Social Networks predate Web 2.0. In fact they predate the web completely: Compuserve started up in the late ’60s and had a consumer division in the ’70s. We paid like, 100 bucks an minute for it, but it was there.
So while I get sucked into Web 2.0 and Social Media presentations at the moment, I’ll still be here in social networks once the Social Web train has rattled and rolled on through, just as I was before. *toots the horn* Jeff from Habbo said something lovely to me last week – that if there was no PR angle and no marketing angle, I’d still be here in social networks but many others wouldn’t. He’s soooo right. But I’m not the only one – there’s plenty out there in the mob who will set up little niche social networks with no thought to monetising them, or exit strategies or any of the other things we are supposed to bring to businesses. But that’s because the money is not following what we value – communication, passion, commitment.
N.B. Not saying online communities can’t be monetised (I have listed a bunch of revenue models here) but that money isn’t the primary motive for creating them, for many people. It’s a bit like playing netball for fun and getting creeped out by people who insist you should be “professional” about it. Why? A forum and friends who like the same things, posting up pictures and videos and meeting offline is a hobby, no? So what if you accidentally get 100,000 members? Ooops? Just be careful of the vigilante marketeer with his/her guerrilla tactics virally infiltrating your community. You’d be amazed what some cowboy marketeers get up to once in a social network. Like, zero ethics.