Privacy in Social Media- Protection & Potential Revenue Generation

November 16, 2006 by Lisa Oshima | Monetization, Social Media

While sites like YouTube and many video search engines allow anyone to view videos, other sides like Grouper.com (based in Sausalito, CA and recently purchased by Sony) enable privacy settings.  I also like Grouper because it allows members to add video to any website or their MySpace, Facebook, Y!360, Friendster, and Blogger pages. Plus, with Grouper, users can control privacy settings on specific videos so that they can’t be seen by just anyone.

Privacy in video is important – not just because it allows users to control who sees them/ their video, but it also has the potential to give social media companies the ability to add revenue enhancing features to their sites and explore revenue based partnerships.  I was thinking about this the other day with singshot.com, which is kind of like American Idol, but available on-line.  Singshot provides karaoke-esque background instrumentals, and users sing along. The resulting tracks are posted on-line, and members of the public can vote on them and provide feedback.  The downside with the site is that there is NO VIDEO!  Depending on their subscriber numbers, if Singshot were to add video, they may have the potential for a whole new revenue model.  They could continue to let any member of the public listen to and vote on audio tracks, but they could also offer a premium (paid for subscription service), enabling only those who pay to see, vote and comment on video. Alternatively, they could charge performers a subscription fee (which could include the cost of a webcam) to post video in order to get feedback on style, dance routines, etc.

In addition, to allowing personal privacy, social media “privacy” features are attractive to Mobile Operators, who want to differentiate themselves from their competition. Web-based Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) in the social media space who strive for mobile enablement should be thinking carefully about privacy.  In my experience, mobile operators haven’t yet seen the potential of social media to increase revenues and user bases.  Therefore, it hasn’t been a huge push for mobile enabled social media.  This is changing.  As this change happens, one thing is almost certain, the social media ISVs that win the mobile game will have thought about privacy.  Mobile operators want to differentiate their service offerings from their competition, and in the social media world, one of the few ways to do that is by offering unique content.  Social media ISVs don’t want to make custom versions of their software for every OEM and Mobile operator out there because doing so limits the number of users that can interact, which defeats the usefuleness and viral spread of social media – especially social networking AND, it increases the amount of work that goes into software development and maintenance. I think the way to get around this is through privacy.

By having different privacy settings, users on different mobile networks would be able to see different premium content and features than those on other networks – say videos, etc..  This would mean that members of the “public” would still be able to access specific sites, but they may not be able to “see” or “do” certain “premium” things from their mobile phone without being a “subscriber” to a particular mobile operator or have a particular type of mobile phone.  I’m not advocating segmenting the market in this way, but doing so may be one way to grab the mobile market, which is difficult to penetrate without carrier buy-in.  In my experience, the only way to get mobile operator buy-in is by guarenteeing increased revenue (through increased subscribers and paid-for software/subscription opportunities).

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