Friday, December 01, 2006
I had the opportunity yesterday to meet with Hoover's, Inc interim president, Paul Pellman, and learn more about Hoover's new online social networking tool, Hoover's Connect. The new product is a joint venture between Hoover's and Visible Path (Visible Path Founder and CEO, Antony Brydon was there too, via conference call) and is the next generation of social networking tools (think Web 2.0)
While MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, ecademy, Ryze, Friendster and others have been the first movers in this space, to often they are seen as just a connect the dots parlor game (think "The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon"). Many members of these online communities dilute the services by making huge numbers of "contacts" with people whom they do not really have a personal relationship. Collecting contacts for many is the prize, rather than creating a business development tool.
In the real world a "relationship" is not just a digital link to a stranger. A true contact is some whom you know well and who will happily introduce you to people they know. A "friend" is someone you have come to know well.
On most sites my best friend for twenty years (who is Godfather to my daughter) is an equal link to some random person I have never met, but accepted into my "network" on a whim. There is, in real life, a difference between those two contacts, and Hoover's Connect has the intuition to know that difference.
Their software will analyze the types of communications you have with your contacts by looking at emails, meetings and other functions within Outlook. It will not read the actual correspondence (privacy issues are important to these folks!), but it will examine the frequency and types of interactions, thus being able to rank which contacts are most important in your network.
Their tool is "Trusted, Intelligent and Private". They hope this will appeal to more of the business community than the existing services in this space.
While Hoover's Connect does not solve all the problems of social networking (nor will it provide "world peace"), it does address many of the obstacles that have kept business professionals from embracing online social networks as a useful tool to accelerate sales.
I see their biggest challenge as the re-education of business users, who already have developed strong preconceived opinions about the use of such online tools. However, with the younger generation coming up fast (over 70% of college students utilize Facebook or MySpace on a regular basis), the acceptance of online social services will naturally increase in the next few years.
Their product will not go live until early in 2007, but for now you can learn more at their website and sign up to receive information about the pending release. I will be watching Hoover's Connect closely once it is released to the public, and I will report back on my findings!
Have A Great Day.