The Future of Social Networking

June 25, 2008

I was surprised to run across a couple of very similar stories on social networking in USA Today and the New York Times. Basically, both question when — and if — sites like Facebook and MySpace will ever be able to successfully monetize their very attractive networks of users.

Une représentation de mon réseau social dans Facebook
Creative Commons License photo credit: luc legay

I’ve wondered about that, as well. Given the essentially personal nature of those sites, I question how users would respond to an invasion of overt advertising messages. The quick failure of Facebook’s Beacon feature gives one indication, and it’s not a positive one for marketers.

There’s also the question of the disposability of technology, in which I include Web sites. Facebook and MySpace are hot today, but will they be in five years? I’d give a qualified yes, but with predictions calling for the creation of another 250,000 social networking sites in the next year (!!!), who knows whether one of the newbies will come up with a new twist that will steal users from the existing giants.

If you read the comments section with the Times story, you’ll see quite a few predictions that Facebook, et. al., will be replaced by the next big thing. “People are fickle, they grow older, their priorities change, fashion changes, they get bored and want a change in venue,” one commenter said.

I’m not prepared to go quite that far, although I get the point. But for now, there’s no doubt that having a social networking presence is a net gain for anyone with a product or service to sell.

Here’s a link to a fascinating discussion at Read Write Web on how much of a time commitment it takes to really be involved with social media.