Where Africa and Technology Collide!

Blogging and Social Networks are About OFFLINE Interaction

Two things happened within the last month that made me realize the true value of social networks:

  1. I signed up for Facebook (finally, after much prodding)
  2. I met some fellow real estate bloggers yesterday

African Bloggers at TEDGlobal Real Estate Bloggers in Orlando African Bloggers at TEDGlobal - lunch Ory and Heather at the 27 Dinner in Joburg
(bloggers meeting up OFFLINE)

How could these two incidents be related? Well, the first is pretty obvious – joining Facebook. It’s the social network that has all the cool kids raving about it right now. It’s good, really good, at connecting people and keeping them coming back. I’ve used many other social networking sites, but this is by far the most useful and smoothest operating one I’ve found.

The second item was more important, primarily because we had a conversation there that proved out the theory better than anything else. Marcus brought up the fact that he thought social networks were a complete waste of time, it’s only offline that’s valuable. Social networks are most useful as facilitators for offline connections.

I guess I hadn’t thought of it that way before.

Blogging can be useful for knowledge and as a public platform for one’s views. However, it shares something in common with social networking sites, in that it is also a way to network with people. Blogging can act as a catalyst for email and other forms of direct communication.

The value of blogging, and of being part of a social networking site, is that the people you meet and find through connections that you make online can be utilized in the offline world. Connecting to a larger hub of people, and being able to communicate with them all easily, allows you to leverage that group when doing things as diverse as looking for a new job, organizing a reunion or finding old friends.

The chance to meet with the bloggers at TED, as well as meet some great contacts for future business or employment, was the best example of this I can think of. The ongoing online connections will be useful for keeping in touch and doing a few projects – but the true value is when we do something again offlinedescend upon San Francisco, as real estate bloggers. The meetings that we have there, and the business that comes out of it will be the value for our blogging and connecting on social networks for the past couple years.

If you take part in these social networks, or if you blog, make sure you utilize the platform for it’s true potential – meeting people offline.


  1. Great post, I have been on linked in for a while, and just joined Myspace and Facebook, but it is Zoodango that really has my attention. It is a social networking site design completely around face to face interaction. I wrote a post on my site a few days ago if you are intrested. http://bmtrnavsky.wordpress.com/2007/06/28/a-new-kind-of-social-networking-site/

  2. The real value proposition of social media is not functionality or features of socnet apps, but rather real human connection with a large networked group of people. You’ve hit the nail on the head!

  3. Brad, I haven’t tried Zoodango yet. It looks like it’s worth checking out though, so thanks for the link.

    Jim, thanks! Looks like .gov is keeping you pretty busy these days. Keep safe on your world travels.

  4. Exactly, meeting offline is the other side of the game. The other day while meeting fellow bloggers in Frankfurt, Germany (who I of course had to inform about the vivid Afrosphere), I for the first time since ages felt this spirit again of being in a conversation with ppl who actually *know* what I am talking about.

  5. hi erik!

    great seeing you again and meeting your adorable daughter.

    you got it, online social networking is the facilitator. taking the next step by meeting offline is when the real magic happens so to speak.

    – rudy.sellsius°


    bloggerrazzi baby……

  6. Good post, and spot on as always, Erik.

    Having spent most of my recent ‘working’ life alone in the corner of a lounge or bedroom in some far-off English village, the chances to regularly meet with the kinds of people interested in what I has generally been on the slim side. I was cursing all of my email and Facebook interactions the other day, but truth be told I’d never be able to connect the way I do without them.

    Health workers in Kenya, or election monitors in Nigeria, would never write me a letter and ask to use FrontlineSMS, or to ask for mobile help. It just wouldn’t work. And the chances of meeting up with any of these people ‘in real life’ is very slim, sadly (but who knows – there’s always the Stockholm Challenge!).

    So, although I agree that using the online world to facilitate offline interaction is hugely beneficial, where this is not possible simply joining the dots is still a huge leap forward.

    Yours digitally, from the corner of his bedroom in Willingham, Cambridgeshire, UK. Ken

  7. Erik,
    Great post! I really like this quote, “Social networks are most useful as facilitators for offline connections.” I’ve been blogging for quite sometime and have used MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, as well as Twitter to promote my personal brand and hopefully link to others on and offline.

    It takes work, like all networking, but it very rewarding.

    David Finch

  8. Great post! I am particularly interested in Social Networks in Africa and currently looking at a business model to address this. I agree with the quote ‘Social networks are most useful as facilitators for offline connections’, particularly in Africa where informal networks already exist in various formats. I also agree with David that there are instances where this might not be possible due to challenges with location. In such instances, online networking is fantastic! I have personally benefitted from connections with people who are not within my immediate locality. I believe the biggest challenge at the moment within Africa is the technology infrasture, which I believe is being addressed. I can’t wait for us to catch up with the west in theh area of technology!

    Internet Lover and Blogger,

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