Social networking is an Internet phenomenon that allows users to connect and interact with friends, colleagues, or anyone with a shared interest. These sites can simplify communication over vast geographical boundaries, or as is the case on college campuses, very small ones. Another feature of the social networking sites is that they allow users to craft their own profiles, or public persona, for anonymous browsers to view. Formerly, one would need knowledge of web design to create a personal information page, but social networking makes the process easy. Users can make their own profiles private, but usually at least a picture is available to strangers.
In general, two facets of social networks make them valuable corporate ventures. The majority of users are of high school, college, or early professional age. Many firms view these demographics as desirable, since they spend a large part of their discretionary income and generally have many years as consumers left in their lives. Thus, the advertising on these sites is a significant product. Another aspect of this value is the fact that users record on their profiles their likes and beliefs, such as movies, music, political and religious views. In this sense, the social networking sites are a storehouse of information about a whole generation of youngsters.
A lively competition has sprung up in Latin America among various social networking sites. The two most popular of these are Sonico and Hi5. However, different sites are popular in different in states. For example, Google’s Orkut is the clear leader in Brazil, as well as in India. The language difference could explain why Brazil is unique, but there are other differences. Facebook and Myspace, American networks, are also gaining popular appeal in Latin America.
For the numbers as well as a clear analysis of the competition, go here.
Another item of note raised by this issue is that we can see more and more people are connecting to the internet in Latin America. Over time, I’ll add more information about the practical and theoretical sides of Social Networks.
- Here is a business week article about the social implications of using social networking sites, considering the intersection of private (real life) and public online personas.
- Another, different kind of social integration into the internet is through the use of Social Media. This article does a good job of explaining the difference between Social Networking and Social Media
- Danah Boyd is now maintaining a long bibliography of research on social networking sites. If you are more interested in the web sites than Latin America, I’d suggest checking that site more than this one.