New Role for Social Networks
A faltering economy presents opportunities for social networks to become moneymakers.
The second reason has to do with the economy. When the economy is robust and people are thinking real estate prices will march ever higher, social network users feel better about wasting their time on the networks rather than doing something beneficial such as figuring out how to pay the mortgage.
First, social networks needed to be created. Second, previously unconnected parts of the business and home infrastructure needed to be digitized and made accessible via familiar computer interfaces. Third, you needed a financial squeeze to make consumers and business execs feel the money saved would be worth the effort expended. As far as the first requirement goes, there is no lack of social networks. So far, Ning has done the best job of creating a network that is flexible and scalable and allows the network creator to build a brand without handing over too much control to Ning. But even if you are not a Ning fan, there are hundreds, probably thousands, of networks from which to choose. For the second requirement, I would point you to the recent announcement Microsoft made in Germany with a company (EnBW Energie Baden-W??rttemberg) that makes small smart power meters. For now, home owners monitor and manage their own power consumption. It does not require a great leap of understanding to see how a group of consumers could form a social network to monitor their power and ask for a better deal from the utility. It further does not take a great leap to see how business executives could greatly benefit from being able to measure and monitor their energy and materials use in real time and share that information via a closed social network within their own company. As the economy hits a bumpy phase, it is time for the social networks to punch in and go to work.