Robert Young, in GigaOm, suggests Social Networks are the New Media with some fascinating context. I don’t usually quote this extensively, but this is a special case.
Much like corporations leveraged Internet 1.0 by creating digital storefronts and giving rise to ecommerce, people around the world are now learning how to leverage the incredible power inherent in the URL to create what is essentially a parallel universe of digital identities. And just like all things Internet, digital identities are not subject to the boundaries of geography, or the laws of physics, or any of the other limitations of being a carbon-based life-form. As such, the extensibility and scale of the ‘digital you’ is far-reaching, as are the strategic implications to the media industry. In many ways, the art-form of self-expression has become the ‘new media’, and social networks are their distribution channels.
It’s crucial to understand that social networks are architected to help scale self-expression to new heights, both in terms of the extent of self-expression as well as the reach of distribution (e.g. number of ‘friends’ and the effects of the whole six degrees of separation thing). A simple example… a person on MySpace can have thousands upon thousands of friends. This was not possible before the Internet, and even prior online communications & community innovations like email, chat/forums, and IM didn’t truly enable this kind of scale. Moreover, a person can now express him/herself with multidimensional, multimedia depth via text, photos, audio and video… again, to a degree that was not really possible before.
To some extent, self-expression should be viewed as a new industry, one that will co-exist alongside other traditional media industries like movies, TV, radio, newspapers and magazines. But in this new industry, the raw materials for the ‘products’ are the people… or as Marshall McLuhan might say, ‘the people are the message’ when it comes to social networks. So for any player who seeks to enter this industry and become the next social networking phenom, the key is to look at self-expression and social networks as a new medium and to view the audience itself as a new generation of ‘cultural products’.”
I buy into that. It applies to the platforms (like RebelMouse) more than what we’re doing here at Have Presence; but it’s nice to think about what’s going on at a deeper level.