As autumn approaches minds turn to harvests, turkey and reasons to give thanks, so I’ve asked my assistant, Tanaz Irani to gather us a bunch of ideas…! On how to monetize social networks

Social Networking & the Power of Millions of Clicks by Tanaz Irani (Spec. Hon. B.A, Pol.Sci.)

The fundamentally fluid, non-centered and non-linearly controlled nature of the Internet, and the hundreds of social networking sites on it such as Linkedin, Facebook and MySpace, lends itself to a re-thinking of how ideas can be promoted, virally – and how value can be derived not only in the end result but also in the process. The innumerable array of site applications and groups are examples of how these sites are more than a simple digital diary, photo album, or IM program.

On the server side, with partnership programs these sites can earn revenue per click volume, while redirecting traffic towards sponsored pages. Via strategically targeted ads, applications, or user-generated groups, these sites are able to summons up traffic for everything from breast cancer awareness to local condominium projects. A college can generate interest and awareness using social networking sites popular with the student body to promote, image, or brand their institution. These are the online places where students/audience are, so they must be there too – not to control, but to send out a message, or reach out to prospective members of the group.

Another key element to the intricacies of these types of sites is the notion of advocacy or simply giving someone a voice. For example, recent copyright advocacy had tens of thousands (more than 40,000) individuals joining Facebook groups (click here for source) to speak out! At these numbers you can get effective media coverage and lend legitimacy to a campaign or proposal.

The “I am rich” iPhone app is an interesting counter example (Click here for article). Online protests like “I bet I can find 1 million people who dislike George Bush” show what potential these technologies hold for politics.

On the marketing side, it’s about leveraging metrics. The “I am rich” application boils down to some genius who figured he would tap into a highly specialized, but unrealized market segment, and it paid off. The breast cancer group on Facebook reaches hundreds of thousands of people each day, and they’ve found a way to generate enough revenue to offer free services to women. The breast cancer group members are invited to click to a specially directed site, and then click on partner websites (win/win/ hyper marketing). These partner sites (i.e. shopping sites, vacation sites) pay pennies per click, but it adds up and they then offer free mammograms to women in the U.S. based on the $$ they generate. So it is a win for the companies, a win for the women, and a win for the breast cancer advocacy group. But it’s also hyper because it depends on millions of clicks, each done individually.