The “social” in “Social Web” implies more than technology, more than the networks where people post photos and review books: It’s less about the “what” and more about “how, why, and among whom” that distinguishes the Social Web from earlier, transactional online technologies. The term “social” refers to the ways in which people connect—friends, requiring a two-way acknowledgement of a relationship are different than more casually associated followers, for example.
The term “social” also provides insight into why they are connecting—perhaps to learn something, to share an experience, or to collaborate on a project. As such, a great place to start learning about the Social Web and its connection to business is with the basic relationships that are created between participants in social networks and social applications, and to then look at the types of interactions between them that follow.
It is the relationships and interactions between participants that connect community members and define the social graph, a term of art that means simply who you are (e.g., your profile), who you are connected to (e.g., your friends or followers), and what you are doing (e.g., status updates). The social graph is to building relationships what ordinary links between websites are to building an information network: They define the social connections.
Without the social graph—without the profiles and friends, followers, and similar relations that form between them—online social communities are reduced to task-oriented, self-serve utilities much as a basic website or shopping catalog might present itself. A quick way to see this is to think about a site like Yelp. Yelp provides review, ratings, venue, and schedule information…all of the things needed to plan an evening or other outing.