The Future of Social Networks

Social networks have broken up into multiple apps and sites for the purpose of harvesting social signals and selling personalized ads.

social networks

Social networks are “breaking up into multiple sites and apps that do in a scattered way what used to happen centrally,” writes Mike Elgan at InfoWorld.

According to Elgan, the new social model is simply to harvest social signals and sell personalized ads, however and wherever possible.

Elgan points to Facebook’s app acquisitions, including Instagram, WhatsApp and now, Moves, as proof that traditional social networks have transformed into data harvesting machines with display ads.

The purpose of Facebook’s upcoming mobile ad network is to sell ads outside of and its mobile app. This “multiple app” strategy often accompanies a network’s own app offerings — in Facebook’s case, Messenger, Facebook Camera and Paper. According to Elgan:

If Facebook’s direction or strategy isn’t clear, let me spell it out: Harvest personal data from multiple apps, then sell personalized advertising in multiple locations.
Here’s an oversimplified example: An ad for a Starbucks promotion presented to you in a mobile game (sold through Facebook’s upcoming ad network) might be based on knowledge that you spend a ton of time at Starbucks — information harvested from the Moves app.
As you can see, there’s no Facebook — no social network — involved in this series of events. But Facebook gets paid anyway.

Likewise, the control and ownership of Vine, MoPub and Gnip demonstrate a shift in thinking at Twitter, which is no longer a social microblogging service, but instead a “personalized advertising company that harvests user signals from wherever and then displays personalized ads wherever.”

As for the fledgling social network Google+? Google realizes its social network is more valuable as a platform, rather than an all-purpose destination, says Elgan. There’s no more need for forced integrations.

“There’s no need for unity. Ubiquity and diversity — what Google has succeeded with all along — is more powerful.”