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Yomego Blogging Facebook

The next generation of social networking

By The Drum, Administrator

February 26, 2009 | 4 min read

The full power of social networking may not yet have been harnessed, but already the quest is under way to create something even better.

Do you have a page on Facebook? For the overwhelming majority, the answer will be yes. If you are one of the ‘no’s you probably already know you come across as a bit of a Luddite. But we could all be pre-historic if we don’t start embracing social networks in our digital marketing.

Whilst many of the tools of social media – blogs, ugc, forums – are now increasingly brought into new web design and development, there are companies, from British Airways to Lego who view social media as the starting point – not the added feature. Others, such as ruumz.com, are already operating the ‘next generation’ of social networks with a new blend of online and offline activity.

Until now, the likes of Facebook and Bebo have been seen principally as a means to link up with friends. But, the reality is that for an increasing number of people the format makes more sense as a complete means of communication (even more so than the mobile): it is immersive, it brings together huge numbers of people and it is extremely powerful.

The question then for us, as digital agencies, is how to capitalise on the technology and create something truly distinctive or different.

The answer lies in the creative execution.

The technology now exists to make a social media or social network platform the least of the challenge. It no longer has to be an expensive bespoke build. The likes of Huzu, for instance, is a modular ‘toolkit’ of social media technologies for creative agencies, allowing us to focus on the front-end ideas and presentation.

Currently, the two biggest areas of development in social networks are enhanced interaction, the way in which we connect both audibly and visually with others in the community; and powerful thematic ideas that hold people on a site once there.

Text-based chat is all very well, but the next generation social networks are looking at more exciting ways of interacting.

At the moment many networking sites are passive. There is a danger that even with something as hot as Twitter, people may get bored of this one-dimensional form of communication. We get used to the same people, the same chat and need something new.

When we created ruumz.com the aim was to add greater value to the whole networking experience. “ruumzsters” (its members) and their “ruumates” (friends) can listen to and download music; send mobile content directly from the site; order printouts from photos uploaded, and even have them delivered right to the doorstep.

The next phase of development will see the total integration of profiles, messaging and themed virtual worlds. Friend-matching functions, alongside email and invitation features, will also exist, within virtual environments that focus on a variety of music, video and film content.

Communities

Future social networking sites are likely to be built around focussed communities or created for a specific purpose. This could be anything from creating your own band, organising gigs, campaigning or even collaborating on a new rocket design.

Niche networks like this have a purpose. They can also offer a conduit to a brand.

Irish band, the Script, has pioneered ‘enriched’ pop videos, where online viewers can scroll over the clothes, mobile phone and even instruments, click and find out how to buy them. It is a perfect example of how brands can seize the opportunities of immersive social networks.

By creating a reason for people to gather and then enriching this experience through entertaining content or virtual worlds, the brand can be a facilitator or an acceptable partner. One of our latest projects is a social networking site for football fans. The client behind it is a telecoms company and football sponsor.

Of course, within any social networking environment, where people share, the added dimension is ‘crowd sourcing’. This is the momentum of group traffic, the online democracy and the power of the consumer to make or break a product or brand. Indeed, any brands using this method for market testing must be prepared to play the game and be receptive to criticism.

Using social networking as the basis of your marketing, therefore, is still a brave thing to do. But if you are prepared to take some of the knocks, react in an open and collaborative way with your audience, then there are also many riches to reap.

Yomego Blogging Facebook

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