Social Enterprise

Social media: perfecting the platform to build fantasy

It is in the success with which future social computing hosts deliver the tools to help participants construct their online fantasy selves that will divide the space's winners and losers.

Robert Young, a self-professed serial entrepreneur in at the start of everything Web, posts to Om Malik's highly worthy GigaOM blog.

In it, he points out that as users begin to engage with online communities, "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 [and therefore] the extensibility and scale of the 'digital you' is far-reaching."

No surprises there, nor in its corollary that one may adopt multiple digital identities for different online purposes, based on the differing fantasies and needs that reside in the owner's head. Online, it will also perhaps never matter how these identities are formed, as one is never likely to meet their interrogator - although fallacious claims can come quickly undone in the harsh real-world daylight of online dating, of course.

However, Young argues that it is the future success of the social host in helping users forge those online identities - their assistance in lending them quality 'production values' - that will divide the space's winners and losers.

He points out that in social computing, "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'." Thus, success will lie in helping participants create themselves as they wish to be seen.

Comparing the online possibilities with American (or Australian) Idol, he says the show's contestants themselves may be interesting, but without the help of its talented professionals creating the space in which they can shine to deliver the glowing, handsomely monetized package we see on the screen, they are most likely going nowhere. Those future producers who bear this in mind, he argues, are those to which the largest future 'social' audiences will be most attracted to.

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