Social networking Web sites used to be just about connections. Now they’re ballooning into ecosystems where individuals can aggregate their lives. More evidence of that appeared Wednesday as an up-and-coming networking site called TagWorld added video services to its online repertoire.
“There are a lot of video sites out there,” Evan Rifkin, president of the Santa Monica, Calif.-based company, told TechNewsWorld. “What TagWorld’s done is allow you to upload your own video but also support all the other sites that allow you to upload video.
“The bid deal about our video offering is that we’re not competing with everybody else,” he added. “We actually want you to use your video from other sites.
“That’s a big difference in the video market,” he continued. “Everyone is screaming for you to use their player, to upload video to their site. We don’t have that need. But once you link a video to TagWorld, it’s one click away from being virally shared by anyone within TagWorld.”
Launched in November 2005 (the service is still in beta, according to its home page), TagWorld offers social networkers a one-stop shop where they can post pictures, write a blog, create a Web site, share music, store files, meet people and now, show video.
Since its unveiling, the service has already attracted nearly half-a-million members, although it still has a long way to go before it poses any threat to the king of social hangouts on the Web, MySpace, which has nearly 50 million members and was purchased by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. in July for US$580 million.
“The whole social networking space is growing in general,” Brian Haven, a media analyst with Forrester Research in Boston, told TechNewsWorld. “Consumers want to interact and communicate with each other and have control over the content that they interact with.”
The social networking, or ‘socnet,’ space will be a fragmented one, asserted Troy Young, executive vice president of Organic, an online marketing company headquartered in San Francisco. “One company is not going to own the market for youth social networking,” he told TechNewsWorld.
He added that the functions offered by those networks will become commodities and have less influence on attracting new members to the sites. “Everybody will have the functionality to connect profiles, upload videos, stream audio, etc.,” he explained. “In the future, it will be your ability to support the community that determines who wins the game.”
While functionality at these sites may not be much of a magnet for new members, exclusive content may contribute to a site’s “stickiness,” Young contended. “Pouring content into a site like Fox is going to do with MySpace is one aspect of that,” he said. “So they will have content on MySpace that’s not available anywhere else.”
Usage will also be a key factor in attracting and keeping members, he noted. “The more applications that they use — communications tools, integrated instant messaging, e-mail, etc. — the less likely they are to switch,” he noted.
“So it’s a bit of a race to build the community, get people using lots of applications, add content that you can’t get elsewhere so it becomes as sticky as possible and there’s inertia in that community,” he observed.
Young also expects to see a lot of niche players in the socnet market, especially as tools emerge to create do-it-yourself social networks, as is offered by ning.com.
“In the next wave of growth, you’ll see smaller, more exclusive, more vertical online tribes emerging,” he said.
When Free Lunch Ends
Right now, social networking shops like MySpace and TagWorld are pretty much a free ride for their members. At some point, though, that will have to change, according to Forrester’s Haven.
“The reality is there is going to have to be some step to monetize these online communities,” he said. “The trick is to not to tarnish them or bludgeon them with advertising or subscription models.”