09 Mar Social networks: Readers respond
Few topics of this newsletter hit a nerve as sharply as social networking has. In fact, I get more mail when I write on this topic than I seem to receive on all other topics combined. (Something I suppose I should keep in mind when things get a little lonely in my office.)
Last week, I wrote that social networking “eludes a business model that makes fundamental sense.”
I said, “The value is in actively working the network to your business benefit. Whatever the reason, I now feel that I am part of an ecosystem of business contacts that, when properly respected and leveraged, can deliver value to me and to the members of my immediate network.”
About some of the newer social networks, I wrote: “I can’t help but feel that [it] is a BYOB (bring your own business) affair and I’ve somehow brought the wrong cocktail mix.”
I also admitted that I might be missing something, that there is giant value and a clear business that I just don’t see. And I invited your feedback. Here’s what readers had to say:
“I’ve been interested to hear via LinkedIn and Orkut (the only two I’m on) from people I haven’t been in touch with in a while. That’s a positive. But so far I just feel overwhelmed and wonder how I’m supposed to get into this thing and do more . . . However, it seems to me that sometime in the next couple of years this kind of thing will become as ubiquitous as the cell phone – we all can’t live without it now, but ten years ago we thought it was a needless appendage.” – Lisa P.
“In your recent article, ‘Social Networks Revisited,’ you stated that only Spoke has a clear path to revenue. . . . ContactNetwork has slipped in under the radar – they haven’t gotten a lot of press coverage, but they already have nearly 20 paying customers and are cash-flow-positive. Ryze and Ecademy are both profitable, as is Craigslist (technically, not a ‘social networking site,’ because you can’t designate friends on there, but in reality a social networking site, because that’s what you do on there). Tribe also has a future revenue model that has been proven already by Craigslist.” – Scott A.
“One of the more mundane but increasingly useful aspects of social networking systems is to find people’s email addresses . . . Half the requests I get on LinkedIn are from people who should know each other . . . but no longer have each other’s email addresses. Think of it as a human-mediated directory service.” – Chris H.
“I believe that only companies who could generate scalable and sustainable revenue streams with this ‘Social Networking’ concept are the companies with business models with specialized and flexible social networking services portfolios targeting Large Corporation Intranets (Business-Centric) and Dating/Matrimonial Sites (Consumer-Centric). This might change when everyone has broadband access to common communication mediums such as the Internet or something else in the future.” – Kishore R.
I was also pointed to a range of reading on the topic – links I’ll share with you, as well.
For a management perspective on social networks, see: http://www.bonfireconsulting.com/booklet.htm.
Scott Allen has written a soon-to-be-published guide to social networks, which discusses revenue models among other topics. You can get a preview at: http://www.OnlineBusinessNetworks.com/online-social-networks-guide.
I also learned about this interesting service http://www.foaf-project.org) that is a distributed “friend of a friend” network employing shared authentication to provide single sign-on to multiple FOAF sites.
And lastly, one reader asked me to mention RoloStar.com, claiming it was “attracting lot of people and has a real business model. It is not a free-bee model.”
It’s clear by all this response that we’ve not heard the last word on social networking. Maybe there is a real and growing business here. Or perhaps we’re all taking part in a grand social experiment on an Internet scale. Perhaps only time – rather than the pundits – will tell.
Three Questions: Social Networks
The Three Questions survey is back, asking which social networks you use and how much you’d be willing to pay for them. Take the survey at http://www.zoomerang.com/survey.zgi?p=WEB2DFNHUFYJ .
A new study that is due out today encourages companies to rethink their PC buying strategies. Rather than disposing of old PCs, the United Nations University report says companies should invest in upgrades and reuse. Why? The environmental impact of PC disposal. The report shows that extending the life of a computer and monitor saves tremendously on the fossil fuels and chemicals that are used to manufacture them. For information on obtaining a copy of the report, visit http://www.nwfusion.com/news/2004/0307unstudy.html . . . Aperto Networks got a boost to its coffers. The broadband wireless access system maker received $20 million from investors, including JK&B Capital. Canaan Partners, Labrador Ventures and Tyco Ventures also chipped in, bringing the company’s total backing to $77 million. The California-based company is focusing on the up-and-coming WiMax market and is aimed at helping service providers in their global wireless efforts. . . Microsoft, under the direction of Chief Software Architect Bill Gates, is taking on the spam challenge. Gates and his team are working on a new technology, called Caller ID, that attempts to validate the source address associated with an e-mail message, according to the IDG News Service. Microsoft has posted its position on spam on its Web site and is soliciting comments from the industry at http://www.microsoft.com/mscorp/twc/privacy/spam.mspx.
Chris Shipley is the executive producer of NetworkWorld’s DEMO Conferences, Editor of DEMOletter and a technology industry analyst for nearly 20 years. She can be reached at email@example.com. Shipley, has covered the personal technology business since 1984 and is regarded as one of the top analysts covering the technology industry today. Shipley has worked as a writer and editor for variety of technology consumer magazines, including PC Week, PC Magazine, PC/Computing, and InfoWorld, US Magazine and Working Woman. She has written two books on communications and Internet technology, has won numerous awards for journalistic excellence, and was named the #1 newsletter editor by Marketing Computers for two years in a row. To subscribe to DEMOletter please visit: http://www.idgexecforums.com/demoletter/index.html.
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