January 05, 2008
Social Networking: Service or Society?
(...)That looks suspiciously as if Facebook has begun to put the needs of its advertisers before the needs of its users. A dangerous sign and one that users should ignore at their peril.
In the same article, other social networking sites like Match or Secondlife are presented as endangered as well.
The problem with social networking services is that you do not control a social network, which can behave in highly unpredictible ways according to the theory of complex systems, especially if the strategic intent of its originator is not clear. For me, no human society, whether in the real world or in the virtual world, can survive without some form of visible leadership, i.e. someone who symbolizes what the brand stands for. I don't know about Facebook, and I honestly do not understand where it is going. But for Wikipedia, there is a big risk remaining faceless. In France, Wikipedia is said to be in the hands of the far left of the political spectrum, and manipulating content accordingly. It might be true or not, but if nobody stands up against this accusation, it might prevail in the end. Perception is reality.
Look at companies. "We bring good things to life" was Jack Welsh's strategic intent. "Innovation at work" is Jack Immelt's. Both stategic intents are associated with the GE brand, but each one has a different face. It's the same for countries. Sarkozy's strategic intent is different for Chirac's, but the brand is still France.
Why do the leaders of social networks keep on hiding behind their brand? Probably because they don't want to close any doors during the hype period, but there is a high risk of loosing everything if they don't take the money and run early enough.
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