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Combining Social Networking and Viral Video

Users who frequent social networking sites such as MySpace show a strong preference for online video, with 55 percent viewing streaming videos and 21 percent downloading long-form videos on at least a monthly basis, according to Parks Associates.

This correlation between social networking Websites and Internet video services is even more dramatic when comparing social networking users and non-users. People who visit a social networking site at least weekly are overall six times more likely to download long-form videos and 1.5 times more likely to view streaming Internet videos than are those who do not use these Websites.

"Whether the business model is free video streaming backed by advertisements or the sale of online movies and TV shows, social network Websites are well positioned to become strong contenders in the Internet video business," said Michael Cai, director of broadband and gaming at Parks. "On the other hand, online video Websites, if they are to be competitive, need to beef up their social networking features to attract and retain users."

Media companies with online assets also have the challenge of attracting older users, who are likely to have more disposable income but are not yet part of the social networking scene, Cai said. Currently, two-thirds of frequent social networking users are younger than 24, an age group that typically includes heavy users of digital entertainment. In order to approach older demographics, these companies need to seek alternatives.

"Social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook are effective in reaching a young and dynamic Internet audience, but the question is what's next?" Cai said. "Besides monetizing their social networking assets, large media companies need to attract older demographics to social networking or leverage other virtual hangouts that appeal to older Internet users, such as peer-to-peer communities, which have a slightly older audience, or special-interest websites like iVillage."

I would add that online business networking websites, such as LinkedIn, are the place to reach the business professional segment of the marketplace with targeted video content. Short-form video content that resonates with current trends and market developments would be a very good fit for this audience. However, there's nothing really 'social' about the LinkedIn platform, since it's primarily designed to be a search engine for finding professionals and executives.

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