week 9 – Corporate use of Social Networks

Deep down under all the fun and games, friends and fan pages, social networks are a marketing scheme developed by companies to keep you interested in their products.  There are many benefits to using social networks, but just be aware that if you choose to join one you will no doubt have to deal with a few annoying ads here and there and its not all just ads you need to worry about.

Walt Disney

Walt Disney has spent hundreds of millions of dollars recently in purchasing social media online gaming companies like Club Penguin ($350 million) and most recently, Playdom (for $563.2 million).  Their CEO Bob Iger reckons social gaming is worth every cent and its easy to see why.

“It became pretty clear to us that game playing and social networks is real, here to stay,” said Iger in an earnings call this week. “Obviously, the multitude of people that are already playing, there are half a billion people who are members of Facebook already. About 40 percent of those people participate in game playing.”

Disney’s Iger said the group’s spending would reflect the shift from console based games to social games. “As you look at our strategy, you’d see a blend of investment and some reallocation of investment from the console side to basically this multifaceted side (social games),” he said.

“The other thing that was really interesting to us is that we now have over 50 million people, who are members of various Disney, ESPN, and ABC Groups on Facebook. So, we began with a very, very solid base of people to market to and when you add to that the over 40 million people, who are playing Playdom games already, that seemed pretty compelling to us.”

Disney’s social-networking efforts target a younger audience and aim to appeal more to children rather than adults.  Once signed up for the social network (which some could see as a MySpace clone), you are presented with the chance to create your very own personalised page, much like a custom home page.   You can add videos, audio, games, widgets, and an assortment of other extra bits and pieces to make your page your own.  When you’re done, you can view other people’s pages, chat, or join groups.  It’s pretty powerful and well thought out, but from a parents point of view, it could be seen as merely a never ending stream of ads for Disney products, merchandise and movies.

Disney are entering the pre-teen market which has traditionally been ignored by most existing social networking sites (Facebook won’t allow anyone under 13 to join).  It’s an online demographic that has formerly been untapped and holds a wealth of potential for Disney in further building their identity online.

My own experience – Facebook

Personally I had resisted joining facebook for as long as possible as I couldn’t really see the value, but as I’ve mentioned before with wikis, Metcalfe’s law came into play, this time in Facebook’s favour.  When many of my friends starting to join, I was partially forced to join in order to participate primarily in viewing of photos and events that people had locked down so that only their friends could see.   Now I use Facebook for keeping up with music/band information and promo links for free music downloads, looking at friend’s photos or party events, finding out about club nights out or festival updates, and even 7-eleven free slurpee day. It also has cool features like creating events and inviting people which makes it easier to track attendance and for questions to be answered in a discussion board format.

There are some concerns to be had with using Facebook though.  Primarily, they (Facebook) own your data.  Anything you say, anything you post, your personal photos you choose to share on Facebook is now and always will be property of Facebook.  This seems harmless in enough, till you realise that Facebook is not just a magical place on the internet created purely to connect people online, but rather that it is a business, and just like any other it seeks profits.  Short and sweet, your photos could be theoretically sold and published on the front page of any newspaper or television news program in the country without your notification, ever.  Again, people think that this won’t be a problem for them, but then a friend of theirs decides to post something, and once its posted its too late, forever the property of Facebook.  On the other side, hackers could breach Facebook security and release all your details to the world, or other crims specifically looking to target people just like you.  The likely goal, says iDefense, “is to use the data to set up fraudulent accounts and identities which can be used to create bank accounts, make money transfers and also steal other people’s identities and use that to their advantage.”  And they’re evil, and its a little scary they know all this stuff about you.  I suppose its a give and take relationship.  For now, I’ll continue to use it.


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