Virtual, Viral, and oh so Valuable

Younger generations continue to intrigue us. There’s a clear progression of young people moving their lives completely to the web. Yes, this is old news and many bloggers have written about it, but it’s too interesting for us not to write our own post.

While older generations use computers primarily as a tool to get specific things done, younger generations integrate computers with nearly every activity imaginable. Communication is obviously one of the most fundamental interactions performed on computers. But ‘plain old communication’ isn’t enough for Generation Y. They want more. Hence, the explosion of virtual worlds like Habbo Hotel, Second Life, and Cy World.

But now there’s an in between space where virtual things are mingling with real-world networks. Traditional social networks like Facebook are becoming the intermediary between virtual life and real life. Just look at the explosion of popular applications on Facebook (including ours) to understand what I mean. People don’t just say ‘happy birthday’ anymore. They instead send a virtual cake, or a virtual gift. People don’t just say ‘i love you’ anymore – they send virtual chocolates or a virtual card. This is different than sending a traditional eCard or eVite because these new virtual items are housed within a public social ecosystem where users can spy on each other’s activity. The value of these virtual expressions then becomes extremely powerful from the socio-psychological perspective. This is what many do not understand. How can a simple graphic be so valuable? Its value exists in the structure in which it’s housed. It’s a graphic – yes. But it’s a graphic that carries with it an emotional intent within a social setting – and this is the secret recipe that makes it work.

Skeptics beware. Zuckerberg’s social graph is a peculiar place, but it’s a place we should all learn about as quickly as possible.


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