Does making money make a SNS unpopular?

On: October 8, 2009
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About Ramses Petronia


My gut feeling tells me that Social Network Services (SNS) do not exist because they are so great. They always provide for a basic need they fulfill, which for me has been to start a group in which I could chat with classmates during one class period with both Hyves and Facebook a few years back, and Couchsurfing because I had no money to pay for Hotels while travelling.

As soon as a SNS becomes popular, the issue of making money with it arises. After joining abovementioned SNS, I didn’t delete the account, and friends started adding me, and I was in the mix. Yet any dislike about the network, leaves me with an easy option to no longer use it, or use another SNS. Therefore I wonder if SNS will ever make it long after they become popular, and the people behind them want to start making money. It seems to me that transition to popularity has two effects. A matured SNS contains a lot of information, which is interested to sell/use for marketing. And secondly, a popular SNS is interesting to target with promotion as a user, in stead of what the bulk of users/consumers intend to use it for.
According to journalist and internet veteran Tristan Louis, there are

5 reasons why social networks can succeed :

1. As social creatures human beings have a basic need to ‘connect’.
2. Basic human need to share, both information and opinions.
3. A way to enhance knowledge
4. Only way, or easiest way to maintain an online identity.
5. Their viral nature of expanding.

And there are 5 reasons why social Networks can fail:

1. The fact that they are walled gardens can dilute their power.
2. They are not (yet) integrated with other applications.
3. Relationships are granular in nature (we only know certain aspects of eachother).
4. The quality of your connections is difficult to measure.
5. People are concerned with privacy issues, and don’t give the whole picture.

Both these lists provide for a relatively grim picture for the future of SNS, because besides the fact that we can’t do a lot of things on them that we would like to, as ‘being ourselves completely online’, without privacy or surveillance concerns, there are so many different social networks (new ones appear every year) that we can leave them behind just as easily as we can find a new one.

On this basis I think it is interesting to research whether there is a pattern in the turning point from a SNS becoming popular and lucrative, to people abandoning it for reasons inherent to the fact that money is being made. That money is being made can mean different things. To take an example, Facebook uses user information for marketing, as a way to make money. The way facebook is being used by many provides a lot of  information for marketeers to target consumers. On one hand marketing targeted on the individual, based on social networking behavior, and preferences, can be a positive experience. On the other hand, this type of marketing, and the knowledge that your information is being used, and tells a lot about you, can change the way you think about using a SNS. When these networks start, the privacy issues are always less. Facebook was only accessible for University and College students when it started off. Outside of that there was no possibility for people to access it or join it. Now it has changed in a different type of SNS, with much more possibilities and applications, anyone can get an account on, and information is being used to make money.  What are the signs (towards users) of making money after becoming popular? And will it effect its popularity?

As mentioned the other way to make money, or use a popular social network, is for promotion, as a user. This can also reach a turning point for popularity, because at one point it becomes annoying if 90% of your messages are promotion, or junk, in stead of what, you as a social networker regard as pleasant within a network and its possibilities.

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