Social networks and the Web 2.0


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Social networks and the Web 2.0

The world has adapted to the era of nitizens. It is not surprising that even early teens will be busy doing what could be thought to be a preserve for adults – social networking. There have been several social networking sites such as the Hi5, Orkut, and Myspace, but the common one are Facebook, Twitter and Google+. The development of social networking is still at infancy where all the social networking sites are competing to attract as many users as possible. Twitter and Facebook have set the pace as the emerging potential contenders, but Google plus is also a potential challenger. Although the business models of twitter and Facebook have common similarities, they are distinctive in several significant ways. The differences between the two networks are substantial and in some ways a direct comparison between the two is actually difficult to make. In order to fully understand their differences and similarities, this essay critically analyses their features, web technologies, audiences, communication models and type of interaction, ownership and business models, application and future models and  concludes with their current issues and future outlook.

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Facebook and twitter comparison somewhat rekindles the rivalry witnessed in 1990s search engines. In nutshell, Facebook offers a portal-like interface in some ways comparable to Yahoo, while Twitter is simple, to some extent like Google appeared in 1998. Facebook has features that make it attractive to those people who are strongly addicted of staying connected with friends or eager to make new acquaintances. It has features that are aimed at assisting users reconnect with their old friends and find new one. The interactive features of Facebook have put essentials like email, instant messaging, image and video sharing and many mores together.Social networks and the Web 2.0 This explains why with emergence of Facebook, people rarely use e-mail or IM tools or any other online social communication. Facebook has feature that allow chatting, image sharing, video sharing and many other activities. These features are endearing to those their main interest is connecting with friends and finding new friends.

Unlike Facebook, Twitter is a networking platform which lets the people to send short text messages or tweets up to 140 characters to their friends or followers. It platform is a bit more complicated. It is a real time information network that connects the user to the latest information that is interesting to them. The tagline of twitter says it all –“instantly connect to what is more important to you”. It was initially designed to be a micro-blogging site but at present it has accommodated features of social networking. It is quite popular and highly valuable to technically adept, bloggers, evangelists, online marketers and every one who have something to promote.Social networks and the Web 2.0 It allows easier navigation and clear way to add updates. Perhaps those who prefer to use twitter might have been attracted by its pure communication tool which brings in rapid responses.

From these features, as Wani and Raghavan observes, it is logical to conclude that Facebook is friendlier to those who wish to reconnect with old friends and socialize with family members while twitter is not necessarily a friend-meeting site (2011: 4). On Facebook, users can connect within their specific network while twitter allows users to update everyone about them. Facebook features allow easier emailing, image and video sharing and instant messaging. On the other hand, twitter is a bit more complicated especially for first time users. This means that new users have to go through a learning process to be able to fully utilize its features. Perhaps this may explain why Facebook has remained a little more competitive. On the other hand, while Facebook holds on to more conventional social networking where users maintain their profile, twitter adapts a micro blogging feature.Social networks and the Web 2.0 Nonetheless, users are unique and each one goes to the social site that best suits their interest.

The social media sites use the web 2.0 technology. Not so long ago, the internet and website could only be used as monologue. Published content on website was read only, no reply. That was the era of web 1.0. There was no any other way that people could connect. The advent of Web 2.0 allowed people to publish information at extremely low cost and with no technical expertise needed. All over sudden readers became publishers. Feedback in technology circles began being referred to as user-generated content (UGC) or consumer-generated media (CGM). This was the beginning of communication revolution and prepared the ground for what are today’s giant social media. All over sudden, the exchange of information transformed from monologue, (from one person to many), to dialogue, many to many. This is what set in to today’s democratisation of information as exhibited in social media. The advent of Web 2.0 transformed the way humans interact. Social networks and the Web 2.0 It simply allowed people to who could never have reached each other before to connect in cyber space forming relationship for personal, business or both of them. This is the technology that is sweeping the world in form of social networking sites. People can send text at informally at simply no cost, and reply informally, or add content to someone else blog (Tuten 2008: 32).

Social media allow people to communicate, share information and interact on the internet. Interaction is facilitated by a variety of interactive features that facilitated socializations such sharing photos, links, and videos as well as private and public messages. Private interactions include messages, SMS and gifts. There two kind of online social networks. Facebook and twitter supports different kind of interactions. While Facebook supports the traditional two-way relationships under approval of both users, twitter is a one-way connection.Social networks and the Web 2.0 In both of the sites, public interactions are more compared to private interactions. The trend of interaction is determined by the number of friends (Facebook) or followers (twitter). No wonder celebrity enjoys massive following on social media. Most of the social media users accept followers or friendship easily. Most of the online users think that a stranger offline can be friend online. A considerable number of users can easily accept a request of friendship.

When it comes to interaction, each model has its own strength and weaknesses. Twitter is pure communication tool. It allows rapid responses, very interactive and extensible messaging platform. There is no rapid response in Facebook unless the users’ stays logged in. The 140 characters per update allowed by tweeter is a limiting factor in extensive interaction.

Information on audience of every social media is an important tool especially for marketers.  According to the respective sites, Facebook has close to 845 million active users while twitter approaches 500 million users. Research has established that twitter attracts younger generation than Facebook, and that the trend is unlikely to change in the new future. On the other hand, Facebook is more preferred by population aged over 40 (Garland 2011:6).Social networks and the Web 2.0 However both sites have equal members of male to female ratio. The level of education on both sides is also the same. Nonetheless, the audience on each site have records different behaviours. Facebook users tend to be more intimate than twitter users. This may be explained by a variety of more interactive features found in Facebook. The social action also differs. In Facebook, there are more likes and clicks than there are tweets and retweets.  The audience also differ in engagement such as the number of pages viewed per visit, average visit duration and bounce rate.

Facebook is a privately owned company operated by Facebook Inc. After much anticipation, Facebook filed for an initial public offering on Feb. 1, 2012, the same week that it was celebrating its eighth birthday. Among the largest owners include co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, Accel Partners, Dustin Moskovitz, Edward Saverin among others (Biggs 2011).Social networks and the Web 2.0 The ownership of twitter is not clear, but perhaps the case that has been filed in court to determine who owns account followers may determine its true ownership.

What generally started as social sites have increasingly assumed commercial dimension. As people networked, those individuals wit business acumen interpreted this network to be an outstanding platform for marketing. This is the reason why there is so much interest in social media business models. The Facebook model appear to be simple: get people to share information about their lives and wrap relevant advertising around it. According to Jack Dorsey, the creator and executive chairman twitter business model “is focused around serendipity” (Kaplan 2012:21). Twitter is basically a mass-scale marketing platform, in which every tweeter is a marketer and every follower a set of eyeballs and a potential re-marketer. Until 2010, twitter had maintained its social network model before it started rolling out adverts.

Some investors have dismissed that social media just lacks business model. Those who have dismissed twitter business model have argued that overreliance on advertisement is a risky trend. There are several problems with Facebook business model. Facebook model is a kind of a vicious circle (Kaplan 2012:25). The initial condition is that Facebook creates a secure environment for people to share data with their immediate social network, but has then steadily opened it up to try and monetise it.Social networks and the Web 2.0 This kind of business model has created a war between the audience and its advertiser. On the other hand, the average revenue per use on a social network from straight up Ads is very small. This means that social media must expand their source of income to support their huge valuation.

Facebook has pages and groups. Pages are accessible by the general public. For personal communication Facebook has the option of creating a group, or a small community. Anyone can create a group that has a common interest in any topic.Social networks and the Web 2.0 The advantage with group is that they can be kept closed or secret as opposed to pages which allow users to communicate publicly. For personal communication, twitter has protected tweets. Personal communication may also comprise messages and chats.

Facebook and twitter have grown to potential platform of business communication. It is argued that any business that will not align itself with social media in the current nitizen era is plotting its own downfall. It is now a common trend that once consumers purchases a product or receives services, they express their opinion on social network sites (Evans 2012:57). Through social media, marketer can be able to collect feedbacks over their products from consumers. This is the reason why so many corporations have established Facebook or twitter accounts. Companies encourage their consumers or potential buyers to follow them on twitter or Facebook. Whenever a consumer has an issue or want to post a comment regarding a certain product, they can post them on company’s Facebook page. On twitter consumers can tweet or retweet about a product. Most companies would want to associate with celebrity with massive following on Facebook or twitter so that they can use their following as a platform to reach a broad base of consumers.

The current issues facing Facebook and twitter are of-course the commercialization and revenue generation. Investors have realized great potentials in social sites and there is so much angling to benefit from expected growth in social media revenues. The future trend is also that any company that is not going social media way is plotting its own downfall. Looking at the current trend, it is easy to conclude that social networks are here to stay. Since their inception Facebook and twitter have done nothing else other than grow, both in size and in numbers.Social networks and the Web 2.0 Nonetheless, the growth and the existence of social media are pegged to technology. With the high rate technological development, anything can happen. Development of new and sophisticated technology has thrown technology which was once seemed perfect to dustbins. Consider the use of landlines and postal offices. With this in mind, we can conclude that Facebook and twitter will survive so long as technology allows. Nonetheless, it is apparent that technology will only get even better. If anyone, starting from the age of 12 or even younger has not jumped to social networking bandwagon, the chances are that they will in the foreseeable future -the trend and the environment are too strong to withstand.

List of References

Biggs, J. (Dec. 25, 2011) A dispute over who owns a twitter account goes to court. [Online] New York Times. Available at: <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/26/technology/lawsuit-may-determine-who-owns-a-twitter-account.html>        [Accessed 4 April 2012]

Evans, D (2012) Social Media Marketing: An Hour a Day. New York: John Wiley & Sons

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/

Garland, T. (2011). Twitter Follower Versus Facebook Fan: Who’s More Valuable? [Online] Available at :< http://blog.buysellads.com/2011/08/twitter-follower-versus-facebook-fan-whos-more-valuable/?view=infographic> [Accessed April 4, 2012]

Kaplan, S. (2012) The Business Model Innovation Factory: How to Stay Relevant When the World Is Changing. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Qualman, E. (2010) Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Rutledge, P.A (2008) The Truth About Profiting From Social Networking. New York: FT Press.

Tuten, T. (2008) Advertising 2.0: social media marketing in a Web 2.0 world. Sacramento: Greenwood Publishing.

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Twitter – http://twitter.com/

Wani, M & Raghavan, V. (2011) Social Media as a communicating platform: Devising innovative strategies to utilize social media for brand promotions and competitive differentiation. [Online] Bangalore: International School for Management Excellence <http://www.bmaindia.com/pdfs/research/Social%20Media%20as%20a%20communication%20platform.pdf> [Accessed 4 April 2012]