Who owns the social web isn’t really a big question. In the many communities the ownership or even the behaviors in that social community are often dictated by the community itself. The community owns the community , the community polices itself and protects itself, and everybody in the community shares a democratic principle of ownership and inclusion. My observation of inter-communications on many fan and strong communities is that there can be a point of self regulation , where the community members dictate what sorts of behaviour are acceptable , what tone of discussion is acceptable and will pull other members in the community into line or reject them if they feel they are being antisocial or unfair in the context of that community’s voice. In the community or social media world its the community that has the power or the onwership by virtue of being involved and sharing their voice and ideas. What it does is really raise the question “who owns the community’s brand”? In the Social media world its definatly the consumer who owns the brand. Even real world (non virtual brands) are often owned in the mind of the consumer, despite what their manufacturers, FMCG brand managers might mistakenly believe, and the consumers non acceptance of product changes or variations often causes dramatic failures for brands. A brand is more than just a product. Coca Cola’s release of New Coke in 1985 floundered as a failure as Coca Cola forgot what its core brand stood for and thought that taste was the was only factor consumers cared about. Its research failed to highlight that Coke consumers had a deep and abiding emotional bond to the “Real Thing” and launched a new formulated Coke. The public basically boycotted the new product and the company had ceased production of the old product causing a huge and costly problem for the company. The company had to revert back to the old formula.
Facebook has become the greatest facilitators of human conversations, its building itself as a brand based on emotional bonds and trust in a shell of social , web 2.0 services. Friday’s announcement that Facebook users have voted to back changes which give them control over data and content they post on the site dosen’t surprise me. The community has spoken , the company had actually listened or risked failure. Following Facebook’s meteoric rise to its recent press announcements that it has reached a point of 200 million users I stopped to think about that number and a pending crisis on the ownership of personal data that had emerged in recent months. I for one and many of my friends expressed great concern and a potential swap of services at Facebook’s assertion that they owned the rights to any and everything published in their services, from photos, to widgets , videos , comments and conversations. It even went to the point where they could exploit any IP or copyright of anything posted on the site. Where it almost went wrong was to not listen to the true voice of its consumer base and continue to pursue a path of proprietary ownership of all and everybody’s personal content, thoughts and conversations when many complained or threatened to leave the service. In this case Facebook the brand, not the service, is wholly owned by the consumer base it serves.
What is interesting, and if not co incidental , is that it was the same day that Yahoo announced that Geo Cities was being closed down. Yahoo paid $3.5 bn for the free hosting service back in the early days of the dotcom boom. Where it failed to compete with the likes of Facebook and MySpace is that while they offered a similar concept of hosting free personal pages on the web there was no evolution in providing services that allowed a community to grow or for people to communicate or commune with one another or share it with other friends ubiquitously. Yahoo failed to wrap all it social and communication technologies that it had at its disposal in different business units( IM , email , even content ) into one set of social communications services and make the transition to a more Open Web. The brand never really made a leap to having an real emotional attachment to the consumer by failing to provide the emotional conduits or communications channels. Was this because Yahoo saw Geo Cities only as a media advertising opportunity? Another missed opportunity.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8016532.stmTags: community, Facebook, myspace, open web, services, social communication, social media, web2.0