Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Handicapping Social Networking Business Models

Stowe Boyd wrote back in March an interesting piece on Social Networking on the darwin website. Now I have been using social networks all my working life. The last few years has seen a number of these networks become on line as well as offline groups.

Whilst helping to run Digital People it became obvious that with people becoming more time poor there needed to be somethinbg that allowed people to connect when they were ready rather than just turn up for beer and friendship.

Over the years I have attended events run by such diverse groups as Company of Friends, Ecademy, Ryze, European Technology Forum, TEN and MIT Club of Great Britain. I agree that the issue is "who's paying and who's invited?" Without such knowledge now am I to know if my membership of the network is worthwhile or just another marketing pitch.

When Ecademy went online it became an interesting place, then as it grew an could no longer fund itself via corporate sponsorship it changed to a model that was chargeable but still allowed basic members to interact with the community. Now with falling renewals the owners have decided that Power layers with those that pay and the more you pay the more power you have! Thus in doing so the Management have removed all content that does not fit with their own views and repeat offenders are asked to leave the community.

LinkedIn has been a very good tool for my business over the last year, allowing me to build bridges with organisations I have lost contact with. However the cost is that I find myself in the middle of a number of chains from people I have no understanding of seeking to do business with contacts who I am sure would not like to be snowed under with such requests. The network is more business than social and so is excellent in joining up people but it does not have an area where you can enter into a discussion and thus "find" new connections based on the strenght of your intellect and experience.

I guess that what is needed is to join a few of these and play an active part, if you find them useful then pay something towards the cost of running the service. This payment does not have to be cash it could be content or services!

However whatever it is that you decide to do do not stand and watch interact.

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