The Next Social Networks Won't Look Like MySpace

Posted by: Rob Hof on April 24, 2006

So says Marc Pincus, who knows something about social networks from his time at Tribe Networks. Marc wonders if the current online social networks will survive their members, well, growing up and running out of time for mostly checking each other out. As people get older, he thinks, they’ll tend to favor services with a more overt utility than MySpace and The Facebook—something I suspect could happen as well.

Of course, MySpace and Facebook do have certain kinds of utility and no doubt will add more. But Marc thinks the next social networks won’t look the same at all:

I think we will yet see one or two more services reach the audience sizes of myspace/facebook but they may look far different than the hosted portal model.

I think the functions of social networking will become more *owned* by communities and end users and less controlled by large media services as their interests are not well aligned.

I can imagine the social networking function hosted on my own pc, possibly integrated with my email and other communications services. … The resulting social map should me MINE and usable across all web services.

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Reader Comments

Steve Mansfield

April 26, 2006 04:57 PM

One of the ways that we believe social networks will begin to differentiate their sites, as well as address their monetization issues, will be an extending their huge memberships and demographic information into “social search”.

Extending the power of these types of huge networks into pure search could be a major factor in the evolution of Search, the differentiating factor for social networks and the primary method used for social networks to achieve their earnings potential. These huge online communities and the smaller sub-communities within them could influence virtually all the key factors in search, including relevance, inclusion and exclusion, advertising paradigms, and in the case of PreFound.com technology, the actual content itself. The concept, scaled to its potential and infusing the technologies of companies like PreFound.com, Eurekster and others, might rival or even overtake traditional search technologies as the dominant method for the “Y” generation to find online information. Sure, we'll have to improve the way we search tags and the process of tagging itself. Also, we have to make saving and sharing link information an organic part of a user's browsing experience, and more, but we are big believers in the concept. Really, the next big thing in Searching (WSJ 1/24/06).

On the advertising/revenue level, it could have serious potential. Extending their paradigm into social search would allow sites to utilize search-spawned sponsored links, a very “tried and true” revenue generating component. Plus, multiple layers of like-minded people inside a community, inside other communities, ad infinitum, could bring targeting advertising to the next evolutionary level, and on a huge scale.

Paul Bannister

April 27, 2006 05:27 PM

The success of social networks and all of the related social aspects of Web 2.0 very much comes down to the same factor for success as anything else: create a product that solves a problem or meets a need of a particular group of people. MySpace and Facebook serve the "check other people out" need of the under-25 crowd, but for the over-25 crowd we believe that social networking will only work at a niche level. There won't be networks that serve the entire 25+ group. LinkedIn is probably the best example of serving a niche market (business people), so obviously these niches can be quite large.

ClubMom is developing the MomNetwork, a social network geared towards moms, who are obviously a huge niche market, with many shared interests and challenges. Not only will the MomNetwork allow moms to share stories, advice, and support with each other, but use concepts like social bookmarking to allow moms to share articles of interest, organize groups, and get answers to the questions that they have. Taking technologies and turning them into products that can be used by people who are not current users of services like delicious, flickr and magnolia, is the critical element to bringing Web 2.0 to the masses -- Web 2.1, if you will.

Additionally, the creation of a quality environment for advertisers is also critical. The benefit of a social network for moms is the inherent self-policing of the network, as well as the naturally safer environment that is created, for moms as well as for advertisers. Steve's point above is 100% correct -- all of these new technologies can really bring targeted advertising to the next level. We already have moms self-identifying themselves as scrapbookers, photographers, and hockey players, as well as facing challenges like children with ADD, dieting, and anxiety. The possibilities for targeting are huge, and a little scary, so we think it's important to partner with advertisers as well as consumers (in our case, moms) to make sure that the experience works for everyone.

Dan McComb

April 28, 2006 01:01 PM

Finding a niche and filling it is key. I think the future of social networks is going to be identifying a group and then not trying to scale beyond what appeals to that group. Social networks start to suck when they get too big, because they lose their focus, and their ability to connect with the members they originally connected with. They start looking pathetic when they say "pick me! pick me!" in every direction. Take a look at Meetup's home page, for example - they claim to be the Meetup group for conservatives AND gay-rights advocates, listing them literally right next to each other on the home page. That's an insult to both types of groups - and the minute either of them discovers a meetup-style alternative aimed squarely at them, guess where they're going.

shanillia

May 4, 2006 08:53 AM

I agree that future social networks won't look the same because people are looking for a more dramatic experience, something that they can talk about or perhaps help them in the long run. That's why nothingbutdrama.com will hold that space for future social networks.

Mate1

May 11, 2006 10:11 AM

I also think the same .. Social networking will have a taste of technology, it will be much more high-tech.

Klas K.

June 4, 2006 04:43 PM

Klas from MyWebDesktop.net

I agree with Paul's post above:

"Taking technologies and turning them into products that can be used by people who are not current users of services like delicious, flickr and magnolia, is the critical element to bringing Web 2.0 to the masses -- Web 2.1, if you will."

With our service we have tried to combine social networking with applications, and we like to se our service more as a personal collaboration and communication tool, like email or a telephone.

Staci

October 6, 2006 03:07 PM

Don't forget about the new social network site for moms: connectingmoms.com

they seem to be focused not only on community, but fun and sticky ways for moms to stay entertained. Its a really safe and fun community that I love. For Moms, By Moms. Its organic at heart with a flavor for success. Clubmom is a corpration, built on interests to make money - rather then solve a problem that a mother had - like the founder of www.connectingmoms.com At least that is why I think I've connected to it, and other moms as well.

Barry J.

March 30, 2007 08:20 PM

I think it comes down to the business model. Social Networks that are successful at finding alternative streams of revenue (beyond advertising) will be the most successful. So far, business networking sites seem to fit the bill.

For example, Fast Pitch (www.fastpitchonline.com), LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) and ecademy (www.ecademy) are all successful at finding ways of turning their users into paying customers by providing real value... which in turn, creates more of a reason for the user to remain loyal.

Fast Pitch! in particular, has launched a number of creative features that allow their users to leverage the network to promote their business in a variety of ways including the ability to distribute press throughout the network, promote their blog (you should consider for yourself), networking (obviously) and more... Also, from an advertisers standpoint, what's really intriguing about Fast Pitch (and potentially others) is their ability to let the advertiser know exactly who has viewed their ad. The potential to change the rules of advertising is huge.

The Business Professional niche is also more compelling because the opportunity for long-term loyalty exists. People spend more of their adult lives working (potentially 50 years)... Networks like MySpace will struggle as more and more of their current users mature and move on with their lives.

Matt

December 4, 2007 03:19 PM

I agree with the article. As social networking progresses out of it's infancy people will be looking for more targeted groups meetings their interests.

We recently launched a social networking structure over our existing site at http://www.whydowork.com , a social network for those who work from home and both existing and new members love it.


Stan

March 4, 2008 01:07 PM

Of course the survival of the big networks (Myspace, Facebook, Friendster, Bebo etc.) is guaranteed, simply due to the critical mass effect.

However, amongst the niche moms networks: MayasMom, CafeMom, BMums etc., the networks that prosper in the long term will be the ones that cultivate support and friendship between the members. If you make a real friend with another mom on the BMums network say, then the real life connection that is created will bring both moms back to BMums again and again for a long time.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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