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Networking Show Could Teach Hosts

Date: 2007-01-12

Social networking and Internet dating has become one of the biggest sources of Internet traffic, with some social networking sites now among the most trafficked sites on the Web. As such, the social networking business is the source of some significant hosting requirements. What's more, the social networking business is a hotbed of new thinking on how a company's customers can interact with one another - thinking that could have real value in the hosting business.

With Ticonderoga Ventures' 11th annual Internet Dating and Social Networking conference (socialnetworkingconference.com) just around the corner, the media relations representative for the conference and editor of Online Personals Watch (onlinepersonalswatch.com), a news resource and consultant for the social networking industry, Mark Brooks, says Web hosts should make an effort to attend.

Ticonderoga Ventures says the Social Networking Conference focuses on business management for the social networking industry. The goal of the event is to improve individual online business efficiency, identify new technologies for the space and increase Web traffic and conversion rates. This year will take a special focus on advertising and how to make social networking sites more profitable.

Brooks says attendees for this conference break into two groups: C-level execs from Internet dating and social networking companies and representatives from companies attempting to connect with social networking sites to sell advertising and other value-added services; generally trying to pitch the industry. Brooks says Web hosts fit into the second group and although they weren't very prominent at previous events, should consider becoming more involved with this upcoming event.

"The Web hosting industry should be here talking to these companies who have sites to host. There are some who attend, but not nearly enough," says Brooks. "I mean, we hear about them in press releases, most recently with MySpace and Friendster, but when events like this conference come up, I never really see them. Web hosts should be here."

Web hosting consultant Isabel Wang says Web hosts should start looking into networking outside their own industry. They could benefit from attending something like the social networking event.

"Demand Media's acquisition of eNom last year shows that there's a thin line between social networking and Web hosting. Web hosts too often see themselves 'only' as technology providers," says Wang. "Maybe Web hosts should follow Demand Media's lead and look for more ways to add value. If consumers are building Web sites to share info on their hobbies, can Web hosts help them reach like-minded people? If bands want to connect with fans and retailers want to keep in touch with customers, can Web hosts help maximize their audience? Many hosting companies have hundreds or thousands of users. Why can't they become hubs where people find buyers, sellers and collaborators among fellow customers? By attending a social networking conference, Web hosts might find 'beyond-the-box' ideas for expanding their role."

Considering the packed two-day agenda, Brooks says there are a few workshops and panels to which attendees should pay particular attention in order to get the most out of this event.

On Monday, Michael Jones, president of Userplane (userplane.com), is presenting a keynote address titled, "Web 2.0: Online communities, Online Dating and the State of Online Social Behavior," in which he will discuss the current patterns of user behavior within online dating and social networking Web sites and future trends in that space.

Another session Brooks says is bound to be educational is Peter Pezaris' presentation, "Social Networking and Content." Pezaris is the president and founder of media sharing portal Multiply (multiply.com), which went from being a third-tier networking site to a booming enterprise. Brooks says attendees will get a great turn-around story as Pezaris discusses how social networking sites are re-defining the role of content producers, making it easier for even beginner users to contribute and share media online.

Brooks says a great way to end event, and possibly the most important session to attend, is with the roundtable discussion titled, "The Online Dating and Social Networking Industry - Issues from Executives and Management," in which executives from Yahoo! Personals, Multiply, Plenty of Fish, Online Personals Watch and Cupid.com will discuss current issues facing the Internet dating and social networking industry.

What attendees will take away from this conference, says Brooks, is a better understanding of how to monetize their Web sites.

"It's as simple as that. They're going to learn new ways to make money from advertising, and improve on the services they're currently offering," says Brooks. "This entire conference has a unique spin on prior years. Prior years have been focused on a very broad spectrum of things. This year it?s all about helping companies use their services better to make more money."

Although Wang hopes Web hosts will actively become more adventurous and less niched, and network beyond their industry, she believes the lines will inevitably blur between social networking and Web hosting.

"I think as Demand Media gains momentum, GoDaddy will be forced to take some kind of social networking action," says Wang. "Think about the connections they could facilitate, if they tried, among the owners of 17.5 million domain names. Even Amazon's hosting service has social networking features. Just as people share photos on Flickr and videos on YouTube, Amazon lets developers share software appliances that they've built. I truly hope Web hosting veterans won't let these newcomers have all the fun."

The conference will run from January 15 to 16 at the Miami Beach Convention Center in Miami, Florida.





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