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Social Networking - Effortless Abundance in '2010 for Fast-acting Entrepreneurs

What makes up the social networking world? Roughly 300 sites – those which boast of tens of millions of visitors, such as Facebook or MySpace, plus a serving of smaller or more exclusive ones such as StudyBreakers, a site for high schoolers, or Zoeysroom, a paid-membership site restricted to middle-school girls with interests in math, science, engineering, and technology.

What baffles web observers is the stratospheric number of people willing to invest time and provide personal information in exchange for the prospect of belonging to a group of people with whom they have something in common. Viewing the larger picture, social networking gives satisfaction not just to the users themselves but also to entrepreneurs looking to expand their prospect base; employers on the lookout for job seekers; and marketers who could finally cash in on target advertising.

The phenomenon that is social networking

One of the earliest social networking sites was Classmates.com, launched in 1995. It principally aimed to rekindle relationships with former classmates. Others followed suit, albeit in trickles, over the years. Last year’s top two social networking sites, according to Nielsen Online, were MySpace, with more than 57 million visitors; and Facebook, with almost 22 million visitors, posting a hefty 89% increase from its 2005 figure. Other fast-growing sites are LinkedIn, Club Penguin, and Flixster.

Almost all social networking site users know that joining a network will help them communicate or simply get linked to people who share their interests. However, only a small group sees the huge business and marketing potential that social networks have. In 2005, billionaire Rupert Murdoch purchased MySpace for US$ 580 million, and Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo! have all entertained thoughts of buying into Facebook at one time or another – proof positive that social networking is designed for much more than merely collecting friends.

Six degrees of separation

In 1929, a Hungarian writer named Frigyes Karinthy wrote about his version of the shrinking-world concept. He proposed that due to technological advances which increase the connectedness of people, social distances actually become smaller despite considerable physical distances between them.

Almost four decades later, an American researcher at Harvard named Stanley Milgram theorized that people in the U.S. seemed to be connected by about six friendship ties on average. His research, together with Karinthy’s, and others who tried to prove the theory mathematically, very likely inspired the term we know today as “six degrees of separation.”

Several experiments, however contestable, have been conducted on this theory. One of the more recent is Facebook’s Six Degrees of Separation – the Experiment. Overtaking MySpace for the first time in August 2007 with more than 6.5 million users, Facebook uses an application that will show you how far (or near) you are from other Facebook users. Apart from this, it will also show you exactly how the connection is made.

The idea of knowing how one is connected to another individual – whether it’s your next-door-neighbor or someone halfway across the globe – is just one of the many fascinating concepts attracting visitors to these hot sites.

Why people are attracted to social networks

The different sites are designed with specific types of users in mind, although unless explicitly stated in the site’s Terms and Conditions page, atypical users are free to join. For example, Facebook was initially restricted to Harvard students and eventually expanded to include students from Ivy League schools within two months of its launch. Since September of 2006, though, anyone 13 or over is welcome to join. LinkedIn, on the other hand, is designed for professionals who wish to get in touch with business contacts, employers, employees, or people practicing in their field.

How to join

Once you register and become validated, you can instantly create your profile, upload photos or videos, contact existing friends and make new friends, and even “promote” your site. You can modify your settings and get to choose whether your profile can be viewed by the public or only by friends in your network. Some, such as LiveJournal and Xanga, offer these standard features but primarily play up the blogging fad.

The main come-on of these sites, as opposed to traditional web pages or e-mails which are relatively static, is that they’re largely participatory – and sometimes, overly so. Measures are now being taken to make sites safer from predators and prevent them from being used as soapboxes for unjustly maligning reputations.

Security in social networking sites

Parents are also being recruited to be more involved in their children’s online activities, with not a few social networking sites going to the extent of requiring a paid subscription for unrestricted access. “When parents have to pay, that’s a powerful control tool,” remarked Adam Thierer, a mover in the Progress & Freedom Foundation based in Washington, DC.

Spinoffs

The more popular sites have spawned antithetical networks, too, such as Enemybook, developed by an MIT student who thought of bashing the superficiality of Facebook. This site allows you to vent your true feelings on certain people you don’t particularly like. Facebook is nowhere near fazed, however, because sites such as Enemybook, Snubster, or Hatespace, are more of quick goofs than real threats.

The social networking and social media marketing gold mine

According to a nationwide survey conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, a staggering 55% of all U.S. teens accessing the Internet are users of social networking sites. Social media marketing is an essential part of a successful business plan.

In Canada, a study presented by leading marketing research firm Ipsos Reid showed that about 4 out of 10 Internet-enabled adults in the country have visited a social network site, while 29% have actually submitted a profile on at least one of them.

Relative newcomer Tagged, with about 30 million registered members, posted an impressive 386% growth in its number of visitors from 2006-2007. These are figures that advertisers simply cannot ignore. The Ipsos report discovered that 75% of social networking site visitors in Canada comparison shopped for products online, while only 57% of non-visitors did so.

Marketers are thus looking into the vast potentials of social networks and social media marketing, given these contrasting behaviors between users and non-users. They’re also excited about the possibility of zeroing in on a desired demographic, made possible by the accessibility of data from users’ profiles.

The challenge, therefore, for web developers and managers of social networking sites, is to ensure that enough positive interest is generated in order to maintain their foothold in the market. Those who are looking at developing their own social networks, on the other hand, must not be tempted to take shortcuts in developing their sites, as doing so may ultimately lead them to failure.

How to successfully create a social network and social media marketing plan

Simply put, there are no shortcuts to developing a social network site which you’ll expect to generate a handsome following – and consequently, respectable revenues.

With more than 10 years’ experience in creating portals, e-commerce, and advanced web applications, EXCEL-WEST stresses the importance of creating a blueprint prior to developing your social network and social media marketing plan.

Creating a blueprint

This is essential in ensuring your success in the highly competitive arena of social networking. It requires an understanding of business development, of your market potential, of your market reach, and also of your demographic. Not creating a blueprint for your social network or any advanced web application is like building a house without a blueprint. If you build your social network site without one, you’ll ultimately run into a lot of excessive costs and possibly a loss of your opportunity to be first to market with your social network.

This should always be your first step. During this process, information is provided to your project manager and website engineer regarding the number of anticipated visitors, number of users, the market reach, your demographic, and the market potential.

Why is it essential to know all these?

These factors will determine what program language your social network should be written in, what database should be used, what web hosting plan should be chosen, and which life cycle has to do with ensuring that the structure that you’ve built is able to handle the traffic that you’re projecting for the first 1-2 years. It means working with a vision engineer and someone that’s able to forward-think and forward-plan.

What you don’t want to have happen is to spend thousands of dollars and several months of your time developing a social network, only to have it inundated with success and traffic on a structure that is not able to handle that success and traffic. In cases such as this, you are basically left with a situation where the site doesn’t function – causing you to lose your market potential and your market advantage.

Work only with experts

If you decide to invest in a site with a lot of potential for growth, work only with people who know what they’re doing. Anyone can put up a social network for you in a matter of days, but if it’s not the proper structure and if it’s not built properly, the structure would likely collapse if you develop several hundred members while your site is not properly outfitted with the right design. When this happens, you’ve pretty much lost your opportunity with those potential members, and it’s very hard to get them back to your new architecture. This is exactly why proper planning is so important. More information can be found at our resource site www.officeontheinternet.com

For more information, or an estimate on developing a social network, contact us here at EXCEL-WEST, 888-317-9300. We look forward to working with you to help you achieve your successful social media marketing plan and social network website.

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