Membership has its Privileges
Given my career in ecommerce and marketing, I probably have among the highest click-through rates of online ads. A click from the Drudge Report sent me to American Express' Travel social network that provides interaction between Members and their privileges. American Express has long cultivated a brand identity of exclusivity vs. Visa's brand identity of universality.
At its core, MembersKnow is a 3 parts premium restaurant listing, 1 part recommendation engine. A search of "Where are Other CardMembers Dining?" yields:
Digging into the "Conversations" reveals something a bit more like Yelp, except far less well-organized:
It makes me wonder whether AMEX had a conversation like this one in The Office:
The added value to American Express' members of the social network is not immediately apparent given i) the limited user-generated content and ii) the apparent lack of a direct role of AMEX in creating value for users of the social network. What does it say about the possibility for niche social networking?
Social Portability & Niche/Vertical Social Networks
Google this week confirmed the Google FriendFeed that is its initial foray into leveraging the Open Social Consortium to add social networking features to any website. Google's Innovation Machine has created an unreal number of tools that people can grab to enhance their sites including most significantly, in my opinion, Google Analytics.
Google is leveraging user id's and activities on social networking sites Facebook, Google Talk, hi5, Orkut, or Plaxo IDs in a manner similar to FriendFeed's use of Flickr, MySpace, Twittr and Yelp. These tools bring the richness of user interaction from open and aggregated social networks to any website that wants to add a touch of social interaction to their site. Effectively leveraging these data stores will ultimately improve targeting of advertising and possibly website features. It also could push to the side services like AMEX's social network. Why would I want to spend time creating content for a single site when I could make it more portable and bring it along with me? If a review/networking site wants to remain viable, will they need to integrate to the Open Social API? Would TripAdvisor benefit from leveraging the information I provided to Yelp? Probably. Will there be a trade-off? It remains to be seen.
Further, what of sites like Ning and Wetpaint? These sites create platforms for the most discrete social networks to exist, but the aggregation allows them to extract advertising revenues from the combined traffic, as well as creating more extensive targeting abilities to specific groups. Would they not benefit further if they could know what I was doing on my facebook Causes application right before I came to my Underwater Basket Weaving group on their sites?
The question of how to extract monetary value from social networking sites remains, but in the meantime, every social network will need to decide what impact the meta-identity tools will have on their existing networks.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Membership has its Privileges