The meteoric rise in popularity of social networking tells us one thing -- humans love to communicate with each other.  We share our joy, pain and empathy, as well as our opinions, expertise and personal experiences.  We do this out of basic needs we have to learn, to share, and to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

What draws most of us to sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube -- and what businesses need to understand in order to better use social media -- is to join conversations that are of interest to us, and to build relationships with those we are interested in.  We don’t spend valuable time on these sites because they have funny names, or just to “hang out.”  We talk about books, films, politics, and sports.  We also talk about the latest news, industry development, or important “thing” that needs to be discussed.

And so the important thing about social networking are the people, and the interaction we share on things that are mutually important to us.  Twitter, Facebook, and other sites have millions of members, and millions of interactions taking place simultaneously.  But like most social networkers out there, I have many friends/colleagues on Facebook that aren’t on Twitter, and others on LinkedIn that aren’t either of the two.  

So while social networks have tremendously increased our ability to connect with others and the ability of businesses to connect with potential customers or partners, we still have to go to the network to reach them.  And in order to reach the people we want about that certain “thing,” we may need to go to several networks and participate in disconnected conversations.  Additionally, there may be some people who are experts on “the thing” we’re currently interested in that are unknown to us.

It would be great if our social networks followed us around, instead of us having to go to the network, which is what Glue, a Firefox browser extension from AdaptiveBlue, gets us closer to.  What’s interesting about Glue is that it’s not a destination. In fact, the destination is “the thing.”  So if you’re a member of Netflix and Grand Torino is recommended to you based on your viewing history, not only will you see the reviews left by strangers, but the Glue toolbar will appear with a list of friends and other Glue users who have recently showed interest in this movie.  You will be able to see how many of them liked the movie, and what comments they had.

Here’s what businesses need to understand about what makes Glue really compelling.  One Glue member may have been on the Grand Torino page over at IMDB, another might have found it on Fandango, and others may have been on Amazon.com or Wikipedia.  Glue knows regardless of the site their members are on, they are interested in “the thing” -- in this instance, Grand Torino. 

So it doesn’t matter what Glue-enabled site you’re on when you’re trying to find out about Grand Torino, because you’ll always have access to the thoughts and opinions of your Glue friends and fellow users at your disposal.  You can even reply to a comment left from your buddy while at Amazon.com while you’re on Wikipedia.  Additionally, you can add Grand Torino to your Netflix queue while you’re on the Grand Torino Wikipedia page.  Not only can you use Glue for this kind of interaction with movies, but also on other things we love to discuss, like books, music, restaurants, and even electronics.   

What I like most about Glue is that it makes it easier to use the Web in a more natural way.  The most important thing for me is to be able to communicate with my friends and colleagues about what’s important to me.  It’s also vital to find others I don’t know who share my passions and interests.  And Glue makes that possible, by bringing the people and sites together when my mind is fixated on “the thing.”  Kind of like those Verizon commercials that show the network of people following you around, making them accessible at a moment’s notice. 

That’s the kind of experience I want.  That’s the kind of experience I’ll need in order to help me wade through all the information and people online. That's the way businesses can better optimize using social media to help sell products.  Right now Glue only has 35,000 active users, which limits the impact it can have.  But the latest release of Glue allows you to grab your friends from Facebook and Twitter and interact with them.  Hopefully that will help rapidly grow this network, and maybe make it “the thing” we need to make Web 2.0 an easier place to navigate.

To learn more about Glue click to hear a recent conversation I had with AdaptiveBlue Alex Iskold.

Brent Leary is a partner of CRM Essentials. He is co-author of Barack 2.0: Social Media Lessons for Small Business. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/brentleary.

Published on: May 1, 2009