Going over the top with mobile social networking

Keith Willetts, TM Forum
11 Dec 2009
Social networking strategies
But how can communications companies make money out of it -- isn't Facebook just another over-the-top application? The interesting thing about Facebook is why it's winning the social networking war over MySpace and other rivals.
It's not necessarily because it's cooler or better than everyone else; it's because social networking seems to resolve down to being a natural monopoly. If all of your buddies are on Facebook, why would you consider another site? People tend to flock to the most popular site, and then it's almost impossible to peel them away, even if your service is 10 times better.
That's exactly how the communications industry can leverage new revenues -- by tapping into the concept that if everybody wants to be on the same social network, why not be on the same communications network?
People aren't inclined to do that if every mobile or fixed network gives them just vanilla connectivity, but if the service provider offered interesting new capabilities that helped bind the group of friends together more tightly than Facebook alone could, then the communications player could start to reap some benefits.
These capabilities might simply be a sort of "Facebook Friends and Family" arrangement, where a group of people could get a better tariff as part of a named group.
But it could go a lot further than that: unlocking features like location services into Facebook applications so friends who are physically near each other can meet up, providing enhanced click-to-talk and messaging services over and above those provided by Facebook itself, conference calling, enhanced voice, click-to-talk facilities that actually work, and so on. The idea would be to grow affinity groups as loyal to the communications provider as they are to their social networking provider.
Keith Willetts is a co-founder and chairman of the TM Forum
This article originally appeared on SearchTelecom.com