Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Innovation in online social networks

The innovation consulting firm Doblin has a powerful framework that identifies the Ten Types of Innovation by breaking business structure into four categories: Finance, Processes, Offerings and Delivery. It is quite interesting looking at different industries to see where in their business structure innovation is taking place.

Online social networks have brought significant product innovation: thanks to the power of the Internet they primarily enhance offline activities: connecting and sharing with friends or members of a community (facebook, myspace...pets included -dogster-), building and maintaining career-related relationships (linkedIn)... To a great extent they have enabled new behaviors, expanding and creating markets along the way. Think of the implications of "befriending" 1.000 people in myspace, or the fact that teenagers spend way more time checking their facebook than actually "living offline". Beyond the numerous product system innovations (for example Facebook offering IM messaging), in the last months we are witnessing network and alliances innovations. Online social networking sites are becoming platforms for other entities to provide their services. LinkedIn has recently launched applications a la Facebook.

All of this innovation revolves around strengthening the offering, but I think we still need to see more advancements regarding relevance and differentiation. Relevance is a big theme I will touch on in another post. Regarding differentiation, more than in a feature creep, I believe in the intangible: services, customer experience, brand image.

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