Functions of Social Networking Services
Alexander Richter, Michael Koch
Cooperation Systems Center Munich (CSCM)
Bundeswehr University Munich
85577 Neubiberg, Germany
Abstract. Social Networking Services (SNS) are the fastest growing type of social software – both in the Internet and in company-wide Intranets. Due to the fact that SNS have emerged just recently and the development speed of the services is enormous, there exist large gaps in research about this type of service. For example, so far there has been no attempt to identify and categorize the basic functionalities of SNS. This is the goal of this contribution. Six groups of functionalities for SNS are proposed and their categorization is motivated. The identification of a distinct set of SNS functions will facilitate the modularization and integration of different social network applications. Keywords: Social Networking, Expert Finding, Yellow Pages, Knowledge Management, Web 2.0, Social Software, Enterprise 2.0
While Knowledge Management activities have long been focused on the collection of documents and their storage in anonymous knowledge silos, in the past years companies are becoming more and more aware that employees are the real knowledge repositories and that real knowledge management is supporting communication and networking among the employees. Cohen and Prusak  for example highlight the high potential of networking employees to increase productivity and speed of innovation in companies.
Therefore, support to find experts and in a broader sense support to human social networks is becoming more and more important in companies.
The technological and technical developments of the last years make it possible to digitally reproduce human social networks. Thanks to this technical support users can establish and maintain contact to persons with whom contact would be difficult due to regional and social barriers. Users with alike interests and subject areas can now find each other and can stay connected in communities (of practice) and networks. In the context of the often-quoted Web 2.0 a new form of software to support collaborative work has evolved to cover this: Social Networking Services (SNS). Social Networking Services (SNS) are application systems that offer users functionalities for identity management (1) (i.e. the representation of the own person
e.g. in form of a profile) and enable furthermore to keep in touch (2) with other users (and thus the administration of own contacts)1. In this context one can distinguish between open SNS that are available to use for everyone in the WWW and closed SNS that are used by a rather closed user group, e.g. within the intranet of an organization.
Apart from private use, open SNS as well as closed SNS are also used for supporting the exchange of implicit knowledge within and between enterprises. As a result, SNS replace or extend the “yellow pages” which have so far been used in enterprises as a sort of tools for finding expertise.
The latter were originally implemented as Intranet-based directories, supplemented with additional information on the users’ expert knowledge and skills (see e.g. ,  and ). In contrast to traditional expertise finding tools, SNS provide a wider range of functions (sometimes even including communication functions like forums and chat). Besides, they stress the idea of user participation. Hence, SNS offer users the possibility of updating their personal contacts and expert's assessment data themselves. Even more important: Each user can manage his or her personal network, i.e. a list of contacts. As a “side effect” and major advantage the personal social networks become visible for other users. Thus, the initiation of relationships is simplified, and the...