Why social networking sites are so popular is summarized in two words “targeting” and “verticals”. Social networks offer online networking that rivals real world networking such as trade shows, business meetings, bar scenes etc. This is because like-minded people have aligned interests and attract each other. For example if I love classical music and love web programming then I am a highly sought after target and become a defined vertical for advertisers. Social advertising will continue to be a necessary evil and bloodline for web companies that have a user base but unproven revenue models in subscriptions or transactional income. This is a guaranteed revenue stream from social networks or developers of social networks (Google’s open social). Advertisers will continue to find out as much as legally possible to get the right messages in front of you. Whether it is based contextually, behaviorally, geographically or socially.
As a user of a social networks, a tremendous amount of information is voluntarily disclosed. Although many sites like Facebook and StartupAddict have privacy settings available to users, it is inconsequential to the social network database that acquires this information. The database still acquires the information and serves up information to advertisers. Think of it as advertisers paying for the social services you enjoy. At the end of the day social network users benefit in the real world along with the social network itself making a compelling answer to why social networking sites are so popular. It’s an online extension of our offline social status.