Social networking service can be defined as “an online service, platform, or site that focuses on facilitating the building of social networks or social relations among people who, for example, share interests, activities, backgrounds, or real-life connections” (Mashable, 2013).
Social networking is a part of social media that can be explained as “any of many online tools that allow people with similar interests to share information, learn from others, or network in an open process” (Wilson, 2010, p.1).
Customer benefits of social networking sites include staying in contact with friends and family members, making new friends, making important personal or corporate announcements, receiving regular news updates from selected portals, as well as, engaging in recreation through playing games, listening to music and watching videos and others.
It has been noted that “one of the biggest benefits of an online social network is the explosive multiplication of an individual’s ability to find answers to questions” (Kraus and Friedel, 2009, p.9). In simple terms, while search engines such as Google and Bing find facts, social networking services can be used to find solutions to problems. This can be done through engaging in online interactions with other individuals who have faced similar problems in the past.
Finding old school mates and re-establishing contacts with former colleagues and friends with the use of service of social networking sites can be a highly rewarding experience in personal levels and this is closely associated with emotional benefits offered by social networking services.
Users of social networking services can also form new friendships on the basis of mutual interests.
Communicating messages to friends and family members through status updates and video and photo sharing can also be mentioned as a substantial benefit offered by social networking services.
Moreover, social networking sites can serve as an effective information pipeline. The main advantage of social networking sites compared to alternative sources of information such as TV and radio relates to the fact that customers are able to select the type of information they receive through social networking services due to their personal and professional interests.
According to a large-scale survey conducted by Active Internet Universe (2012) the majority 74% of social networking service users use the service to message their friends, whereas 55.1% of respondents mainly use these services to upload their photos. Moreover, the same research has found that social networking services were used for listening to music, writing a blog, and uploading videos by 33.6%, 30.8% and 21.9% of respondents respectively.
Social Networking Service Customer Value Proposition
Social networking service value proposition is closely related to customer benefits as discussed above. Specifically, value proposition of online social networking services address the needs of individuals to stay in contact with friends and family members, make new friends, make important personal or corporate announcements, receive regular news updates from selected portals and engage in recreation through playing games, listening to music and watching videos and others.
Another important aspect of social networking service value proposition relates to the creation and promotion of personal image of customers through constructing a relevant profile.
Increasing level of popularity of various social networking sites amongst all age groups can be interpreted as a signal for social networking services value propositions to be appreciated by customers.
At the same time, it is important to note that “it’s not hard to understand the initial value proposition of becoming a member – assuming that the incremental effort of cost to join is less than the perceived upside. However, the effort to sustain or maintain membership may well outweigh any realised value over time, culminating in latent or abandoned membership” (Read, 2009, p.288).
Benefit and Value Changes of Social Networking Service over Time
Although online social networking services are relatively new types of services that came to prominence only during the last decade, their benefits and value have been consistently changing during this period of time.
Customer expectations of social networking sites are rapidly increasing and in line with increasing customer expectations social networking services have been increasing the range and extent of their value propositions as well.
For example, in order to increase its benefits and value according to increasing customer expectations, Facebook has introduced platform application in 2007, real-time stream was introduced in 2008, ‘Like’ button was introduced in 2009, and Groups and Instant Messaging was introduced in 2010 and 2011 respectively.
Accordingly, it can be justifiably forecasted that benefits and value propositions associated with the use of social networking services are going to be further enhanced in the foreseeable future on the basis of introduction of innovative features and capabilities.
Kraus, P. & Friedel, C. (2009) “Online Social Networks and their Business Relevance” GRIN Verlag
Social Networking (2013) Mashable, Available at: http://mashable.com/category/social-networking/
Read, T.J. (2009) “The IT Value Network: From IT Investment to Stakeholder Value” John Wiley & Sons
Wilson, S. (2010) “Social Media and Small Business Marketing” John Wiley & Sons