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Davos 2010 – The year the World Economic Forum got social

Henry Elliss
Henry Elliss
Managing Director
27 January 2010

Well, it had to happen eventually. The past couple of years has seen a massive number of companies, brands, people and even places finally waking up to the influence and power of ‘Social’ – and finally the folk at the DAVOS have caught up! It’s understandable that they took a long time to get round to it, they do have some fairly big issues to discuss – other topics being covered this year include “Germs and Globalization“, “Life on other planets” and, er, “The trouble with bubbles“. But on the agenda for today, the first full day of the conference, is the session “The growing influence of social networks“.

Aside from a slight problem I have with the title (Twitter isn’t a social network, and they’re being hailed as the stars of the show), today’s session should be a real eye-opener, with a huge number of weighty names on the guest list. They include, for the uninitiated:

I won’t cover every single question that was asked, since a) that could take hours and b) there are a lot of good blogs live-blogging the event that will do that. We’ve also been live-tweeting the event on both our Twitter stream and Tanya’s steam so check that out too. But here’s what I consider to be some of the highlights from the 2-hour session:

  • Privacy was high on the agenda, with LinkedIn’s Hoffman commenting that the value of being connected and being on social networks is enough to overcome the concerns over privacy. He also called the privacy issue “Old people concerns”…!
  • Forrester revealed some nice numbers on the major social networks, including: Twitter gets 26 million daily users, Facebook gets 130 million, LinkedIn 15 million.
  • MySpace’s Owen Van Natta claims the distribution of content is happening faster through people than it is through the traditional distribution channels.
  • Gina Bianchini says that 2009 was the year that social technologies left silicon valley and hit the mainstream. “We are heading towards a richer, more immersed social media experience”.
  • Twitter’s @Ev gave some brilliant stats about Twitter, including the news that the micro-blogging site ended 2009 with 75 million users. He claimed that the original ‘promise’ of the internet was the democratisation of information publishing and participation. Bet he couldn’t get that in to 140 characters! He also made a subtle dig at Google’s decision to censor content in China.
  • Don Tapscott says that social media is becoming the operating system of business… He also said that the banning of Facebook for their users by major corporations is the most “demoralising” thing management has ever done.
  • Seesmic’s Loic Le Muir (an addition to the original attendees list, along with the likes of Sir Tim Berners Less and Facebook’s Randi Zuckerberg) says that “companies are going to be naked”, so they’d better be a lot more honest. He also claims that the rise of social platforms will mean the death of the concept of “shy” celebrities, saying ‘handlers’ are now obsolete.
  • Tim Berners Lee told the audience that somebody needs to take an academic approach to researching social networks – making it a “web science”. Sounds like a 2011 degree subject in the making!

Despite some major issues with their own social media (DAVOS initially announced there would be no live stream due to technical difficulties – later solved by attendee Loic with his own stream) it’s been an interesting morning, with a lot of good discussion going on between some of the biggest names in the business. If you missed the event yourself, DAVOS have promised they’ll be uploading a video of it to YouTube later.

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