Social networking has been a huge success on the web. Tomi T Ahonen (Communities Dominate Brands) has called it the killer application of 3G. It's certainly going to be one of them.
But one of the difficulties for media companies (or at least, those which existed before the internet took off) is that these sites (orkut, myspace, faceparty, youtube etc etc) attract huge audiences, offer compelling propositions - and manage all this without going to the trouble or expense of providing expert-created content (though, it has to be said, often without troubling themselves about such trivialities as profit, at least in the short term, either).
So it might be easy for us to spit our collective dummies and assume no one wants our fantastic creative genius any more. They just want an opportunity to show off their own.
Maybe. Maybe not.
What if we gave them our fantastic, crafted, creations AND engaged them in a vibrant, co-creation-rich, social-network?
So far, I haven't seen anyone doing both really well - great content to give you reasons to arrive, keep coming back, sample other media etc, combined with a killer social networking function which results in communities with the freedom to interact and form groups in the way they prefer.
Why not? Perhaps because recognised brands create instant 'them and us' in the communities which could form around them. Perhaps it's as simple as the proposition hasn't been right so far?
So let's not give up just yet.
Expert content (off the top of my head...):
- gives advertisers confidence,
- presents a touchstone/testing board for the community,
- is initially more compelling and (if you get it right) trustworthy,
- offers access everyday users can rarely acquire (exclusive)
- provides an historic archive of great content (UGC can't be retrospective!).
- Offers an assurance of a certain quality standard
- er... I'm sure you can think of some others (please post them below)... that expert content is and which UGC isn't
I'll throw in a third and a fourth strand to this proposal:
- It must be optimised for mobile
- And it must have its commercial thinking rooted in engagement marketing.
Old style interruptive ads just won't work on the optimised mobile environment (and one in which, don't forget, people will be used to watching TV on within two years)...
So, if you can tick all those boxes (and check it against recently identified trends - particularly among Generation-C) you really ought to have something worth investing in.