Yahoo has a lot of work to do as it looks to rebuild under new CEO Carol Bartz. Bartz has assets to work with, namely Yahoo’s diverse portfolio of highly-trafficked properties.

One of the biggest challenges: figuring out a way to pull them all together, both from an operational standpoint and a functional standpoint.

The answer Bartz and Yahoo co-founder have come up with: social glue.

By weaving social features into Yahoo’s currently disparate properties, Yahoo hopes that it can create a coherent network whose value is greater than the sum of its parts:

In the next several months Yahoo will begin rolling out new versions of its most popular products, from Yahoo Mail to the Yahoo home page. A thread of social media features, including a common user profile, list of friends and regular updates about friends, will tie the family of Yahoo properties together.

The new approach will accomplish two things:

  • It will introduce Yahoo users to other Yahoo properties. Right now, Yahoo says that more than half of its users only frequent a few Yahoo properties on a regular basis. By integrating social features that promote content from around the network, users will be exposed to other properties that may be of interest.
  • It could give Yahoo additional monetization opportunities. While pure-play social media upstarts like Facebook are still trying to win advertisers over, Yahoo has plenty of blue chip advertisers in its stable. If Yahoo can make its social glue a success, it might have an easier time getting existing advertisers to buy in.

The big question for Yahoo is whether its users really want or need social glue. According to the Reuters article on Yahoo’s plans, much of the glue will resemble the activity stream format that has been popularized by services like Twitter and FriendFeed:

When an individual recommends a news story from the Yahoo homepage, uploads a photograph on Flickr or makes a trade on a fantasy baseball team from Yahoo sports, Yahoo will send an alert to a network of friends or contacts.

Facebook recently launched a redesign that accomplishes much the same thing within its service and that has upset a lot of users. Will the same prove true with Yahoo or will Yahoo users be more receptive? How Yahoo implements its social glue and applies it to the network will play a huge role in answering that question.

One suggestion I have: be sure to give users the ability to unstick themselves.

Photo credit: lylamerle via Flickr.