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Social networks have been rising for some time now. And while they initially started out as mere toys for youngsters, there have been talks of higher degrees of commercialization, how these networks will change the lifestyle of people, and so on. Now that the change has taken place somewhat, it makes sense for The Economist to tabulate some of the impacts these networks have brought in.

To begin, these networks have definitely became an important way people communicate; however mundane or skimpy each little piece of content may be, they are viewed by many people within your network and it broadcasts bits of information about you that couldn’t have been captured in the yesteryears. This is true for the comments you cast, the status messages you post, the photos and videos you uploaded and all the social games that you play. Although online social networks remain essentially much like a bulletin board (except viewership ability of contents are more strictly controlled and with richer content) and thus does little to enrich people’s ability to do real networking, it does a wonderful job at augmenting our real relationships.

This strong link with the real world is a great strength for online social networks. Websites are viewed as corporate facades that give little information about the reality of the companies. On the other hand, the pages for these firms on social networking sites are viewed as better avenues for firms to communicates with their customers. Likewise, a corporate site announcement of a promotion the company is offering does less to boost sales compared to a tweet which might have much more followers.

That is the free advertising service that sites like Twitter and Facebook might offer, which brings us to the question of how money is being made on such networks. A peach of an opportunity, an article in The Economist special report on social networks gives us an idea what are the businesses that taps into the plumbing of social network connections and thriving. For all the talk about connecting with friends, being entertained by your online pets, or having a good laugh from the video your friend has shared, businesses might be the greatest benefactor of this trend.

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