Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Friendster focuses on Youth, Security, Online Shopping, & Advertising in 2010

Last month, I got the chance to exchange e-mails with Ian Stewart, Head of Asia of Friendster. We first met during the Social Networking and eBusiness Conference 2009 and it was a thrill listening to all the insights he shared about the youth and why he thinks this segment is exciting.
After 8 months with Friendster, I thought this will already be a good time to ask about developments forthcoming and here it goes:

Janette Toral: You mentioned in the last Social Networking and e-Business Conference the acceptance of the fact that Friendster will always cater to the young. This in Philippines context is nearly 50% of the Internet user population. What activities or features will you be anchoring on to keep that segment loyal to the social network?

Ian Stewart: 80% of our users are under 24, and most of them belong to 3-4 social networking site (SNS). We have the opportunity to be the best site for them and their friends to hang out on. Key drivers for youth online are gaming and music, and these will be key areas of focus for us moving forward. Expect to see a lot more from us in these areas early 2010.

Janette: There has been a lot of talk about cyber bullying that occurs in social networks like Friendster and this includes accounts being hacked, fake profiles created, anonymous profiles created bashing teachers, classmates, school, etc. What is Friendster's point of view or stand on cyber bullying? What is the social network doing about it and fast turn around policy or process in place to ensure that Friendster won't be taken advantage of for such purpose?

Ian: We take site safety and security very seriously, and have both internal service teams and external partners working to ensure that Friendster remains a good environment to be in. Complaints are dealt with on the spot, and our rules of engagement are clearly spelt out. This will only grow in importance moving forward, as those online demand more and more privacy and safety features from their favorite sites.

Janette: Multiply has taken steps to carve its niche in the area of e-commerce. With the young being encouraged to become entrepreneurial, is that a direction that Friendster aims to explore too? If yes, how? If not, why not and what would be the main focus?

Ian: We believe that the inherent trust of friendship communities is perfect for social shopping. Knowing you are selling your goods to a friend, a friend of a friend, or a friend of a friend of a friend (!) will encourage more people to transact, buy and sell online. Other sites are exploring this too. For Friendster our recent partnership and then acquisition by online payment provider Money Online (MOL) is a clear sign of our intent in this space moving forward.

Janette: I have tried Friendster self-service advertising for 2 to 3 campaigns and apparently disappointed on the reporting tools and lack of control once the campaign is rolled out. What areas of growth can we expect in this area happening this 2010?

Ian: We dived into self-service ads in 2009 to offer more advertising solutions to our users and to advertisers. We have received a lot of feedback on where we are to date with this feature and are working on strengthening the backend as we speak. This is also a revenue growth area for us to get right moving forward.