Monday, January 07, 2008

Segmentation in social networks

Social networks are popping up everywhere and for different age groups. Recent the UK consumer group Which? published a survey grading the various social networks. Bebo, Facebook and Saga Zone came out as the best three. The top ten, including MySpace, show segmentation, according to age groups, but also to globalisation.

In the UK segmentation in age can be distinguished. MySpace is aiming at the segment of older teenagers and early twens. Bebo and Facebook and is aiming at a target group from 20 onwards. Now also the age group of silver surfers has its own social network in the Saga Zone, a site still at its infancy.

Of course the global internet has had from the beginning a segmentation in sites with regard to age. The site Habbo Hotel is a typical hangout for teenagers. LinkedIn and Xing have been the social network for professionals. And in several countries, like in the Netherlands, there is a network for seniors. From the beginning they have not been typified as social networks, but functioned like them, even to the point of organising physical meeting like Xing and Seniornet do in the Netherlands.

But the social networks have also another interesting aspect, the globalisation. Social networks like Facebook and My Space as well as LinkedIn and Xing aim at the whole world. Yet Bebo and Saga Zone are typically active in the UK. Also in the Netherlands there is a social network for young professionals, Hyves, which is not limited to the Netherlands, but has most of its subscribers there. Of course language is one of the factors as well as a limited national outlook. I can imagine that Saga Zone will do it better in the UK, as the target group looks for contacts in its own country. Yet Facebook is internationally oriented and has a global target group. I guess it will be very hard to set up a European social network as this geographical region is fragmented by languages.

Recently Ofcom, the UK telecom watchdog, released a study saying the UK social network participants spent more time on social networking than their European counterparts, devoting 5,3 hours a month and visiting them 23 times, roughly 14 minutes per visit. Yet people are getting cautious about participating in social networks. According to a survey by the UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) no less than 71 per cent of 14- to 21-year-olds did not want their future employers to see their profiles on social networking sites; only 40 per cent realised that their online activities could be traced indefinitely. Also security of the network such as identity theft is an issue before subscribing.

Blog Posting Number: 670


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