Monday, August 18, 2008

Social networks will eat themselves

Hands up anyone who knows how many social networks there are out there?

Laurel Papworth, Australian social media blogger at large, has a list of 40 250 mobile social networks. Yahoo says that their are 229 social networks. Mashable reckons there are over 350 social networks - their readers think there's even more.

Thinking about social groups from a real-life down in the school yard perspective, there will always be cross-overs between groups. But in a school yard perspective it's about status and friendships, valuable time and having fun.

Virtual social networks, I think, are a totally different beast. Sure for the participants the idea is to keep the good times rolling even when you go home from the school yard / local pub / work site or office. But behind these networks are more and more large corporate megoliths out there purely for the almighty buck.

A funny article popped up online today that got me thinking about these shareholder loving mega-corporates and how they're playing the social networking game. The article says that Fox News has joined Facebook, even though its parent, News Corporation owns MySpace. It's a great piece of subversive action on behalf of Fox News and I think a big slap in the face of its parent. I'd hate to have been the SVP for development, who had to explain this away - next stop dole queue me-thinks. But, it makes me think, what happens when all the mega-corporate social networks start hanging out with eachother?

If Fox News is hanging out with Facebook and MSNBC is hanging out with MySpace, then I guess Google will want to BFF someone too because they'd hate to be left out in the rain (and their gang Orkut needs some love too!). It's looking like the school yard is getting a little crowded. Friendster seems to have done a Cartman *screw you guys!* and gone to hang out with the Asian gang (it's huge in SE Asia).

It's all fun and games to be joking about how the big corporations are hanging out with each other, but the scary thing is that there are mega-bucks involved in not only the online social networks but also the old media dinosaurs that are trying to hitch their little cabooses to the next new media train leaving dodge.

I'll need the help of an economist here or some wizz-bang analyst, but if in the convoluted world of media corporations, somehow they all end up BFFing their competitors I think that the double-dutch game of elastics is going to get ugly and one if not more social networks or old media barons are going to get a big flick in the face.

What happens then? For the social networkers they might lose their profile, a few friends, maybe a photograph or two up on their page. But with all the moolah swirling around behind the scenes I'd hate to think we've unwittingly blown ourselves into another huge bubble that's about to burst over the whole school yard. That's a mess I'd prefer not to have on me.

Edit: I had a thought. If News Corp was to create a social network for its shareholders which one would they pick? MySpace?


Laurel Papworth said...

Hi, my currently has 40 on their but I'm gradually adding the other 210 I have on a list. Keep an eye on it :) Cheerio Laurel

Alex of Melbourne said...

Wow, that's a lot of mobile networking! I can't even get a response to an sms let alone have whole social network...

Update has been made.