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What We Do on Social Networks

December 16, 2008


I was at a board meeting this morning that had a fun discussion about social networks and what we really do on them. The hypothesis was that social network activity falls into 3 buckets: communication; playing; and sharing/exchanging.  I haven’t seen any analysis that breaks down usage across these 3 (or other) categories. I’d love to hear if anyone has… The other aspect of our conversation was around where the most value was from a monetization perspective. The consensus was that communication was the lowest value.

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  1. January 9, 2009

    I think it all depends on it depends on who’s trying to find value – a publisher, a brand, an investor or a member. While they have similar needs, they have very different goals.

    I would say if I was a VC or a media planner, I would still be basing it off of analytics – more page views, more money.

    As a publisher or a member, I would say sharing/exchanging is the most valuable. Members want to have a genuine connection and insist that if they are going to spend time on your site, they better get something of value from it. That’s meaningful to the publisher who will see members stay on longer and more page views for an ad campaign which makes the brands happy. Brands like it because it allows them to go in deeper although they don’t know how much to pay for it.

    I think most of what we do on a social network is some form of “conversation” – sharing a photo, a recipe, a forum post. Your sharing something about yourself and communicating to others what you want them to know. You’re also digesting information about the other members. For brands, they too want to have a meaningful conversations with fans/consumers – all of which becomes valuable to the publisher because that means the brands will come back for more campaigns.

    I guess that would lead me to believe that “playing” is the least valuable, but what’s the point if you’re not having fun? Plus playing means more page views.. So my guess is, a perfect site is one that is all three and can tap into those areas with a clear monetization plan.

    From my experience a lot of publishers have trouble creating campaigns that jump start the chatter. Like any great party, there has to be a great host/hostess…someone who keeps the wine flowing and the conversation interesting until groups break off and start to have their own conversations. But, the reality is a brand only has 2-8 weeks to run through their full campaign -so the publisher needs to get the action going as fast as possible. So, it’s unlikely that the sharing/exchanging part is an option. That’s why most publishers focus on “playing”… it’s easier. And besides, even though brands say they want to be “social,” it doesn’t mean they aren’t basing success on your traffic metrics. It’s the “who cares if they are talking.. as long as they are showing up!”

    So I guess it all depends on who the person is that’s deciding the value and does it matter to you, the publisher, at this moment.


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