Friday, December 3

Social Networking Wars

The creation and propagation of a virtual identity in sync with one’s biological identity is a reality that can’t be escaped. Social Networking Websites create a reality more real than real and very few people can afford to live outside it.

Initially rose as the domain of the geeks incepted with the likes of chat services and later sites like Friendster, Hi5, Fropper and the like, today not having an active web profile means social suicide.

The barons of social media become iconic, all geeks who made it big from a garage. Facebook, Twitter and MySpace top the list in popular SNWs.

Orkut - Google’s gift to mankind opened up an abyss of possibilities. The high of seeing old pals, the animated discussions on the forums, posting, snaps, videos, writing testimonials and of course scrapping - delineation and fantasy. It was the perfect antidote to a boring day. Freud would agree! Alas, 7 years down the lane it got little rusty at the edges.

Then Facebook made its dramatic entry and holds the title of the number one social networking website by overtaking MySpace users. The world spoke a new language with micro-blogging, punctuated with emoticons, ellipsis and LOLs. It is fun to be a part of the buzz, and of course it comes at the cost of being judged by hits. No surprise to be at your wits end often.

With it came the issues of Cyber Stalking and Privacy. Divorces, the pink slips and admin issues were ascribed to FB and the gnawing need to update statuses twice an hour. People you are not in touch with also are updated about the little empty nuances of your day because you are commonly connected through contacts four times separated.

San Antonio-based market research firm Pear Analytics analyzed 2,000 tweets (originating from the US and in English) over a 2-week period in August 2009 from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM (CST) and separated them into six categories:

Pointless babble — 40%
Conversational — 38%
Pass-along value — 9%
Self-promotion — 6%
Spam — 4%
News — 4%

According to TechCrunch, worldwide monthly page views for MySpace have declined from 47.4 billion a year ago to 38 billion today, a 20 percent drop. In the same period Facebook has grown from 44 billion to 87 billion, a near 100 percent increase.

MySpace has seen a 16 percent year-on-year drop in page views, from 41.6 billion to 34.8 billion. Facebook has grown from 13 billion to 20 billion page views per month.

With all major stockholders’ fear in sharing the pie grew, convergence became the buzzword. Google launched buzz, a space to create profiles and update statuses. It compiled Orkut, Blogger, Youtube, Picasa, Maps, Translate, Gmail & Buzz into a seemingly enticing mix to keep one glued to the browser.

MySpace took profile customisation to a new level which transcended positives and though backed by Google was criticized for skanky bling, losing out on popularity to Facebook – the current sovereign of SNWs. MySpace added the ability to sync your MySpace status updates with Twitter and Facebook so that when you post to MySpace, it auto posts to Facebook. It makes the site seem less selfish when they allow you to sync with their rival and that means greater success overall.

Twitter positioned itself differently and played as a personal interface for those who wished to express. The celebrity bandwagon hopped on and directly interacted with
fans and this brought in most traffic for the prolific micro blogging site. Now integrated into most corporate, celebrity and personal sites with RSS, Twitter stays a sliver ahead.

The huge ego masseur, Facebook, created a continuous self esteem boost with the concept of popularity. Popularity meaning widely liked by one’s peer group members or socially dominant. FB made popularity network centrality, the approach not on merely being liked by others, but by status attributes such as number of friends and the length of the wall and ethnography techniques.

Applications surrounding the concept like Farmville, Mafia Wars etc in association with Zygna games created to echo popularity positively correlated with higher attractiveness, leadership skills, humour, extroversion, academic achievement and success in general. Also, from a corporate view, a lot of applications allow a greater way for businesses to promote themselves thus making FB rule the roost now.

However, the war is yet to be won.

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