dangers of social networking sites

Document Sample
dangers of social networking sites Powered By Docstoc
					                           Networking Analysis   1




Social Networking Analysis

  Team Buffalo Children

Kennesaw State University

 Professor Michael Perry

      BISM 2100/07
                                                                   Networking Analysis       2

                                         Introduction

          The internet is an ever-changing environment. Constant updating of software and

hardware is leading the world into a technologically advanced society. Mulley (2007)

states:

          Unlike the old websites from the days when the web was still a child, with the odd

          picture stored on the page and some blinking text, new websites are full

          multimedia experiences with videos, music, large images and all sorts of weird

          software applications running off the page. Nowadays people store their mp3s on

          their Friendster profile pages and they store and share videos and hundreds or

          even thousands of photos and everything they bookmark can be shared too.

According to Zephoria, social networking site sit in a “category of websites with profiles,

semi-persistent public commentary on the profile, and a traversable publicly articulated

social network displayed in relation to the profile” (Zephoria 2006). Most social

networking sites include a profile for each of the users. The profile is a way of

distinguishing a person from others on the network. The profile usually includes an

identifiable handle which consists of the person’s name or nickname. It also includes a

picture, information about the person, such as: age, gender, location, what kind of things

they are interested in and other sites that they can be visited at. Most social networking

sites enable members to have a list of friends or contacts to be viewed on their main page.

There are many different social networking websites, which range from sites that are

designed for people to keep in touch with friends to people wanting to share videos. All

of these sites are contributing to this growing market in which investors and marketing

experts are paying close attention to.
                                                                  Networking Analysis       3

                                           Target Market

A networks target market refers to a group of people with similar needs that forms the

focus of its marketing efforts. Target marketing generally involves modifying the

networks marketing efforts to appeal to a specific group of people. Wikipedia states, “It

is often defined by age, gender, geography, and/or socio-economic grouping “(Wikipedia

April 18, 2007). Selecting a target market is part of market segmentation. Market

segmentation can be referred to as dividing an overall market into key customer segments

whose members have related demographic characteristics (Answers 2007). Market

segmentation is something that many social networks use in order to specialize in certain

areas.

         Target marketing can be an especially valuable tool for social networks, which

often lack the resources necessary to appeal to large networks or to maintain a wide range

of different services. Target marketing allows a social network to develop a service and

make it into a relatively similar part of the total market. By focusing their resources on a

specific customer base, social networks would then be able to shape a market that served

customers better than its larger competitors. Identifying specific target markets is the

primary function of marketing management for social networks. They are also

encouraged to continually examine their marketing efforts to ensure that they are keeping

up with the changing times (Ward 2007). This is to show various social networks, such

as Facebook or MySpace, how their company is comparing to the competitors.

         Even though many of them try, AllBusiness says, “No business can be all things

to all people” (AllBusiness 2007). Instead, networks must reach specific customers and

satisfy their particular wants and needs. It is necessary to identify those customers and
                                                                  Networking Analysis        4

understand their individual needs. Facebook does that by only allowing people within a

common group to interact. The main purpose of market research is to determine a

network demographic and establish a target audience. This is who the network will gear

its advertising and marketing campaign towards. Answers says, “Selecting a target

market segment for a product or service, rather than attempting to appeal to the entire

market can be a more efficient use of company dollars” (Answers 2007). It is also a

better use of production resources if they can be concentrated on a single service. Target

marketing makes more efficient use of money paid out.

       The various facts about a particular target market fall into the following three

categories: demographic segmentation, geographic segmentation, and psychographic

segmentation (Ward 2007). Demographics, for the most part, deal with age, income, and

occupation of the consumer. It is necessary to be familiar with these terms as well as:

gender, income level, education, population make-up, and family circumstances-married,

single, retired, and so on (AllBusiness 2007). Almost every product or service has a

specific demographic group that will be interested in using the services that are offered.

AllBusiness states, “Geographic and lifestyle segmentation deals with a place of use by

consumers and how they live their daily lives” (AllBusiness 2007). Do they live in Texas

or New York? Are they suburban soccer moms, or country folks? Are they urban

dwellers or pet lovers? Are they risk-takers or more reserved? Are they spenders or

savers? Are they athletic or lethargic? These are some questions that social network

owners must ask themselves when trying to establish a target market.

       Some questions that a social network must ask when outlining its target market or

demographic group include: What is the age range of the customer that desires my
                                                                   Networking Analysis       5

service? Which gender would be more interested in this service? Is this a service they

need? How will they use this service? What will draw them to this service? What do

they like or dislike about the service in general (AllBusiness 2007)? These are just a few

in depth questions that social networks must ask themselves. It is necessary to ask many

more detailed questions regarding a service aimed at a specific target market.

       In order to effectively determine a target market for a business, the business must

first conduct market research. This research will provide very important insight as to

how their company is performing. They also use it in determining whether social

networks will be successful or not. About (2007) states:

       Market research is the collection and analysis of information about consumers,

competitors and the effectiveness of marketing programs. Networks use market research

to determine the likelihood of a social network, test interest in its services, improve

aspects of their network, such as customer service, and develop competitive strategies. In

other words, market research allows networks to make decisions that make them more

responsive to user’s needs which increase the numbers of members.

       As we have discussed, social networking sites are great for many things and many

people, but honestly, do you think people start these sites as a “good deed” to society?

The founders of sites like Myspace, Facebook, and others all start with the hope of

making a little bit of money; even if it only covers the expenses entailed with owning

such a site. These sites have grown faster than anyone several years ago could have

imagined and so has their income, but the money flow does not stop there. Third party

companies are also profiting off of already established sites, and in general, it is perfectly

legitimate. Third party companies are generally not making as much money as the major
                                                                      Networking Analysis   6

networks, but that is to be expected when you are in a sense “piggy backing” off of large

companies’ publicly accepted ideas. We are here to answer a couple of major questions:

how do they make money? Who else is making money? What business people are

gaining, that are not directly related to the social network field?

        Social networking can most simply be defined as a group of people that are

connected through various associations. These associations may consist of friendships,

classmates, fellow co-workers, or any other type of shared interests. Social networking

has reached new heights over the past couple of years. It now consists of much more

than just e-mail or AOL Instant Messenger. It has reached a new height because now it

includes the extremely popular websites: Facebook.com, MySpace.com, and

eHarmony.com. Although these three websites are just a few of the popular new social

networking websites that exist today, they are among the most used.

                Facebook is a website that enables people to connect with friends, co-

workers, or classmates. It allows members to stay in contact with each other even after

graduating from high school. Users are able to share messages, pictures, videos and gifts

with one another. It was created by Harvard University student Mark Zuckerberg. He is

also the owner and operator of this website. Facebook generates its revenue through

advertisements and “mini-gifts” that users may purchase for $1. They may then send

these gifts to each other.

        MySpace is a website that enables anyone to connect with others. Users are not

required to have any commonalities to be connected with each other. User’s ages range

from young children to retired adults. They may stay in contact with each other for any

amount of time. Users are allowed to share blogs, photos, music, and videos. Wikipedia
                                                                   Networking Analysis         7

states, “MySpace was founded in 2003 by Tom Anderson” (Wikipedia 2007). He is the

current owner of MySpace. Its parent company is News Corporation which is run out of

New York City (Wikipedia 2007). MySpace earns its revenue through advertisements.

       EHarmony is an adult dating website that allows users to communicate with each

other for a small fee. Users are required to fill out a personality profile which links them

to other users that match their criteria. Once matched, they may then communicate with

one another on a more personal level. They are able to share profiles, pictures, and

messages. EHarmony was founded in 2000 by Doctor Neil Clark Warren. He is the

Owner and main spokesman for EHarmony. This website makes its profit through

advertisements and user fees.

                                         Business Aspects

       The amount of money that some of these companies are making varies each

month. How these companies make money is normally quite similar from company to

company. Most income is derived from advertising fees. Each company has its own

method but they are all relatively similar. MySpace, for example, is estimated to do over

$25 million in advertising fees per month; this partially explains why MySpace was

recently purchased for almost 600 million US dollars (Rosmarin). We will admit that

these figures are large, but some claim that these numbers are low in relation to the

amount of traffic MySpace receives. After searching, we found a number of sources and

the only hard number we could find on revenue was the $25 million per month.

MySpace and sites like it are plagued with the question: “How do we make money?”

Profiles on the majority of the leaders in the social networking field are of no cost to the
                                                                    Networking Analysis         8

user. With these companies handing out “profiles” for free, this immediately leaves

advertising as the only logical alternative.

         MySpace is good example due to the fact it is one of the originals and remains the

largest trafficked social networking site, getting more daily hits than the ever popular

Google.com (Alexa). A minimum of $25 million per month is generated in ad revenue,

but this is from the MySpace and Google contract alone (BBC)! It is projected that

MySpace generates an additional $5 million in ad revenue from other contracts each

month.

         The cash flow doesn’t just simply stop with the original site; third party sites are

also raking in the cash. Sites like pimpmyspace.com generated well over $200,000 in

revenue last year (Rosmarin). There are numerous other routes people are taking to make

a little money from the MySpace craze. One person for example sold almost $11,000

worth of t-shirts with the text “Tom is NOT my friend” on the shirt, all within a six week

period (Rosmarin). Of course, only MySpace members would get this joke, but it just

goes to show there are near limitless ways for third parties to make a little bit of money

off of social networking sites that they have no affiliation with. As good as this sounds,

MySpace is notorious for disagreeing with any money made by “spin-off” companies.

Although they may frown on this type of third party money making, there is limited

action they can take towards stopping it, and I believe they realize some of the spin-off

companies actually help them, not hurt them.

         In some cases, there is another group of people that can gain from the social

networking community; that is the users. This seems few and far between, but there

actually are some companies out there that use these networks for business networking.
                                                                  Networking Analysis         9

Most of this “business” activity accrues on scaled down versions of the popular social

networking sites like MySpace, Facebook, etc. These companies and individuals use

message boards and groups, which are simple versions of the most popular networking

sites, to communicate and often setup the workings of business deals. For example,

biggerpockets.com is a small social networking site based on Real Estate; this is used

regularly to set up business deals by people all over the country. But the gain may not be

limited to just purely cash basis. Users are opened up to a wealth of information that

changes and updates in near real-time. For example users also benefit from getting

feedback on a company’s ethics and thus saving valuable time and money when the user

chooses an online retailer. There are multiple sites that specialize in detailed consumer

feedback. They are “specialty social networking sites” and are used by a countless

number of individuals around the world (readwriteweb). Please note that specialty social

networking sites are not limited to consumer feedback alone. It could be anything from

scrap booking to skydiving. All in all there are countless ways that users, owners, and

third parties have and will continue to profit and gain off of the social networking craze.

It is believed that we have just begun to see what social networking sites are capable of

producing in regards to wealth and gain in general.

                                  Dangers in Social Networking

       With the advancement of technology of social networking on the internet, come

many adherent dangers to the various users. In an April 5, 2006 presentation of Dateline,

on NBC news, they observed how lightly young teams were responding to the dangers on

social networking sites. In this story, they were looking at the site MySpace.com. The

young girl they spoke with in the piece was only 13 years old, and the age limit to even
                                                                 Networking Analysis         10

be on the site is 14, but she claimed on her profile that she was 18. Not only did she post

her full name, but also her address, what school she went to, and her phone number. This

is more than enough information than a sexual predator would need to find her and do her

harm. More importantly was the danger that her parents, same as many parents, had no

idea that their child was even on the site. These dangers are becoming increasingly

apparent. In the month prior to the airing of the Dateline story, at least three adult men

were arrested and charged with sexual assaulting young teens they had met on myspace

(Stafford). The MySpace site has been connected with the disappearances and even death

of many other young teens who became victims after being targeted by online predators.

The Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported that just last year that there were

more than 2,600 reported cases of children being enticed by adults on the internet (CBS

News). MySpace is aware of this growing problem, and in most news reports would not

agree to an on-camera interview. MySpace representatives have stated that they are

trying to get a handle on the problem by prohibiting posting of any personal or

identifying information. They have a team that searches and deletes underage users

(under 14) and vulgar material, but they do not screen any of the web pages or their users

(Stafford).

       The other site that does pose some dangers, but does not seem to have the same

negative reputation as that of MySpace, is Facebook.com. Originally created solely for

college students who could only register with a valid school email address, it was later

opened up to the public, most likely in direct competition with MySpace. Although, it

does seem to have more privacy settings and less revealing information, it can still pose

some threats to a user’s well-being. Since the majority of people currently participating
                                                                 Networking Analysis         11

on Facebook are still teenagers, college students, and young adults, the threats that it

seems to pose seem to more detrimental to one’s reputation, than life threatening. Some

students that have posted provocative pictures, or pictures of underage drinking, have

been disciplined by school officials who saw their sites, and some have even been

expelled. One student at a Southern Baptist school in Kentucky, The University of the

Cumberland, was expelled after administrators read on his personal profile that his sexual

orientation was homosexual. This was strictly against the rules given that the school

handbook a “Christian-life style” was to be followed (Stone). Other important people

that have started looking at these profiles are potential employers. They see the sites as

an insight into what a potential employee is really like outside out of work and whether or

not they possesses the character and qualities that the company is looking for.

       Another popular site, which is focused more on mature adults looking for love is

EHarmony.com. This site is not quite as popular as some of the aforementioned, but

many people claim to have found love on the site. It does seem to have more privacy

settings and fewer dangers than some of the other sites, but the dangers all depend on

how trusting you are of the people that you meet there. In a report done during an April

2007 episode of Oprah, people reported stories of how they were scammed by someone

they met on an online dating site, just like EHarmony or Match.com. The people meet

someone who seems to have many things in common, and over time that person gains

their trust, and convinces them to send money, often giving the idea that the money is to

fly back to the United States to get married. There is really no way to trace these

predators in most cases and the victims are not only heartbroken, but also out a large

amount of money (Oprah).
                                                                  Networking Analysis        12

       In addition to the dangers of online stalkers, predators, and scammers is the effect

that the time spent on the internet can have on a persons family and social life. It can

even affect the amount of sleep a person gets. Since about fifty-five percent of time spent

on the internet is spent on communication, it is important to realize and face the effects

that amount of time can bring on (Nei). The study done by Stanford University reported

that an hour spent on the internet for an average person reduces in face-to-face family

time by almost 24 minutes. Therefore, if the average internet user is on the internet

almost three and a half hours daily, that is a lot of time lost spending with their family

members (Nei). The study also showed that for the average person, an hour spent on the

internet reduced sleep time by close to twelve minutes (Nei). These are definitely some

potentially negative facts linked to the time one spends on the computer socializing.

                                   Benefits of Social Networking

       Social networking has many benefits. For the owners of a successful site, there is

a lot of money to be made. The overwhelming growth of some sites has led to big name

companies paying high amounts of money to advertise their product on these hot spots.

Over the last few years, there are more and more people visiting these types of sites and

spending a large amount of their time there. The more people begin using these online

communities the more money is to be made. Social networking websites also allow their

users build relationships with other members in the community. Through the use of these

networks, one can keep in touch with friends when they move away, contact people who

are in other countries, and even share pictures or movies with people they are close to.
                                                                  Networking Analysis       13

                                             Conclusion

       Throughout this analysis of social networking, many diverse sites have been

analyzed and broken down into how they make money, who they target, and the pros and

cons of many of them. All of the sites are dissimilar in character. Some of them make

money solely off of advertising and third party vendors, and make little or no money

directly off of the actual every day users, like Facebook.com and Myspace.com. While

others make their money only off of advertisements, some have a yearly or monthly fee

just to be a member of the site. This is usually with some incentive of return to the user,

such as love or partnership. Such a site would EHarmony.com or FriendFinder.com. The

benefits and dangers also varied from one site to another based on the security settings,

and the amount of information the user was willing to display. It is important to

remember in all circumstances that these sites are fun and have many benefits, but can

also be very dangerous by bringing predators and scammers into your world. The target

market aimed at by the sites also has many variances, whether it is someone looking for

an old high school friend, a business contact, or a soul mate. In the end, all of these sites

serve one main purpose: to connect people with similar interests and purposes in the ever

growing world of social networking.
                                                               Networking Analysis     14

                                      Works Cited
        About. (2007). Market Research. Retrieved April 17, 2007.
http://sbinfocanada.about.com/library/glossary/bldef-markresearch.htm

       AllBusiness. (2007). Understanding Your Target Market. Retrieved April 14,
2007. http://www.allbusiness.com/marketing/segmentation-targeting/848-1.html

        Alexa. Home Page. Apr.13, 2007. Retrieved April 14, 2007, from Website:
http://www.alexa.com/

        Answers. (2007). Target Markets. Retrieved April 14, 2007.
http://www.answers.com/topic/target-market

        BBC. Google Signs $900M News Corp Deal. Mar. 15, 2007. Retrieved April 14,
2007, from Website http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/5254642.stm

       CBS News. (February 6, 2006.) “MySpace: Your Kids’ Danger?” Retrieved April
15, 2007, from CBS New Database.

         Compete. 2007. Snapshot of Facebook, Myspace and Eharmony. Compete TM,
INC. Website:
http://snapshot.compete.com/facebook.com+myspace.com+eharmony.com?metric=uv

        Ezzy, Ebraham. Social Networking: Time For A Silver Bullet. ReadWriteWeb.
March 27, 2007. FromWebsite:
http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/social_networking_silver_bullet.php

      Knowledge. 2006. Myspace, Facebook and Other Social Networking Sites: Hot
Today, Gone Tomorrow? Retrieved April 19, 2007, from Knowledge@Wharton.
Website: http://www.informit.com/articles/article.asp?p=470019&rl=1

      Mulley, Damien. (2007). Social networking: sharing is caring for the bottom line:
Sunday Tribune (Ireland). BUSINESS; Pg. B06.

       Nei, Norman. (2005) “Ten Year After the Birth of the Internet: How do
Americans Use the Internet in Their Daily Lives?” Stanford Institute for the Quantitative
Study of Society. Stanford University.

        Rosmarin, Racheal. The MySpace Economy. Forbes. April 15,2007. Website:
http://www.forbes.com/digitalentertainment/2006/04/07/myspace-google-murdoch-
cx_rr_0410myspace.html

    Stafford, Rob. (April 5, 2006). “Why Parents Must Mind Myspace.” Dateline
MSNBC. Retrieved April 15, 2007, from MSNBC Database.
                                                              Networking Analysis    15

     Stone, Brad. (August 21-28, 2006 issue). “Dangers of Social-Networking Sites.”
Newsweek Magazine.

      Techdirt. MySpace’s Latest plan to make money: more of the same. Apr. 13,
2007.Website: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20070402/105525.shtml

        Ward, S. (2007). Target Marketing. Retrieved April 14, 2007.
http://sbinfocanada.about.com/od/marketing/g/targetmarketing.htm

        Wikipedia. (April 18, 2007). Target Market. Retrieved April 10, 2007.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Target_market

        Wilson, Andrew. The Benefits of singings up with a specialty social networking
site. March 27, 2007. Website: http://socialnetworking.knowhow-now.com/blog/the-
benefits-of-signing-up-with-a-specialty-social-networking-website/

      Winfrey, Oprah, “Cunning Cons.”. The Oprah Winfrey Show. Harpo Productions,
Chicago, IL. ABC Television. April 2007.

        Zephoria. 2006. Social Networking Sites: My Definition. Retrieved April 19,
2007, from Apophenia: Making Connections Where None Previously Existed
Website: http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2006/11/10/social_network_1.html

				
DOCUMENT INFO
Shared By:
Stats:
views:933
posted:5/15/2009
language:English
pages:15