Quite a bit of social networking news has been popping up over the past week, as more and more companies are interested in finding a way to help facilitate community around their texts. This comes off news that was released in the past week from market research conducted by TNS, TRU, and Marketing Revolution on behalf of Isobar and MySpace, finding that, for more than 70 percent of Americans 15 through 34, social networks are an active part of their lives.
According to Daisy Whitney's report, "more than 40 percent of people who use social networks said they use them to learn about brands and products, and 28 percent said that at some point a friend has recommended a brand or product to them via social networks.
Whitney followed up with a report that at PaidContent's social media conference in L.A. this past week, the theme was that "social media is poised to be the next big opportunity for television networks as they extend their brands and video further online."
Nevertheless, Whitney's article also focuses on how the advertising industry and advertisers themselves have yet to find an economic model that monetizes the benefits of social networking to the point that most companies see the value on facilitating brand proselytizing as a major form of advertising.
However, the theme and takeaway of many of these initiatives is that social networks should not be constricted to using massive sites like Facebook and MySpace but rather to create a social network around each network's properties, or even specifically around a certain property. The plan is to use social networks to increase the "stickiness" of Web sites, to keep Web traffic high on network and show-specific Web sites.
The newest version of these site-specific social networks is Virtual Rush, a community site in support of the new ABC Family original series Greek, which will premiere in July. The Virtual Rush community will launch on May 14, however, in anticipation for the series.
According to its description in the press release:
A niche social network centered around collegiate life, virtualrush.com will allow users to join the fictional Cyprus-Rhodes University Greek system by creating a personal profile and uploading content. Users will be able to take a personality quiz to see which character of the show they most resemble and then can "rush" the virtual sorority/fraternity house of that character. Users will have the chance to join one of six different houses such as "Slacker" Cappie's house or "It Girl" Casey's house. They can also interact with other users, participate in a virtual community alongside the characters featured in "Greek" and be ranked by the community to be eligible to win various prizes.
Does this sound like a natural extension or just an example of social networks being the hot thing and every show wanting to try it? Further, how niche can these social networks go when being applied to particular shows, and is there a breaking point for having social networks for each particular show? After all, people may only want to logically maintain so many networks. NBC's approach is interesting.
I wrote about NBC's recent efforts to create its own dedicated social network site earlier this month:
Criticism will likely be driven specifically at the question as to whether, if people already have their social networks built, they will want to start joining a new social network specifically around each provider of media content they enjoy. Rather than going to MySpace or Facebook or other communities where people already congregate, this model seeks to create networking around NBC content. That idea of creating social ties around content is a strong one, and I'm not claiming that this is a bad idea, but with an increasingly niche number of media brands providing content, there is also danger in expecting people to engage in a new social networking program for every show they are fans of, which has to have some limit as far as people's willingness to engage in that many different locations.
Nevertheless, despite the narrow focus, I think this type of centralized space will prioritize social connections with the fan community among networks, primarily because having a division of the company or the site dedicated to such activities makes the organization put a focus on those activities in a way that random message boards or blogs here or there on the site does not.