Why contribute to a social networking site?

Something I learned from my recent trip to Lotusphere was the idea that the motivation for content contributors is very different from the motivation for content seekers, and that to increase adoption rates it is essential to cater for both groups (as well as understand that an individual might fall into both camps, and therefore be subject to different motivations at different times even when using the same site).

Studies consistently show that it is usually only 2-3% of a community that are the stars or champions, and consistently post content.

Well, YouTube is now offering a very obvious motivation – money. This has been running in the US for a while but is now available in the UK. The details of how much individuals can earn are sketchy, but it is directly related to number of views and popularity.

I think that this is an inevitable move. YouTube makes money (or intends to make money) out of advertising and companies will only pay for adverts if there is an audience. There is only an audience because of user generated content, and if only 2-3% of the community are adding the significant content it would be very easy for them to go elsewhere if they felt they were being taken advantage of.

Does the model transition to other uses of social networks? Well, initially it would appear that it would only apply where an organisation is making money out of user generated content and that it makes economic sense to share the revenue. At first glance it would appear odd to pay people to keep their Facebook profile up to date or to use their corporate (inside the firewall) social networking tools such as Sharepoint or Lotus Connections. However, if Facebook makes money out of advertising, and competes on the basis that their users’ profiles are richer than competitors (you can tell a lot more about a person from their Facebook profile than you can from their Google searching) why should they not encourage users financially to keep their profiles as rich as possible, thus keeping their competitive edge in the advertising space? Indeed, in the corporate world end of year appraisals and bonuses have often been linked to team collaborating activities – why shouldn’t employees be paid on the level of contribution to their internal communities and social networks?

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