Nov 30, 2008

Social Networking - What is the Cost of Membership?

As each day passes, more people join a growing list of users who are participating in at least one of countless online social networking communities.

To join, most of these sites are as simple as giving your name, email address, and creating a password and user ID. Click the link in the verification email immediately sent your way, and you've become another statistic in an exponentially growing list of online community members.

From big players growing their businesses to a new user getting acclimated to this new online world, anyone is welcome. Since most of these social networking sites are so easy to join, why not give it a try and see what comes of it? What do you have to lose?

Or .... Scenario #2 ... Pay to join.

Just recently, we ran across an article at microblink.com titled, "How Much Would You Pay for Twitter?". We recommend checking out their article and also visiting Guy Kawasaki on Twitter. You can also register your vote on Guy's social networking poll, "How Much Would You Pay for Twitter?"

We haven't voted yet because we're on the fence. From the looks of it, spending $5.00 a month for a social networking platform (such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Active Rain, etc.) would be a very small expense for what potentially one could gain from a membership.

In our minds, the bigger question is whether or not we would like our new online social worlds if we had to pay for it. To a certain extent, isn't the allure and power of online social networking the idea that anyone with access to a computer can join and immediately begin expressing who they are without spending any money to do so? Yes, time is money. However, if you don't have money, but you do have time, this may be your launching pad to something bigger and better. It provides a level playing field where creativity and what you know is not trumped by who you know and how well you're connected.

Would Twitter even need the default brown avatar (the default image for members who do not upload a profile picture) if it was a paid membership site? Who would pay for a membership and not take the time to brand their Twitter cubicle? I had a conversation last night about the brown avatar. That conversation would no longer exist. The laughs, connections, small talk - the Twitter community as we know it - would be in subtle ways completely different (as would Facebook, Linked In, Active Rain, just to name a few). As it is, some people for varying reasons can only contribute to their memberships now and again. Their lack of use doesn't necessarily equate to a lesser quality of content. If you were in this camp, would you pay knowing that your time to contribute was limited?

In short, what is lost when money becomes a factor? How much creativity and personality is left at the doorstep for control and manipulation when capitalism steps in and begins to rule the roost? Do you really think we would like what we see?

1 comment:

  1. I'm surprised there are no comments on this post. The question you ask at the end is a good one. "In short, what is lost when money becomes a factor? How much creativity and personality is left at the doorstep for control and manipulation when capitalism steps in and begins to rule the roost? Do you really think we would like what we see?"

    Fortunately, that door is already closed. What would these services have looked like if we had to pay from the beginning? Twitter? Please. No one would have paid. Few got it at first, me included. So, even though now I'd pay willingly, I fear you may be right about the unintended consequences of such a move. The question for me isn't so much would people change, but who would be left?

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