speech here Wednesday at the Web 2.0 Expo, Shih explained that she refers to the Facebook Era because the company dominates the social networking market with more than 400 million users.
"People spend over 20 billion minutes a day on Facebook -- you have to be there," Shih said. But it's the broader social network movement, including Twitter, LinkedIn and a growing number of social networks in other countries that represent "a cultural movement" and a "new psychology," she added.
Before Facebook, companies would have a hard -- or at least expensive -- time tailoring their marketing to the best projects. But Shih said Facebook profiles are a marketer's dream because users reveal so much about their interests, such as favorite sports, hobbies and product preferences.
"When we moved from in-person meetings, to phone calls to Facebook, each time the cost of that communication goes down and our network grows," she said.
A key advantage for users is the ability to easily reconnect with past friends and make new acquaintances.
"The benefit of Facebook is on the fringe, connecting, for example, with the people you used to work with but had to forgo because you didn't have time to reach out to them," she said. "Now the cost is so low, we can all stay in touch, and social research going back to the 1970s shows you capitalize on the fringe, the weak-tie relationships."
All this has profound social implications as companies and users find new ways to gain followers and retweet what messages they consider to be important, Shih said.
The Web has evolved from an "information Web" to a worldwide map of people and a mindset of "brand is what matters most," Shih said. "It's a shift happening in real time, all the time."
True to her social media leanings, Shih closed with an invitation to the audience to "keep the conversation going -- e-mail if you must."
Another speaker during the morning round of keynotes at the Web 2.0 show was Rashimi Sinha, CEO of SlideShare, who had a bit of news to announce.
SlideShare, which attracts more than 25 million visitors a month and bills itself as the world's largest community for sharing presentations, has now added video sharing to the business media site.
"The Web is evolving and users have asked, 'Can I share videos of my talks, demos, webinars, and screencasts that are now scattered across Web," Sinha said. "We've had the ability to embed YouTube. Today we're announcing you can make direct uploads of video to SlideShare that work the same way as SlideShare does now with social media features for sharing."
In addition, Sinha announced that the SlideShare application for LinkedIn will also now allow video sharing. "There is no other way to share videos directly on LinkedIn," she said.
Back in 2006 Sinha said SlideShare was nicknamed the YouTube of PowerPoint. "Now it's time to recognize video," she said.