Carmen, John, and Ajay on the future of White Label Social Networks

In my previous post, I asked a question for the chance to win one of two tickets to the Graphing Social Conference in Virginia. I was getting so many responses (over 20 in 12 hours) that I had to put a cap on the contest. I carefully read each of the comments, and have found three comments that I find insightful, back up their assertion with reasoning, or are just plain interesting. Please congratulate these winners!

Also, for reasons out of my control, I won’t be attending GSP this time, hope you live blog it.

Question: Where you think the future of White Label Social networks is headed over the next 5 years, and why you back up that prediction?

Two top answers (Winners)

Carmen Delessio writes:
The value of a white label social network is tied to the intended audience. A network for a closed affinity group will have more value than social networking features on a generic local business web site or large corporate site.

A closed affinity can be the alumni of a college, fraternity, or corporation. It can be based on a shared experience or common interest. Managing the verification of the group info is a component of closed social networks. I really am an alumnus of Manhattanville College. Verifying that is a component of participating in their alumni network.

White Label social networks can stand alone for these affinity groups *and* coexist and thrive within larger social sites like Facebook. People can belong to more than one club.

In 5 years, there will be consolidation in this area. The remaining players will provide deep services to closed affinity groups and simple services to very small groups. Large corporations will be more interactive and engaged with customers through these tools, but it will be seen as a normal extension of their web sites and not a standalone community. Facebook and future large social sites will provide ties to these networks – small and large.
Corporations that blur the line between products and affinity will be succcessful with social networks.

Jeremiah: Carmen gets it, it’s not about “or” it’s about “and”. There’s plenty of room for white label vendors in the world of Facebook and MySpace. I enjoy her future perspective in making corporate websites relevant again. Good stuff, enjoy the conference!

John Bell writes:
For public social networks, the “white-label” space is due for shakeout and consolidation. All you had to do was browse the “vendor” floor at Community 2.0 a few weeks back and see the clustering of 5-6 different platforms with overlapping feature sets and minor tweaks on un-tried busiess models (charge by the user, charge by implementation, charge by time).

They cannot all succeed. Hopefully the market will favor those with real distinctions and with the best technology. I am pretty technologically savvy but still don’t feel prepared to judge Mzinga next to Jive next to…..

The most immediate an tangible use of white labels is in a space where the label doesn’t really matter: employee intra/extranets. The social network-based model where the staff member is the dominant knowledge “unit” is the natural course of all extranets. Many companies have been spending quite a bit to create their internal social net for knwoledge management, access and communication. The wide range of choices from teh current slew of socnets will drive down the costs of implementation dramatically.

The interesting innovation to come is when employee social networks bridge the divide between walled-garden access and content to the public face of employees. I want to share one thing internally – client materials and insight – and something else externally – though leadership and co-creation. Will there come a time when my staff “profile” at Ogilvy becomes portable to me next job?
Anyhow, I’m just sayin’…..

Jeremiah: John often leaves broad thinking comments on my blog, as he should as he’s one of the senior leaders at Ogivy interactive, so I’d expect no less. I agree with John, we’ll see a shake out in this space in the next few years, especially after traditional IT companies, ERP, CMS companies realize it may be better to buy than build their own. Thanks John, hope you live blog the show.

Honorable Mention

Ajay Mungara writes:
I think the whole concept of social networking is getting morphed into all websites. I see an explosion of corporate and consumer websites touting the social networking bandwagon. Just because a website has the so called social networking capabilities (blogs, wiki, podcast, twitter streams, facebook apps, etc.) does not make it a social networking site. Tools & services are only the means, but not the end. Today most of the tools / services are centered around providing social networking capabilities to your websites, but five years from now the best services will be the ones that can actually harness the power of “social intelligence” for practical business/consumer uses.

Jeremiah: Thanks Ajay, who’s busy over at Intel in the trenches dealing with these very issues. We agree, the tools aren’t as important as the actual relationship changes companies will have with their customers.

Thanks to everyone who participated it was hard to narrow down to these choices. Speaking of games, I was part of Jive’s Jeapardy game, where I scored last place, a mere $200 Jive bucks and Bill Johnston won the game! Jive is a client of Forrester btw.

Update: Sam from Small World Labs (white label social network) says that many of the commenters were negative on white label, and he sees a different future.