Friday, March 31, 2006

Social networking for social change?

From Information Week:

Since 2002, social networking companies have been generating buzz, but not much income. Or if they do, they don't want to talk about it.

Despite 24 million members and 9 million unique visitors a month, Friendster's answer to the question “Are you profitable?” is “We're privately held and don't share any financial info…”

After three years, LinkedIn, a social networking site that caters to business people with both free and fee-based options, has 5 million subscribers. Konstantin Guericke, VP of marketing for the company, believes that number will reach 8 to 10 million by the end of the year.

“We're expecting to reach profitability this month,” says Guericke. “We already have had some days where we've taken in more money than we spent.”

That may not sound like much, but Guericke says it's a welcome validation for Web companies that advertising support isn't the only viable business model. “The question is, do people pay for subscription-based services on the Internet?" he says. “Especially in the business arena, if you provide enough value, the answer is yes…”

Adrian Scott, CEO and founder of business social networking site Ryze.com, claims his site, with its six employees and 400,000 users, has been profitable for several years. He says Ryze helps people build business relationships that “can lead to significant business.”

It's harder to say that about social networking sites that peddle personal rather than commercial connections. Scott remains skeptical about the prospects of MySpace despite its supposed 50 million users. “I don’t think it's really clear that MySpace has shown a business model that works,” he says.


So here’s my question: can any of these social or business networking sites and applications contribute on a not-for-profit basis to building movements for more just and democratic societies -- for example, in coalition building efforts, campaign organizing, or just flat-out NGO job and vendor networking? Is anybody out there doing anything interesting in this area?

There is one promising effort I know of called Civic Space, but their "offering is in active development and will not be complete until at least Q2 2006." There are also, of course, ASPs like Kintera, GetActive, and DemocracyInAction, but they are more about email-based fundraising campaigns than self-perpetuating social networking.

So as of this moment, there's no progressive political version of Friendster or LinkedIn. I asked media and Internet strategist Michael Stein if he knew of efforts to organize social change through social networking sites:

As far as social networking services goes, I know of only a few efforts to use them for community organizing or activist campaigns. At the Nonprofit Technology Conference in Seattle last week, Nick Allen from Donordigital covered this topic as part of his talk on "The Future of e-Philanthropy" and he profiled some examples. He mentioned People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Greenpeace, which have both used social networking services to harvest for like-minded people. On many of these services, members list their interests, so it's easy to search for keywords like "Amnesty," "vegetarian," etc. Young activists are using these networks (MySpace, etc) to conduct campaigns either on their own, or as part of organized efforts.


Thoughts? Resources?

5 Comments:

At 7:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

myspace is a social networking

 
At 8:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

free social networking

 
At 12:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 11:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Watiti.com
Join me and my circle of friends at http://www.watiti.com, an online social networking community that connects people from all over the world.

Meet new people, share photos, create or attend events, post free classifieds, send free e-cards, listen music, read blogs, upload videos, be part of a club, chat rooms, forum and much more!

See you around! Bring all your friends too!

Watiti.com

 
At 12:57 PM, Blogger Kurt A. Tasche said...

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