Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Monetizing social networks and the valuation of social media connectivity – 1: a diversity of participant-side visions

Posted in macroeconomics, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on January 13, 2012

What is the value of a social networking or social media connection? Asked that way, this presents a question for which there can be no meaningful, valid answer. That is because any real sense of intrinsic value for these connections depends entirely upon the context of who would find or create that value. And that means there is real potential for asymmetry in perception of value for the different parties involved in a social networking or social media connection and relationship.

Just consider some of the participants in this:

• A participant might be a business that seeks to develop and cultivate a connected community for generating immediate sales opportunities, or as a source of longer term value from word of mouth and viral marketing.
• A participant might be a nonprofit or a not for profit that seeks to develop an involved and engaged community in support of its mission and vision.
• A participant might be an individual seeking to promote their own career, in search of job leads and opportunities or in search of clients.
• A participant might be looking to engage with others in support of or opposition to a position or action that they see as having social and community-wide importance.
• A participant might be seeking to expand their social reach, and by any of a seemingly endless range of possible criteria. Consider connecting with fellow alumni or alumnae of a shared alma mater, or fellow employees or former employees of a business or other organization. This may mean connecting together a far-flung family or other group, and as defined by essentially any criteria that might be seen as holding value by the person seeking to connect.
• This, of course is only a partial list and only claims at most to be that. And as a final example I will add that some people enjoy social networking for its own sake and simply enjoy connecting widely and to new people they do not already know.

Different participants approach social networking and social media with very different goals and priorities. And on top of that, different participants place very different levels of importance on both specific connections and types of connection, and on online connections per se.

• An open networker might connect freely and to most anyone interested in social-network connecting with them. But they might value one specific subset of their overall connections a lot more highly than others, and certainly when comparing connections to people they know well to casual-invitation connections from strangers.
• A business might rate its online connections for their value in terms of business history and the monetary value of those contacts as active, purchasing customers. Contacts who never engage with the business and who never even seem to seek to be customers would, according to this approach be viewed as of lower value as contacts than repeat-business customers. And customers who make referrals, bringing in new customers would likewise be seen as of higher value too.

Conflicts of valuation can arise where participants in a social networking or social media connection see different and even incompatible bases for determining value in online connecting. Consider a professional who social networks to meet and share ideas with people from their industry, connecting with someone who is only interested in pushing their products or services to make completed sales. That type of mismatch happens, and certainly on business oriented social networking sites such as LinkedIn, where members can feel they are being spammed at times by unwanted and unexpected sales pitches.

Conflicts can arise when different people place very different valuations on specific social connections they have or seek to have, and even within categories of connections that they in general value. Here that can express itself in terms of differences in timeliness of response, among other things.

These and other factors all go into determining how any given social networking or social media participant would set the valuation to their connections and to any activity that comes from them. And these factors and others like them – points of similarity and points of difference in approach, motivation and understanding, lead to differences and disconnects in how valuation is reached and to what value is assigned to them.

This is the first posting of what I expect to be a short series on the monetization of social networks and social media – here looking at them from the perspective of individual connections and of connections within and between groups and between people who align with and associate themselves with groups. In my next series installment I am going to step back to look at social networking and social media sites – service provider sites as one end of a continuum, and at businesses and groups that do not primarily do social media but that launch and manage their own online interactive presence at the other end.

You can find this and related postings at Macroeconomics and Business. You can also find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business.

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