Friday, 12 November 2010

Answer to the nature or nurture question: a look at RenRen and Facebook

RenRen and Facebook started out as virtually identical applications. The  basis was a free to join social network (SNS) that relied on the social graph for growth and sustainability.


 This still remains largely true, but from here the family resemblance stops. Born of the same mother but having been raised in different cultures, at adolescence we find them to be barely recognisable to each other.






Both have grown well, the strength is unquestioned and future bright, but key characteristics are almost diametrically opposite. Let’s explore four characteristics:


Privacy:

Facebook has often been called on their questionable and arbitrary changes to privacy settings. However, the members of Facebook have proven that they have strong sway in keeping Facebook management in line. Facebook provides an array of privacy settings that allow the individual to protect information. Facebook still  does not sell personal data or direct access to individuals pages.

RenRen has a slightly different take on privacy. I tend to agree more with the RenRen philosophy, SNS’s are for sharing, so by extension if you are on the site you should be open to this concept. RenRen provides full access (for a price) to reach their members for businesses. It is my understanding RenRen does not release personal information, but does facilitate direct contact.

Ease of entry:

Both Facebook and RenRen are free to join. But once again, there the similarities start to fade.

Facebook provides individuals, small business or just anyone a range of profile options such as personal profiles, groups or fan pages. Fan limits are either non-existent or set very high.

RenRen provides a single option for personal users with a 1000 fan maximum. This is satisfactory for most  personal users, but many small businesses or charities looking to jump on RenRen may find this size restriction a bit tight. For a small fee the limit can be raised to 2000, but there is still restrictions on customisation.

Flexibility:

Facebook is a DIY wonderland. Customisation, free to use apps and widgets, fully functioning HTML pages give a range of options for customisation. If you are an entry level users or a large company, Facebook allows significant flexibility in customising your page provided you colour within the lines. What Facebook is lacking is any real B2C tools. Facebook is still predominantly a P2P network.

RenRen prefers to do the work for you. Tell them what you want and there is almost no limit on what they can do. As they control the code they can be much more indulgent on what is allowed. Of course it all comes at a cost. Additionally, RenRen offers a wide range of B2C products that may never find their way to Facebook.


Numbers:

If Facebook is a tool then RenRen is a sledge hammer.

Facebook allows for fairly accurate demographic segmentation and very small budgets. For as little as about HK$ 10 or US$ 1.5 a display ad campaign can be launched. It might not get you much, but literally you can reach one person.

RenRen is about HUGE numbers. After several meetings with RenRen it became clear that somewhere around 50,000 was a starting number and 100’s of thousands was an figure they were more comfortable. Since RenRen puts a limit on personal pages at 1000 fans, the only real way for business of any size to reach a larger audience is to upgrade to a B2C solution or Public page.


It is too bad that Facebook and RenRen can not play nice together because both offer interesting solutions and business models. Both models are, in my opinion, vastly different but valuable. However, RenRen continues to be almost elusively mainland China and Facebook is everywhere else.

Much success,

Doug

1 comment:

kuan said...

I also signed up RenRen a year ago, in my college almost every student has ren ren and its truely easy way to communicate the local students. I visit everyday and learned alot. Facebook is also great site nothing that I can compare with any other social networking sites, I can connect to almost everyone in my life circle from High school friends to work collegues.

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