The Antisocial Inclinations of Social Networks

Last year, the buzz surrounding social networking concerned “data portability” — giving Facebook and MySpace users, for example, an easy way to connect to one another without the need to create new profiles. That once-deafening buzz has now fallen silent, and the social networks are back working to corner more of the Web in exclusion of others.

“Facebook and MySpace are having trouble monetizing their database,” said Tony Roth, chief executive officer of Celect.org, part of theVComm Network. Celect.org provides Web-based network services, including integrating a variety of different social networking tools, for its various membership organizations.

Facebook friends, for instance, are valued at 5-to-10 US cents each, Roth estimated.

“Social networks are indeed becoming more antisocial,” he told TechNewsWorld. “If they start to commingle, they will find their member values decreasing even further.”

Great Wall of Facebook

Facebook seems to be leading the charge to put its mark on more and more of its members, creating its owned walled area of the Internet. Facebook’s various applications give its users the chance to play games, read news, watch videos and interact with others all through links to and from Facebook’s own pages. The result is an exclusive playground where connections to other social networks, like MySpace or LinkedIn, are absent.

Facebook, with more than 250 million users, has more than 350,000 active applications. More than 120 million users log on at least once a day, according to Facebook, and more than 200 applications have more than 1 million monthly active users.

With these kinds of expanding numbers, simplifying data portability for end-users of social networks is a complex undertaking, said Jaria Ala-Ruona, CEO of software developer Movial. Movial Social Communicator helps users share social media content from personal computers and mobile devices to any online or offline contacts without knowing their device or status.

“Everyone wants to protect their own domain, and as a result they don’t want to enable competing offers that steal the data,” Ala-Ruona told TechNewsWorld.

Tear Down This Wall

Power.com is one company that is fighting to tear down Facebook’s wall. It filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Northern California in July, alleging that Facebook is restricting users and stifling competition.

The is a response to a suit Facebook filed against Power.com last year. Facebook sued Power.com for taking data off its site and storing user names and passwords in violation of its terms of service.

The lack of data portability is not the only reason the race to integrate social networks has slowed.

Integration efforts slowed because people were using the sites for different reasons, noted Haroon Mokhtarzada, CEO and cofounder of Webs.com. One person, for example, may have one group of friends on Facebook and a separate group of friends on LinkedIn.

Therefore, the demand to tear down the social networks’ walls is not as strong as before. “The demand to have these integrated isn’t as high since users often want to keep their personal and professional contacts separate,” Mokhtarzada told TechNewsWorld. “I’m not sure that we need a tool to move between one social network and another.”

The focus should instead be on filtering the important information on the social network outlets people are already using, Mokhtarzada said. “For those who don’t want to sign in to numerous sites in order to keep updated on all their connections, there are options like FriendFeed that aggregate updates across multiple social networks.”

Social Networking Strategies

Efforts to connect different social networks have not slowed down, said Patrick Schwerdtfeger, author of Webify Your Business, Internet Marketing Secrets for the Self-Employed.”

Instead, he said, the focus on data portability has taken a new direction.

“The objective to integrate core functionality has taken a back seat to connectivity opportunities,” Schwerdtfeger told TechNewsWorld, who regularly speaks at conferences and holds workshops focused on social media.

In the social network marketplace,” mobile marketing is the new craze,” he said. “Every major platform and countless companies are developing applications for mobile devices and ensuring data can easily flow through to traditional Web-based platforms.”

Therefore, it is important to leverage multiple platforms, said Schwerdtfeger. Some of the options include video on YouTube, pictures on Flickr, news updates on Twitter, community interaction on Facebook and professional biographies on LinkedIn.

“Once all these necessary components have been established, they can each be connected into a social media superstructure,” Schwerdtfeger said. Social networking strategies like this gernerally have a blog at the center with links to each platform.

“Everyone uses the Internet differently, and any effective social media marketing plan needs to reach out to as many different platforms as possible,” Schwerdtfeger said.

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