Interesting piece by Tac Anderson on the concept of Path as an Upstream Social Network (USN below) compared to traditional networks like Twitter and Facebook which he terms Downstream Social Networks (DSN below) and how USN’s could affect the engagement of marketers with lucrative data-rich networks:

What Path Teaches Us About The Future of Social Networks | @NewCommBiz: “Lets assume for a minute that as social networking evolves the social graph is filled with private USN and more open, commercial DSN. And what if most of those USN didn’t allow brands and advertising in? (Most of them will but humor me for a minute.) If marketeers and brands want to reach people inside their private USN, they need to be brought in by the members of those networks. Brands need to create experiences worth talking and sharing. A small example is when I shared my new Star Wars Moleskine I was going to be using on Path. You can see the reactions I got on Path as well as those I got on Instagram. Both of those went to Twitter and received their own reactions there.”

Basically, he ponders what if these Downstream Social Networks could thrive with a fermium model where brands and ads weren’t allowed to participate.

I’m not certain this will ever happen for a couple of reasons.

1) Social networks, unlike apps, don’t necessarily proliferate based on individual user experiences. Freemiums work on iPhone apps or even cloud based services that are more single user in nature. Social networks are, by their nature, commons that we don’t have complete control over and we’re more willing to make compromises on design, ads and privacy (hence Facebook).

2) The data-based nature of social networks is so lucrative that even new networks that are beautifully designed and based on the idea of limits (150 friends only, limited sharing etc) will certainly find more and better funding by relying on brands and marketers to subsidize the costs of running a network.

Path (and Facebook) can and should do all they can to encourage marketers to think above the “All Traffic is Good Traffic” blasting approach that many marketers use to get passive and relatively unqualified (and thereby low quality) traffic to their sites/offers/links and think towards better engagement based on some qualitative value in the exchange.

However, freemiums aren’t in our future for social networking.

This may all sound like it has more to do with brand advertisers than direct or affiliate marketers, but I’d argue affiliate marketing has the most to gain from the idea of interacting in these rich spaces of real human interactions and frictionless sharing.

About the Author Sam Harrelson

Digital Marketing and Technology Consultant and Podcaster at Thinking.FM

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