Future net communities

I recently answered a question in LinkedIn about how I see the Web developing and thought that I write a blog on the topic. I have written a few blogs already, but over last few months my ideas are starting to take a more solid shape.

YouTube, MySpace, FaceBook and LinkedIn are the most popular communities on the Web today. They all began with bare bones infrastructure to allow the masses to interact in a number of ways. LinkedIn has since then introduced groups and Q&A to try and segment the users into micro networks within the larger entity. Most other social communities have not done this as their valuation is based on volume and not on quality of content. My argument is that volume and quality are interlinked.

How would you launch a new social media site today? What VALUE would you add that the others do not? Would you offer video editing functionality? What would be the VALUE as most of us store all media content on our private PC’s and use preloaded editing software? Is there a huge market for people with no PCs coming to libraries with their demo tapes and video recordings to edit publishable content for a social media site? I would argue that VALUE drives registrations and VALUE is derived from the membership and the content that they provide. A chicken and egg dilemma.

My vision of the future are smaller Web communities that are built around a theme or domain. These sites will be more closely administered and moderated assuring the quality and validity of the content, which in return drives the VALUE of the content making the site more appealing to an applicable audience. In a site like MySpace the underlying social fabric is based on friendships in the real world (or the want of a friendship in the real world) more so than around a hobby or interest. What if we had MySpace only for extreme sports enthusiasts. You would join since you also had an interest in extreme sports. You could share your experiences, photos, product picks, travel plans, etc. When planning a trip you could filter trip plans to see rough cost estimates and read suggestions by others. Lets say that you were into wines or cigars. You could manage (and share) your collections on line. You could read blogs from experts and engage in discussion forums.

Lets say that you liked fast cars, cigars, wines and great food. So now you belong to four micro networks. Lets say that I administered all of those sites and offered a single sign-on for all of them. I could start to build a profile of you and personalize brand marketing based on the content, interactions, volume, strength of interactions, etc. I could single out though leaders in the communities enticing to be even more vocal. I could list Mercedes enthusiasts that like Cabernet-Sauvignons and who live in the Los Angles region. How many could that be? Hundreds or maybe even thousands? I could promote that list to Mercedes and suggest a wine tasting in Los Angles to exhibit the 2008 models. Now how would you do that with MySpace today? Through my travel site I would know that Mr. X is a Delta airlines frequent flyer and through my scuba site I would know that he likes to go diving in the Caribbean. Could I suggest to Delta that they place an add for scuba trips to Bonaire on both the travel and scuba sites?

Now we get into the issue of how intrusive marketing is and how it would affect membership? Today we enjoy many amenities that are run on add dollars. In Europe there are a number of virtual operator start ups that offer free calling based on add dollars. I believe that adds can also be value adding to the consumer if they do not interrupt workflow and if they are relevant to the consumer in their space and time. If I am a snow boarded I would not mind small add on the side of my screen advertising the 2008 version of my current board. If I like Honduran robustos I would not mind an advertisement offering a consignment price on a limited order of cigars.

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