“Social Networking” was front page business section news in the New York Times yesterday. Broadly speaking, it’s a form of knowledge management in that it can facilitate relationship management and expertise location. But will it really work? 

The idea of social networking is that you can tap into friends of friends for business purpose (along the lines of the six degrees of separation theory). The New York Times article, “Social Networks: Will Users Pay to Get Friends?,” raises the question “whether social networking [web] sites can ever make a lot of money by connecting friends of friends in mini-networks of trust.” It explores the arguments on both sides of the question but, in my reading, leans toward the view that the answer is no.

I am listed on Linkedin, one of the companies the article mentions. While there is an element of fun, if not competition in seeing how many connections one can list, I have not yet used Linked in for business purposes. I have neither issued a request to connect to someone nor received one. I have no complaint about Linkedin; I suspect I’d have the same reaction using the competition.

Social Networking is not limited to start-up web sites. Interface Software’s flagship product Interaction offers social networking features. A third-party white paper on Social Networking and Interaction is available free with registration. In my opinion, the paper is a bit thin on details and examples, but for those interested in the topic, it is worth at least skimming.

For law firms, which depend on personal relationships to maintain and generate business, the idea of social networking is critical. Whether it can translate to software, however, and the changes in behavior implicit in software, is a question that remains unanswered.