Plugging in to the local network

28/01/2011 - 00:00


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THE rise of Facebook and the fall of MySpace may be regularly reported on in the traditional news media, but several local sites are quietly making their own news by carving out a niche in the social networking race.

THE rise of Facebook and the fall of MySpace may be regularly reported on in the traditional news media, but several local sites are quietly making their own news by carving out a niche in the social networking race.

For some, social networking is at the core of their website offering; for others, it’s an add-on to what already was a successful business.

And for local youth site Student Edge, it’s what they’ve always wanted to do but haven’t had the capital or capacity to develop, until recently.

Founded in 2003 by four university students, Student Edge offers discounts and job opportunities to secondary and tertiary students by forging partnerships with companies including Boost Juice and MacDonald’s.

The aim of the team behind Student Edge was to create a safe online space where students could come together to discuss issues.

With the launch of their new website in May, Student Edge will drastically increase user-generated content and make it easier for students to communicate with each other – adding value to the site which already has more WA members than Facebook in its chosen under-19 demographic.

Damien Langley is one the company’s founders, and now handles business development for Student Edge, which is now part-owned by WA entrepreneur Trevor Delroy.

Mr Langley said student-generated content on the site currently was about 20 per cent.

He said Student Edge offered young people the opportunity to voice their opinion on social issues and keep up to date with employment information, rather than being a space for chatting to friends.

“We’re not trying to be all things to all people,” Mr Langley said.

“This demographic loves to talk, and to express themselves.”

He said the next focus for Student Edge, which has 314,000 members in total and about 200,000 in WA, is expanding more aggressively into the eastern states.

To that end, the company has formed partnerships with International Student Identity Card and Bankwest to boost its profile outside WA.

Loconut, launched in the early days of social networking, was conceived in 2005 when local marketing executive Alex Blain got together a group of local software developers to develop a niche online community.

Originally targeted at Perth, Loconut now has a global membership of 85,000 with a strong core of supporters in this state.

Loconut focuses on linking people who share common interest, rather than being a Facebook-type site where people go to interact with their existing friendship networks.

Mr Blain said the structure of Loconut had remained largely intact from its initial conception, but had incorporated new technologies as they became available, including photo and video sharing.

In 2007, Mr Blain launched LocoTV, which produces and broadcasts mostly locally made TV shows across the internet.

Seabreeze started in 1997 as a site offering targeted and accurate wind and wave information for windsurfers and kite boarders.

Around 10 years ago, creator Laurie Smithdale added public forums to the site as a way for users to share knowledge.

Creating profiles and adding pictures were, as Mr Smithdale said, a “natural extension”.

He credits the success of the social networking aspect of his site to strong administration; fostering friendly communication and removing negative influences.

Last year, Seabreeze launched The Hookup, to allow people to find others looking to take part in a particular sport in a specific area.

One of the newest locally based social networking sites to begin operations is We Be, a network to link and inform young professionals.

Site creator Sam Birmingham said young professionals would only become more important as the baby boomer generation began to retire, both to employers and to advertisers.

His site, which swung into full operation this week after a year of testing, has accumulated about 1,200 new members each month with minimal promotion.

Previously employed by a private investment group, Mr Birmingham said while sites such as LinkedIn provided opportunities for networking, We Be would be a unique source of advice for young professionals looking for financial and career guidance as they adjusted from university to the corporate world.



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