AOL Buddy List’s Social Network Expands With AIM Pages, Phoneline

Screenshot: AIM PagesThe way AOL execs pitch it, the AOL Connections strategy is all about giving users ways to communicate whether it’s IM, file sharing, video or the upcoming launches of social networking service AIM Pages and free phone service Phoneline. But it’s also about giving AOL a way to connect with users — and to keep them connected. AIM already averages six hours or so a day on users’ desktops, according to AOL. That’s not enough.
AIM Pages: AOL wants to be the 24/7 home base for as many users as possible hence the AIM Page, a social networking site/home page/home base that stays active even when the buddy list is offline. Kerry Parkins, director, key audiences product marketing, calls it “a very natural extension” for AIM”s existing social network. Instead of people joining a created community a la Classic AOL, they have their own with the buddy list they already use at the core.
Unlike walled-garden Classic AOL, AIM Pages is built on giving users ways to collect and connect to various parts of the web — and each other — from one base. For instance, users can add a flickr module. “Our approach is not to get you to leave flickr but to super-set your stuff from flickr,” explained Parkins. Other modules focus on AOL content, like the Top 11 list from AOL Music; options will be limited at first with more modules being introduced on a rolling basis.
Asked what makes AIM Pages stand out from the other social networking sites where users can create a page and form community, Parkins said it’s the publishing tool, which was designed to make the process more simple and the results more attractive. To improve discoverability, AOL settled on an easy personalized domain —[screenname].
Still in flux: making money with AIM Pages. Parkins admitted, “Advertisers themselves are trying to get a handle on how to monetize in this space [ie social network sites]. In general, it’s not a great advertising play.” They’re working with advertisers to expand presence beyond the standard “build a profile for the Tom Hanks character in The DaVinci Code” but are concerned about how it will play. Parkins: “You can create community around (a) product … but it’s a different advertising model. We really want to let the community grow first and be very vibrant before we introduce a degree of commercialism.” AIM, unlike some social network competitors, claims “significant reach” across all demographics. [Note: