Look even though I am an inveterate marketing guy I am tiring of the move to advertisements on most all social networks. It’s gotten to the point where friends of mine are using social networking to advertise their own businesses and ideas to their friends (like me!). Yes I realize social networks need a business model. But it seems to me that the direction in which social networks are heading is to just be platform to sell more stuff. This could prove to be the undoing of social networking.
Several months ago I wrote about World of Warcraft as perhaps the most effective social network of them all. Why? Because the folks at Blizzard Entertainment do not refer to it as a social network in any way! WOW has more than 11,000,000 paying ‘members’ who get true value and engagement for their dollars. Second Life tried this model (sort of) as well but it has not worked out nearly as well.
How could things be changed? Well for one thing let’s say you had to pay $ 5.95/month to be a Facebook member to not be served advertising. How would that make you feel? Would it be any less engaging? I don’t think so. And there is a pretty good revenue model opportunity for FB with more than 200 million members. Just do the math. (Hint – You may need to use a calculator.)
Just this week the Wall Street Journal (and other publishers are thinking the same way) floated out the idea of micropayments (i.e. charging for some content) since giving the content away for free devalues the very content itself. There was also a study saying the 97% of people would pay for content. http://www.forbes.com/2009/05/11/newspapers-paid-content-survey-technology-paidcontent.html
Obviously we are still in the nascent stages in the evolution of social networking (and marketing for that matter). But the perceived golden goose may be inflicted with swine flu if things do not change soon. People will tire of Twitter, Facebook, MySpace etc. . . There will be a new and better platform to replace it unless the model changes to serve the ever-changing needs and desires of social network members.