This is one of my predictions for 2009. The combination of recession and a new class of mobile device led by the iPhone will provide an accelerated catalyst for even faster and deeper adoption of social networks. Unemployment is causing people to network like never before. While some find that next job by reading the papers, most job openings are filled before every making it that far. More often positions are filled via the cumulative networks of its employees, so smart people looking for that next opportunity are turning to network management systems like Facebook and LinkedIn to both get the word out about their needs and skills, and to listen for those inside-scoop opportunities. Even those with jobs are smart to network now because nobody knows what is around the next corner.

The iPhone was a game changer when it’s come to accessing social media and networks. The iPhone and the throng of new copycats have now cut the tie to the computer and enable people to continuously stay connected to their networks wherever they go. Manufacturers and resellers recognize this specific need and are actively promoting their “social features” along side camera, gps, touchscreen, music and whatever else they can pack into these things. Many are opening their devices to developers to create custom apps that pull from social networks and media to provide unique functionality – often making it especially fun to connect and interact. As these apps get better, adoption deepens and spreads.

While those putting in extra hours to help secure the future of their job may not have extra time to network online, those unemployed unfortunately do. For these people, Facebook and LinkedIn serve multiple needs, which further accelerate usage. For one, they serve the primary purpose of helping to find that next job. Also, unemployment can be lonely and traumatic, and these tools can help to maintain a sense of connectedness to colleagues, friends, family, and that next opportunity.