Alcatel-Lucent Study: Social Networkers Not Very Social

Alcatel-Lucent Study: Social Networkers Not Very Social details findings & interpretations of Alcatel-Lucent’s social studies.

Allison Cerra, CMO, Alcatel-Lucent

Alcatel-Lucent Study: Social Networkers Not Very Social: Alcatel-Lucent studyAlcatel-Lucent has an interesting perspective on social networking because their equipment and services enable the infrastructure over which everything runs. They are constantly scouring the universe for ways that they can add unique value to infrastructure, and Allison shared some fascinating insights from a study A-L conducted in her Friday session at the Social Networking Conference. Here I’ll share my notes and related thoughts.


Alcatel-Lucent Study: Social Networkers Not Very Social: social networking conferenceAlcatel-Lucent conducted a recent study of 1,000 social networkers to learn what they perceived as value. A-L’s purpose was to gain insight about services they could develop that would be compelling enough to people to pay supplementary fees. Here are select findings:

  • Social networkers are not very social
  • Heavy users of Web 2.0 will pay for value-added services
  • Privacy somewhat inconclusive

Not Very Social

A-L found that heavy users of social networking sites were not “very social.” They were more interested in quantity of relationships rather than “quality” and interactivity. It was “all about them.” The attitude was “Please don’t call me, check my Facebook Wall if you want to find out what I’m doing.” Similarly, they were very focused on numbers: the number of “friends,” how many times they were retweeted, etc. How many times they were tagged in Facebook photos.

However, the study’s findings also challenged the stereotype that “gamers were a bunch of antisocial computer rats.” They found that players of MMORPGs were very social, that the game was a context for collaborating and sharing. They love the network more than the game itself. they love their friends more than they hate their enemies.

Paying for Value-added Services

Heavy users of social networking sites are frugal as a cohort. They are accustomed to getting things for free. Some things for which they said they would pay:

  • Presence from a geo perspective: knowing where friends are, on-the-fly and on demand.
  • Advanced friend finder: you land in Miami for a conference and see you is nearby, so you can get together easily.
  • Unified address book includes who likes what restaurants, bars, music, etc., which would enable people to meet spontaneously. Think of this as publishing your preferences to friends, but the address book would take the work out of it by mashing up time, place and preference.

Privacy Conundrum

Their findings here echo every privacy study I’ve seen: in general, social networkers do not want to disclose their privacy to others, but they want to know private information about others. Highlights:

  • All features that involve disclosing what most people consider to be “private” information must be conspicuously opt-in.
  • “When” is more important than “who”: they care about when people can see private information more than who can see it.
  • They trust service providers more than application developers.


  • We can change the Web 1.0 paradigm: we can foster transformation.
  • Allison showed some screen shots of what she called “mobile enhanced reality” (is “augmented reality” proving too challenging for consumer vocabularies?): using your mobile device’s camera as an “eye,” point it at an object and, based on its GPS coordinates that are invoked by your device, a translucent screen presents information about that object (prices of competing products, reviews of the orchestra or product…)
  • Based on location, you land in Miami, you want to get together with friends in a restaurant and, based on preferences and opportunity, the restaurant pushes coupons to your friends. Also, friends can share coupons with each other: “the next time you’re in Miami, try this…” They key is, they don’t get the coupons now, but when they’re in the area.
  • The totally connected car, a partnership with Toyota and A-L: all kinds of geo-enabled services. For a laugh, read The Internet Car, which I wrote in 1999.

Final Shots

  • I have not yet now seen the study, but I’ll hazard that these “heavy users of social networking” were an extreme, and they are not typical of most of the highly connected people I know.
  • Update: The A-L white paper finds that: “There is no one-size-fits-all billing model,” which points to the need for highly abstracted architecture in billing systems. As virtual goods gain more currency ,^) that will change expectations to pay in myriad ways for value-added services.
  • If I were A-L, I would be following very closely development in virtual goods, which average between $5.00 and $0.50. The growth in micropayments will explode in future, and conversations with telecoms execs have confirmed that a major impediment is the very inflexible nature of their billing systems, which are set up for subscription-based billing, not microtransactions. If telecoms aren’t careful, Facebook or other providers will walk away with this lucrative market (think Infosys or a Chinese provider who is building natively abstracted systems). Visa/Mastercard undoubtedly have the same problem: legacy billing system architectures.
  • Convincing people to pay is a very difficult proposition because another provider soon offers that service for free, especially with anything tech-related. A slippery slope. I think micropayments can work because they are so innocuous, trifling. Also, anything that can directly impact someone’s livelihood is a good candidate.
  • Update: Finally, one of Allison’s most fascinating remarks was: regarding privacy, people care more about “when” is more important than “who.” When they are visible to their Facebook friends rather than which friends. Obviously, this is very general, but I think it affords insight to getting people to pay for granular services: I will pay at certain times of day, or in certain situations (on a date versus being home at Thanksgiving), etc.
  • Update: This is what I mean by the need for abstraction. Obviously, this will be ultra-competitive, so systems will have to accommodate quickly shifting conditions under which people will pay, and how much they will pay. People value services more or less given usage conditions.

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