SBJ/20081117/SBJ In-Depth

How it works: Primer for social networking

The two most popular social-networking sites, Facebook and MySpace, allow users to build networks of friends, families and colleagues, with subscribers posting updates on their home pages about what they are doing each day.

The sites encourage users to invite all of their e-mail contacts to join their networks. And subscribers can expand their contact lists and networks by viewing the contact lists of each of their friends and inviting them to join their social networks.

Social-networking sites also encourage users to share video and photos with friends, allowing them to upload videos or embed online videos from other Web sites, including those of TV networks. Many subscribers use the sites to plug their favorite TV show, writer, actor or movie.

Sports properties, advertisers and TV producers use the sites to reach consumers, encouraging them to become “fans” on their social-networking pages. Social-networking sites also contain thousands of pages devoted to fans of everything from individual colleges to hobbies such as fishing or skiing.

Other social networks target niche markets, such as LinkedIn.com, which caters to job recruiters and professionals looking to network with colleagues, and Bebo, which focuses on sharing media.

— Steve Donohue

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