Facebook enters political arena and inspires entrepreneurs

08 January 2008 / by Joy Tibbs
A new application designed to encourage debate over the US Presidential election has been added to popular social networking site Facebook. There is also evidence to suggest that the site, along with others such as Bebo, MySpace and YouTube, may be helping to boost business ventures.

Through its deal with ABC news, Facebook claims to have attracted more than a million members to take part in discussions about the US Presidential election. According to reports, approximately 300,000 people have taken part in at least one debate using the application, which features videos and news reports as well as comments posted by Facebook users.

There are profile pages for many prominent US politicians, including democrat rivals Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, as well as supporters' pages to keep visitors up-to-date with the latest political issues. By using such a modern forum, it is hoped that the younger generation – which is often accused of political apathy – may feel more involved in the election process. The site's membership is reportedly rising by approximately three per cent per week.

And social networking sites are not merely helping to promote political activity; they also appear to be functioning as a useful tool for aspiring entrepreneurs. According to a report from The Future Laboratory, four per cent of MySpace users consider themselves to be 'netrepreneurs'.

The report found that almost half (45 per cent) of those in the 18-to-24 age bracket said they would prefer to spend quarter of an hour on a social networking site than watching television, reading, speaking on the telephone or playing computer games. It also revealed that 14 per cent of users had succeeded in making money through one of these sites.

Popular ventures include selling jewellery, pieces of art and limited edition t-shirts as well as organising events such as club nights. The report states that: "This networked generation is using these sites to explore new levels of creativity and develop new ways of doing business online."

According to the Office of National Statistics, more than 69 per cent of UK internet users now have broadband and this is set to increase as social networking sites increase in popularity. Moreover, increased competition between providers has helped to lower prices, while faster speeds and unlimited downloads are other benefits that may appeal to social networkers and other web users in general.

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