Global Alliance Analysis Social Networking at a Glance Social Networking at a Glance ii SOCIAL NETWORKING WEB SITES Prepared for Professor Elke M.Leeds Kennesaw State University Prepared by Rie Suemoto, Margarita Baxter, Christopher Maselka, John Bond, Germaya Williams, Students Business Information Systems Management Kennesaw State University April 20, 2007 iii Letter of Authorization BISM 2100 Students, The purpose of this assignment is to expose students to emerging technologies and to create an opportunity for students to utilize their professional written business communication skills. This formal report will be coordinated with a digital video presentation and an interactive web page to provide a bundled resource on this semester‘s project. You are being asked to perform a detailed analysis of a product/concept in the area of Internet Social Networking Web Sites. Think of how you would answer the question ―Why did Google just spend $1+ billion for YouTube?. At a minimum, your report should include information related to the following: Introduction to Social Networking Web Sites – What is a social network? What are social networking web sites? What problem are they trying to solve? Who are they intended for? How successful have they been? Describe three different social networking web sites. Include who uses them, who owns them and how they generate revenue. Describe three areas of business where social networking web sites are being used or could be used. The description should include the type of business, estimated revenue and how successful it has been or its potential.. Describe any known issues surrounding these sites and how they are being addressed. A conclusion summarizing the main points of the paper. Suggestions for future research and investigation. Use both commercial and academic resources (Minimum of 15 references – 3 must be academic). Where appropriate, you should incorporate charts, graphs, or other visual aids to illustrate the facts you present in your report. This report will be submitted to turnitin.com – anti plagiarism detection software – please ensure that you cite your resources appropriately, use quotations and page number references for quotes and internal citations (Author, Date) for paraphrased content. Written Report: Your managerial report must be submitted through WEBCT. (One student per team must submit a copy of his or her team‘s output through WebCT). Employ all facets of effective business writing and refer back to your text (Chapter 9, Completing Formal Business Reports - pages 1453 – 1466) for the Formal Report Structure. iv Letter of Acceptance Global Alliance 1000 Chastain Road, Kennesaw, GA 30144 April 20, 2007 Elke M. Leeds Professor, BISM 2100 Kennesaw State University 1000 Chastain Road, Kennesaw, GA 30144 Dear Professor Leeds: We would like to thank you very much for the opportunity to work on this project on social networking websites. Global Alliance consists of five members with different cultural backgrounds. Rie Suemoto is the project manager. Chris Maselka is the website coordinator. Margarita Baxter is the research coordinator. John Bond is the presentation coordinator. Germaya Williams has chosen to be the formal report coordinator. We are excited to work on this project and to learn from it. We are delighted to accept this assignment and to complete it. We understand the assignment which you explained in the letter of authorization. The formal report and the web page will be completed and submitted no later than April 20, 2007. The video presentation will be submitted before 5:00pm on April 27, 2007. We are looking forward for the challenges that we will be experiencing through completing this assignment. Again, we are very grateful for being able to work on this project. If you have any questions or concerns regarding to this assignment, please feel free to contact us at email@example.com or 678-478-9706. Sincerely, Rie Suemoto Global Alliance Project Manager v Letter of Transmittal Global Alliance 1000 Chastain Road, Kennesaw, GA 30144 April 20, 2007 Professor Elke M. Leeds Business Information System Management 2100 Kennesaw State University 1000 Chastain Road, Kennesaw, GA 30144 Dear Professor Leeds, Enclosed is our formal report on social networking websites. Global Alliance has completed our formal report as requested. Social networking websites have become extremely popular in the past decade. Global Alliance has carefully researched the different types of social networking websites that are commonly available among today‘s internet users. We specifically researched how different types of businesses utilize social networking websites, and there affects on them. This report describes both the negative and positive side of social networking. We would like to thank you for giving us this wonderful learning opportunity and we hope you will be pleased with our report. We are looking forward to working with you in the future. Sincerely, Global Alliance Rie Suemoto Margarita Baxter Christopher Maselka Germaya Williams John Bond vi Operation Agreement Mission statement Global Alliance‘s mission is to inform people about social networking websites by composing a professionally organized formal report. Also, the team will create a well developed website along with an attractive video presentation which will accompany the formal report. Objective The team‘s objective is to accomplish the research and the presentation of social networking with a professional business manner. Our team will accomplish this task through cooperation and team work. The goal is to excel in this assignment. Purpose The Global Alliance team will conduct research about internet social networking websites. The research will include the following: to research and introduce what social networking is, what social networking websites are, what problems they are trying to solve, who they are intended for, how successful they have been, three areas of business where social networking is being used and describe any known issues surrounding these social networking websites. Our team will use both commercial and academic resources to obtain valuable information. The team will also ensure that we cite our resources appropriately, use quotations and page number references for quotes and internal citations for paraphrased content. Decision-making Decision making will be a process of voting and counting the majority. If a situation or a conflict arises, we will also take a vote and decide on a solution that is agreed on by the majority of the group. Meeting attendance policy and schedule All group members are expected to attend the group meetings regularly. We expect all team members to be on time for all meetings and to be prepared for discussion. The following is the tentative meeting schedule: Thursday, March 29, 2007 at 3:30pm Tuesday, April 3, 2007 at 6:30pm Tuesday, April 10, 2007 at 6:30pm vii However, in case of emergency, another group member must be notified and the material needed for the discussion must be sent to another group member prior to the meeting so we may be able to perform the meeting as planned. Each team member will be responsible to complete and perform the work assigned, even if any missed meetings occur. In addition to scheduled meetings, any member of the group can call a meeting if needed. Besides team meetings, our team will communicate through email, the WebCT team discussion board, and by mobile phone. The WebCT team discussion board will be used mainly for submission of work. Preparation and quality Each team member is expected to perform his or her own task which is assigned by the team. However, if a member needs help with completing the assignment, he or she must inform other team members two days in advance before any deadlines. Other members will be open to provide help to another member if time permits. Quality is the degree of excellence. Everyone on the team will strive for genuine quality work as a team. The team will submit this project with professional prose, clarity, and concise work. Completed work must be submitted to the team, not a work in process. This allows for peer review of the work and easy fixes if there are any corrections or improvements that need to be made. Global Alliance will have the team review of the final submission of the document a week in advance. Non-performance and peer-review Each team member is responsible to complete assignments on time. He or she is expected to work equally on the assignments, to carry their own weight, and do what is assigned by the team. Everyone must pitch in and have a say on the final product that is submitted. If a team member fails to meet the required work for their portion of the project, a deduction of 3 project point will be made. Bonus points will be given to those who perform beyond their team project roles. If all team members work equally, the bonus points will be evenly distributed to all team members. Each team member is expected to peer-review for other team members. In the peer-reviews, meeting attendance, meeting assignment deadline, quality of work provided, and cooperation throughout the project will all be considered. Outline project requirements Collecting Resources - Our team will be collecting academic and commercial resources which will be used to write the individual part of the formal report. Web page – The team will construct a team web page which introduces the team, a brief biography of each team member, and which roles are performed by each team member. The web page will also display the team logo along with a professional web layout. viii Formal report - writing the team‘s formal report is a collaborated effort from all team members. The formal report includes information about social networking websites, what they are, who uses them, different types of businesses that use social networking web sites, any issues surrounding these sites and suggestions for future research and investigation. Digital Video presentation – A video presentation of the formal report will be constructed in efforts to recreate a live presentation. The digital video coordinator will be responsible in choosing an appropriate setting to film the presentation. Moreover, the coordinator will be responsible for editing and drafting the video presentation for submission. Schedule of deliverables (Work breakdown structure) Margarita Baxter, Research Coordinator, is responsible for collecting academic articles, writing abstracts, and linking resources as well as assisting team members with their research needs. Christopher Maselka, Web Site Coordinator, is responsible for coordinating with team members on page layout, design and style, creating, editing, linking and uploading the final page. Germaya Williams, Formal Report Coordinator, is responsible for taking the research provided from the Research Coordinator and creating an outline of the formal report. She will integrate portions of the written report from each team member and will communicate frequently with the Project Manager and Research Coordinator for additional references. John Bond, Digital Video and Presentation Coordinator, is responsible for organizing the digital video presentation. He will choose an organizational pattern for the presentation, will assign roles to team members based on their areas of expertise, structure the introduction and conclusion, and set rehearsal times. He is also in charge of choosing a setting for the presentation, scheduling camera checkout, coordinating a production schedule with team members, shooting the video footage, editing the digital video as well as submission and publication via WebCT VISTA. Rie Suemoto, Project Manager is responsible for communicating and coordinating with the team. She will participate in each of the deliverables while coordinating meeting times, communication, and assignment submission procedures. She is also in charge of constructing a timetable for the project and submitting the formal report to turnitin.com with the time for revision. She will take ultimate responsibility for the timely completion of each related project. ix Project due dates: * April 1, 2007 Completed baseline of Research sources to Research Coordinator *April 8, 2007 Individual report sent to Formal Report Coordinator *April 15, 2007 Formal report/Web Page group deadline for team review *April 16, 2007 Formal report submission to writing lab *April 20, 2007 Formal Report/Web Page submission due to WebCT VISTA *April 17, 2007 Filming the Video Presentation * April 18, 2007 Start editing the Video Presentation *April 27, 2007 Video Presentation Submission due to WebCT VISTA x TABLE OF CONTENTS EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ................................................................................... XII SOCIAL NETWORKING AT A GLANCE ............................................................. 1 INTRODUCTION .................................................................................................. 1 WHAT IS SOCIAL NETWORKING? .................................................................... 1 WHAT PROBLEMS ARE SOCIAL NETWORKS TRYING TO SOLVE? ............. 2 WHO ARE SOCIAL NETWORKS INTENDED FOR? .......................................... 3 HOW SUCCESSFUL HAVE THEY BEEN? ......................................................... 3 EXAMPLES OF SOCIAL NETWORKING WEBSITES ........................................ 4 FLICKR.COM .............................................................................................................................................. 4 MYSPACE.COM ......................................................................................................................................... 5 LIBRARYTHING.COM .............................................................................................................................. 6 AREAS OF BUSINESS THAT USE SOCIAL NETWORKING WEBSITES.......... 7 ADVERTISING ............................................................................................................................................ 7 MARKETING............................................................................................................................................... 8 FINANCE .................................................................................................................................................... 10 ISSUES SURROUNDING SOCIAL NETWORKING WEBSITES ....................... 10 CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS ..................................................... 11 xi Executive Summary Online social networking has developed into a world of its own. People continue to use social networking websites as a means to stay informed and connected to other people. These websites provide people with the opportunity to send messages, pictures, join various interest groups and clubs. Social networks have not only impacted people‘s personal lives, but they have also improved various areas of business. Social networks have tremendous success online but have also created problems in levels of security and safety. Social networks continue to act as a social gateway to share and communicate in our ever advancing technological world. xii SOCIAL NETWORKING AT A GLANCE INTRODUCTION These days, with the use of Internet technology, people can make connections much easier and faster then ever before. These connections can be made for various reasons. Social networking sites such as MySpace and YouTube have lately become extremely popular thus allowing people to chat, meet new friends, share ideas, photographs or other interests. Without a doubt, this interaction is becoming a new way of life for people to stay connected. Therefore, online social networks are changing the way people communicate and interact socially. In order to understand this booming phenomenon, it is important to get a deeper picture of what social networking is and why it is becoming so popular. WHAT IS SOCIAL NETWORKING? Social networking is the 21st century phenomenon. Social networks can simply be defined as a personal or professional set of interactions between individuals. These networks serve as a wonderful tool for people to communicate and to form various kinds of relationships with each other. The Internet provides people from all over the world access to social networking web sites. For example, someone in the United States can easily develop an online friendship with someone in Australia through an online social networking web site. The first social networking website was Classmates.com, founded in 1995. Currently it is one of the leaders in online social networking with more than 30 million adult registered members (Goldsborough, 2002). Since 2003, social networking web sites have been growing at a faster pace than ever before. Social networks can be divided into basic categories such as common interests, dating, and business relations (Barrett, 2006). Some of today‘s most popular social networking web sites are MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, YouTube, and Classmates.com. In these online communities, members create profiles where they may provide personal information, photographs, and their personal interests. However, social networks are not only used to make online friends or develop online relationships, but for a host of business purposes such as marketing, finance or sales. Companies advertise their businesses by selling products or offering various services. One of the ways that companies can promote online business is by using an online social networking web site. As an example, successful Web-based companies, such as eBay and Amazon, have established profitable business models. Without a doubt, social networking sites are becoming such a huge trend and continue to attract a great number of people around the world. 1 2 WHAT PROBLEMS ARE SOCIAL NETWORKS TRYING TO SOLVE? Social networking comes in many forms and for various purposes. These types of networks work and continue to shape the world we live in. Of course, with the good comes along the bad. Although there are millions of positive social networking groups, there are also social networks that engage in illegal activities. However, focusing on the positive aspects of social networking, many problems are solved using this tool. In general, social networking brings people together for many reasons. Whether branching out to meet new people, or to develop strong ties with business relations, social networking continues to help solve many of the problems the world experiences day in and day out through the internet. From a political standpoint, social networking may be used to help public management problems. Starting there, social networking also helps coordinate economic, political, and social action (Raab & Milward, 2003). For instance, the president of the United States uses social networks, especially during his campaigning, to address certain issues and forms a plan in aiding those issues. ―It is usually argued that networks, compared to hierarchies, are a better solution to solving nonroutine, nonstandardized, or evil structured or wicked problems‖ (Raab & Milward, 2003). On the other hand, businesses and online social networks are working together in international trade to overcome trading barriers. ―Two important areas of research on business and social networks in international trade are: the role of intermediaries who can connect foreign agents to domestic networks and the ability of transnational production networks to facilitate technology transfer‖ (Rauch, 2001). This is an example of how business relations are formed and maintained through online social networking In general, social networking through internet web sites is used in solving an array of things. There are many websites dedicated to bringing people together whether they are strangers, friends, or business associates. These online social network sites range from aspects of dating websites to conducting e-commerce in various forms, such as email. The internet has allowed social networking to really blossom. Nothing else can overcome distance, time barriers, and eliminating the use of paper as instantaneous as the internet. Social networking online has also branched into the educational world. For instance, take a person who has a family and a full time job that wants to earn a college degree. Where would they ever find the time to balance these things with going back and forth to class? This is nearly impossible. Luckily, due to the technology of online social networking, people can now take online courses through schools, much less earn a bachelors degree strictly over the internet. 3 WHO ARE SOCIAL NETWORKS INTENDED FOR? Social networking is intended for people with a need or wants to communicate. It is for people who want to meet new people and stay connected with friends, to share pictures, videos or any other computer file type that can move across the web. Millions of people use MySpace.com, Friendster.com, and Facebook.com to communicate with friends. Sites like Flickr.com and Shutterbug.com are used to share photos. Social networking websites also aid employers in finding new experienced employees or the other way around, for people to find a job easier. Social networking is also intended for sellers who want to keep in touch with their buyers efficiently. Social networking is also being used by those who one would never expect. For example, the Saugus Union School District in Santa Clarita, California uses a social networking application designed by James Klein. This allows teachers to post videos, blog, share files, and podcast, which could help improve the teachers‘ curricula (Glitten, 2006). Companies such as Turner Broadcasting and Procter & Gamble have been making their own communities and social networking sites. Procter & Gamble uses social networking to find out more about their consumers. In addition, Intuit has developed a social network site, JumpUp.com, which allows entrepreneurs to share ideas and help each other out (Rosenburg, 2007). Turner Broadcasting, along with others such as CBS and NBC, use social networking for individual shows like CSI to keep fans connected (Claburn, 2007). Even Presidential candidates have been using social networks to boost their campaigns. Senator Barack Obama and John Edwards both use YouTube and MySpace to create awareness, and they also have blogs on their own sites (Havenstein, 2007). Social networking is used in unexpected and possibly unwanted ways. Al Qaeda, for example, has been using social networking sites like MySpace for training, communication, and planning purposes (Debat, 2006). The bottom line is people use social networking for means to communicate, whether it is for social wants and needs, entertainment, educational, or business purposes. HOW SUCCESSFUL HAVE THEY BEEN? Social networking web sites have completely changed the way people communicate and socialize with one another. Social networking web sites have attracted the attention of millions of people across the globe from all races and ages. People can stay connected to family, friends, business partners, and other various interest groups with a click of a mouse. Social networking web sites have been expanding rapidly online since 2003 (Barrett, 2006). The success of social networking web sites is primarily due to the massive amount of online membership and usage by people on a daily bases. In our society, time is of the essence, and people no longer have the time or the patience to sit down, write a letter, and mail it through the U.S. Postal Service. Instead, people create messages on a computer and post them in there recipients inbox online. The ability 4 to use the internet not only as a search engine but also as a communication tool has become very popular. Many participants have grown accustomed to the online world and enjoy all the services and opportunities it provides. The success of social networking web sites has not only captured the attention of average teens and college students but also various areas of business are now trying to tap into its growing success. Companies are marketing their products and services on social networking web sites. Banks are now providing online banking to its members. Social networks have also become critical new channels of media distribution (Rayport, 2007). Users can acquire information about any and everything from the latest fashion brands to what type of car insurance is most effective through their social networking web sites. Online social networks are effective, time efficient, and relatively inexpensive for its users. Social networks keep the windows of communication open among people. Such web sites that have been created around a central theme and convey some sort of voyeuristic appeal have attracted the most success online (Barrett, 2006). Members enjoy the ability to stay connected to one another and experience some level of thrill or excitement within the process. Social networking sites provide users with the ability to explore the world around them and meet new people online. The success of social networking web sites continues to increase in membership and in revenue for its owners. EXAMPLES OF SOCIAL NETWORKING WEBSITES FLICKR.COM Flickr.com is one of the most popular photo-sharing websites. It allows users to upload pictures they take with their digital camera or cell phone camera. Flickr also allows users to share their photos with everyone in the world and leave comments, notes, and tags on the photos which make their photos easier to find (flickr.com, 2007). Aside from uploading their own photographs, users can participate and communicate with others in this photo sharing website by leaving comments or notes on other members pictures too. According to Flickr.com, their website is a place to store, search, sort, and share photos. It was originally created by Stewart Butterfield and his wife Caterina Fake on February 2004 (Quittner, 2006). Katharine Mieszkowski, a senior writer for Salon.com, explains that there were more than 176,000 members with 2.2 million photos on the website, and growing at rate of 30,000 pictures a day, in the year of 2004 (Mieszkowski, 2004). The number of users grew tremendously in 2 years. There are 3 million users, with 130 million photos posted, by May 2006 (Quittner, 2006). The photo-sharing website was doing so incredibly well that after only one year, Yahoo decided to acquire Flickr at the cost of thirty million dollars (Quittner, 2006). After the transfer of ownership in March 2005, new members of Flickrs are required to create Yahoo IDs. 5 Members do not have to be experts at professional photography to use Flickr. In fact, anyone who can use a web browser and has the ability to upload pictures can become a member of the Flickr community. People of any age can share pictures with friends and families. In return, friends and families can view and leave comments on posted pictures. Flickr also has a feature that will let users determine the level of privacy on each photo. This privacy setting gives users control over who has the ability to view their posted pictures. Currently, over 80% of all photos in Flickr.com can be viewed by anyone (Mieszkowski, 2004). The only effective way Flickr.com generates revenue is to sell premium subscriptions to its members. Stewart Butterfield, one of the founders of Flickr, called subscriptions one of the more ways Flickr will make money in the future (Carlson, 2006). According to Flickr.com, a Flickr Pro account, which gives users unlimited picture uploads, costs around twenty five dollars per year. Erick Schonfeld, the writer for CNN Money, stated that such user fees account for 13 percent of Yahoo's revenues (Schonfeld, 2005). MYSPACE.COM MySpace.com is the third most viewed social networking site in the United States, and the fifth most viewed in the world, according to Alexa.com. MySpace.com is the place to meet and make friends. Users can create a personal webpage that can have personal profiles, blogs, groups, photos, music, and videos. The profiles can contain personal information such as race, religion, age, your interests, and even very personal information such as if one is a smoker or drinker. Users can blog on their page and also add images or video. There is also a section for the user‘s friends to make comments. Each MySpace page can show up to twenty-four ―top friends‖ with links to their own webpage. Users can easily create a layout for their webpage. MySpace pages are in HTML format only. MySpace.com is founded by Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson in July 2003 and was an immediate success. What helped make their success and was new to other social networking sites, was allowing musicians to promote their music on MySpace.com from the start. MySpace.com allowed bands to upload music so that consumers can download the songs easily. Millions of musicians and artists today have a MySpace page to promote their music (Krantz, 2006). Seeing this success, News Corporation bought MySpace.com and its parent company Intermix Media, Inc. for $580 million. Last year, MySpace averaged 31.5 billion pages viewed per month and had about $90 million in ad sales. That seems like a lot of money but News Corp was expecting more. Jessica Cohen from Merrill Lynch & Co. predicts that MySpace will get $271 million in ad revenue and will make its first profit in 2008. MySpace is getting older and web pages viewed in March 2007 were up 79% from March 2006. But as MySpace gets older, it seems that the customers are getting older too. 41% of the people who use MySpace are over the age of 35 compared to last year where it was only 35%. This means that companies who advertise mostly to the youth crowd are going to be less attracted to advertising on MySpace (Grover, 2007). 6 One known problem with MySpace and similar social networking sites is sexual predators. In October 2006, it is known that over 700 registered sex offenders created a MySpace account according to Wired News. MySpace, aware of the issue, has now allowed profiles to be only viewed by people in your friends list and is required for users under 14 years old (Florip, 2006). It is easy to make a personal webpage on MySpace, which can be a problem. Sexual predators make false web pages to attract younger teens. MySpace does plan to do something about it with tracking software called Zephyr, which allows parents to see what their children do and who they associate with on MySpace.com, but it will not compromise the child‘s profile or any communication that is password protected. Right now, the software is in development and is planned to be released summer of 2007 (Bernstein, 2007). Sexual predators are not the only problem MySpace faces from easily designing a personal webpage, but because it is so easy to use, PC World, in September 2006, has named MySpace.com the worst website being ―poorly designed and counterproductive‖ (Tynan, 2006). Another issue with MySpace has been that spyware is becoming more frequent on social networking sites. In August 2006, Webroot, an anti-spyware vendor, found 527,000 malious websites and that 89 % of consumer PCs have some type of spyware on them. Home PCs, on average, contains 30 spyware programs (Hesseldahl, 2006). LIBRARYTHING.COM This site is for people who want to keep a personal online book catalog and for those who want to meet others with similar collections. Librarything.com allows people to catalog there books and keep track of them over the web and also allows you to find others with the similar book collection and join groups (Rethlefsen, 2007). One can make his or her collection private or open for anyone to see. Unfortunately, there is no in between, whereas someone can not make his or her collection only available for a few people (Metz, 2006). The site can also give recommendations on what books to read from looking at one‘s book collection or from just one book (Rethlefsen, 2007). Books can be added to the personal collection by using the title, author, or an ISBN. Sources come from the Library of Congress, Amazon, and over 70 other book catalogs around the world for catalog records and cover graphics (Bates, 2006). Once the books to user‘s collection, the user can organize his or her collection by author, title, tags, publication date, or even by how many other people using Librarything.com have the same books as you do. The user can also view various statistics such as how many others own the same book and the average publication date (Bates, 2006). Librarything.com allows users to tag their books anyway they want to. Tags are usually a word or phrase to categorize books, usually by the subject of the book. Majority of library 7 catalogs are tagged but on Librarything.com, users can tag their books any way they want to. For example, if one looks up The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, it will show you a variety of tags used for this particular book and the number of times used (Rethlefsen, 2007). Librarything.com was founded by Tim Spalding. Originally, the site was for a few academics to catalog their books but saw its potential when people started putting their book collection on the site and sharing recommendations with other people. In the beginning, the site was self-funded but that was not sufficient for growth. In May 2006, Abebooks funded the site, buying 40% of the company. This allowed Spalding to add a few more employees and add more servers. Today, the site is funded by membership fees and a very small portion from books sold on Amazon.com (Rethlefsen, 2007). Users can pay a $10 for a yearly membership or $25 for a lifetime membership and it allows them to donate more if they are generous. Users can register on Librarything.com and use the site for free but it limits the user to 200 books in his or her collection. Librarything.com can give users suggestions on different books that they might like to read based from the books in their collection. Not only can Librarything.com suggest what books one might like from his or her collection or just a single book, but it can also suggest what books he or she wouldn‘t like. From suggesting what the user does like, it will give the user suggestions on books that other people have in their collection along with books with common tags and what Amazon.com recommends. Librarything.com can also suggest what books users would least likely want to read. It does this by finding books that would least likely be in the same library of the book you used. AREAS OF BUSINESS THAT USE SOCIAL NETWORKING WEBSITES ADVERTISING Businesses are now tapping into the online world to advertise their products and services. In today‘s modern age of ever-advancing information technology, businesses do not have a localized point or location. The global network enables businesses to communicate faster and more efficiently with other business partners in present day markets at a speed that would have been unimaginable a few decades ago. Social networking websites post ads for their members which reach a greater number of people and can be seen as a form of mass media. Online advertising helps businesses sell their products and services to consumers, who have also had a tremendous influence on the success of certain products. Consumers may leave product reviews on purchases made online and share the information with others. Some examples of successful websites include Amazon.com, Ebay, and BestBuy.com. 8 MARKETING The world of marketing grows by the day. First, to understand how marketing relates to social networking, one must understand what marketing really is. ―Marketing is an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders‖ (AMA Adopts, 2007). After reading this definition, it is clear how social networking ties directly into a marketing aspect. For instance, a great way to expand a business‘ marketing through social networking is scheduling dinners or some sort of gathering. This creates a setting for personal contacts to be made in order to gain trust and expand network ties. The dinner allows people to exchange numbers or business cards for future contact. ―Give them a call to ask them if they are interested to widen their business on the internet and work something out from there‖ (How to Market, 2006). Online social networking is the latest and greatest way for making contacts. Again, as mentioned previously, the internet is the only thing that can eliminate time barriers, geographical regions, and is a way to send and receive information to a limitless amount of people instantaneously. From a business standpoint, a vision or goal is in need to determine what direction one wants to take with social networking. Bobette explains, ―Do you want to gain exposure for your product, band or company? Are you looking for potential employees or contractors? Do you want to get prospects interested enough to visit your Website or contact you? Your goals will dictate what you put on your profile and social networking home page as well as who you look for to become part of your network‖ (2007). Once these decisions are made, a business should consider what social networking websites it wants to advertise on. Another advantage in marketing with social networking websites is contacting a variety of people with all different kinds of pull. With social networking, a business can not only establish a solid customer base but also make contacts with other people in the industry and other organizations to interact with and possibly cross – promote with. It always helps to know a few people in a variety of places who can help from a marketing aspect. After a business gets a lot of good exposure, one can decide who he or she wants to continue business with, and who they do not want to continue business with. Moreover, ―Sites like MySpace, Facebook and Friendster are establishing new paradigms in how people get information about products and services‖ (Organ, 2007). The cliché 9 ―It‘s not what you know, it‘s who you know‖ is more important in the marketing aspect of social networking than ever before. However, there can be a few drawbacks with this social networking. ―The problem is using personal referrals to gain access to senior decision makers‖ (Organ, 2007). The CEO of a major company is not likely to just accept and/or answer incoming emails from unknown sources. This situation usually occurs more often in a business to business relationship, rather than a business to consumer company. Marketing and online social networking work hand in hand to shorten the sales process and increase total revenues. ―Business social network applications help identify the right targets, while demand-generation technologies help develop, qualify and manage the right leads‖ (Organ, 2007). Even though online networking is such a powerful force, it does not completely terminate the standardized face-to-face meetings. Now, the key in the online marketing business world is to find a happy medium between these social networking techniques. No form of technology can ever replace the face-to-face interaction between two people. Another great form of fast and readily available information, usually provided for consumer use, is the idea of online mailing lists. This too enables a company to email every person on the list who wishes to receive information about the company. Not only can a company provide updated information on a regular basis, but the company can also receive feedback from it‘s consumers about things they are doing a good job of and things they can work on improving. The sooner a company can find out what they lack or need to improve on, the sooner a company can suffice a customers needs. There is no reason for a company to not jump on this bandwagon. A huge portion of marketing is research. Research of customer preference, behaviour, and data based off of statistical information are very important to a company‘s marketing department. Recently, a company was developed in aiding marketing research by making customer interaction more involved than ever before. ―Communispace is an up-and- coming hotbed of resources for both large and small businesses‖ (Karimi, 2006). This newly launched company provides unique private communities for customer interaction. This allows a company to create an online community. Having this type of space for a company‘s customers to come together and discuss things about the business is the ticket for marketing research. ―Customers can be tracked, analyzed, and understood in-depth from a Communispace community‖ (Karimi, 2006). This new marketing tool can help provide vital information for decision makers in a company and possibly promote new customer behaviors. Marketing research through this new form of social networking is able to produce accurate and valuable information for companies‘ future decision making. Business marketing and social networking has boosted many businesses to the forefront of their industry. These two tools have really set the stage for business expansion and have also helped establish long friend and business relationships. Online social networks 10 possess a unique presence that is constantly renewed by user generated content, which promotes and maintains customer interest and loyalty (Carter, 2006). As previously mentioned, online social networking is a great way to make contacts and gather statistical information that can be used for many aspects of marketing. ―Serious marketers should pay close attention to the business social network phenomenon and consider jumping on the bandwagon early, while the novelty of the approach generates above average returns‖ (Organ, 2007). Overall, social networking and business marketing is a recipe for success. FINANCE Over the past decade, the use of the Internet has expanded dramatically. The explosive growth of the Internet has revolutionized the operations of many business industries, including the financial services industry. Just in 1990, banking on the Web was not possible. By 1995, only one financial institution offered some banking abilities on the Internet (Dandapani, 2004). However, now online banking is a typical activity among many people. Such interaction takes place simply through a bank‘s web site. Thus, many customers have adapted to online banking services since Internet banking websites provide secure services such as statements of bank accounts, balance enquiries, fund transfers, account/bill payment options, and check book requests among many other activities. More complex financial operations - such as applying for a loan, paying a mortgage, or trading stocks can be performed through these web sites as well. Without a doubt, online banking is becoming more and more popular. As a result, in 2006, 40 million households in the U.S used online banking systems (Kandra, 2006). Banks are giving their customers incentives to go online since most of the banks offer well- developed services that in most cases are free of charge. It is significant to note that, ―the Internet is the least expensive retail delivery channel available for financial services‖ (Dandapani, 2004). The success of online banking is convenient and affordable. Internet banking offers significant revenue potential for the bank. For example, normally it costs just one cent for a bank to perform an e-transaction. In comparison, an ATM transaction costs 27 cents for a bank and $1.07 for a teller-window transaction accordingly (Dandapani, 2004). Nowadays e-commerce is imperative for businesses. Therefore, it seems reasonable to conclude that the use of online banking will continue to grow in the near future and it will depend greatly on the development of Internet technology. ISSUES SURROUNDING SOCIAL NETWORKING WEBSITES Many reasons exist to use caution when accessing social network websites. Most of these sites allow people to post personal information online for others to view. The problem occurs when this information falls into the hands of potential stalkers, pedophiles and other types of online predators who may target teenagers and young adults (Vernon, 2007). Teenagers and young adults, however, are not the only ones targeted by online predators. The popularity of social networks has caused a tremendous increase in the number of activities in which adults participate online. According to one source, ―Adults 11 who use social networking sites may be putting themselves at risk, and may be placing their businesses and places of employment in harm's way‖ (Computer Associates, 2006). Providing one‘s personal and business information online allows hackers the potential to acquire this information and use it for their own benefits. Online users are also engaging in other risky behaviors without being aware of the potential dangers. These risky actions include ―downloading unknown files and responding to unsolicited emails and instant messages, all of which may lead to identity theft, computer spyware, viruses, and other risk‖ (Computer Associates, 2006). However, the level of risk when using social networking web sites has not suppressed online membership and participation. CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS Social networking has had a tremendous impact on the way people communicate with one another. The ability to write a message and receive a direct response in a matter of seconds has become a normal way of life. People from all ages and backgrounds may find a place in the world of cyber space. Social networking has provided people the ability to express themselves and explore various opportunities to connect with new contacts. People can create individual profiles; post photos, send messages, join in on online chats and groups, and send messages to other members. The possibilities are endless on social networking websites. The popularity of social networks continues to grow and thrive online. The use of social networking in the areas of business continues to improve and provide new opportunities for a business to succeed in the world‘s ever-advancing technological job market. Businesses have infused several social networking techniques to communicate with their employees, partners, and customers. Although social networking is a fairly young phenomenon, it continues to rapidly grow into the future. People of all ages will assumingly be attracted by social networking and its benefits. Without a doubt, the success of social net working websites is convenient and reasonably affordable. In the near future, many will see the rise of community sites focused on particular interests such as gardening, cooking, golf, cycling or other interests. For future research and investigation one may examine information provided by social networking websites. People may also log on to popular websites such as Myspace.com or Flickr.com to experience the action of social networking. An individual may also perform further research by searching the Internet or talking with local businesses to determine exactly how they are tapping into the online world. In addition, technological advancements in social networking occur daily. Problems that already exist in online 12 social networks such as sexual predators, hackers, or various types of spyware continue to be present. However, our team feels that these problems will progressively deteriorate as time goes on. 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