Thursday, August 12, 2010

Social Network Fatigue!



Sparked by a recent episode of HR Happy Hour and @thelance (I actually stole his phrasing), comes this rant on social media.

Here's the context. There's this major online job board company. In order to "get with the times", they created a micro social network of sorts, where members have there own profiles and can connect with recruiters. @thelance  astutely points out this concept of Social Network Fatigue, paraphrasing, "Don't we have enough online networks already?" Got it? Good.

Here's my point. It's time to stop thinking about being the next Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. That train has past. And while there may be opportunities to create niche networks, unless it is your core competency and primary focus, I think resources are better spent elsewhere. Rather than creating the next "YouTwitFace," emphasis should be placed on using the current social network infrastructure as mediums for providing value.

Here's why. Estimates of the current social networks are as follows; LinkedIn with 75 million users, Twitter with 105 million users, and Facebook with 500 million users. Now, you can attempt to mimic one of these business models. But, even Google with all there Google Geniuses and magic web powers hasn't made a big splash with Buzz. Have you even heard of Buzz? Plus, you will not only be competing with the networks themselves, but also with the thousands of app developers, who are continuously making the major networks better. I'm just not convinced that this is the best route.

I'm a believer of using the infrastructure in place and building from there. I am not suggesting a "resistance is futile" approach, but rather a "use and abuse" approach. The beauty of the current social network infrastructure is that it is pliable. Create a widget or app that works with the network to suit your needs, rather than creating an empty network to fill. There's nothing social about that. In the job board example, wouldn't it be better to create a mechanism that syncs the resumes and recommendations of a LinkedIn profile to the database of jobs, not requiring a visitor to create another username and password, which he will forget, and then never update.  Don't get me wrong. I don't want to oversimplify. These things will take tremendous ingenuity, creativity, and entrepreneurship, but the way we think of social networks must change.

Social Networks are mediums, just as a telecommunications is a medium. And, if you are not in the business of creating new telephones or new social networks, you should be thinking how to utilize mediums, not how to develop new ones.

'Til next time,

GenY_Mike

5 comments:

  1. Thought-provoking post, MIchael. As host of a fledging niche social media site, I do contemplate whether prospective users suffer from social network fatigue. The problem: While I haven't sought data to support this, I think only a minor segment of Linked-In users are truly engaging with each other or the site. It may just be a glorified yellow pages. Facebook, in my opinion, does not effectively serve the needs of professionals. As someone once observed, "Facebook is a red carpet for people who aren't famous."
    So, another solution may be to create engaging niche social media sites that circumvent the number one contributor to user fatigue: Multiple logins. Your own blog does this through Single Sign On served up by Google, Open ID, Wordpress etc.
    As for Buzz, I don't think Google ever did much to get the word out (especially to nonGoogle users) nor to distinguish Buzz. Just because they're Google doesn't mean they do everything right. In fact ( I think they might admit this) they have more failures than successes. I'm a full-blown user of Google services, but never came across their case for what value Buzz would add to my life.
    Just my proverbial two cents. :)

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  2. I'd argue a minor segment of any social network is truly engaging with it. That's true for LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter as well as all of the niche networks I've been a part of. And there seems to be at least some value in earlier niche social networks.

    But being the 15th social networking site in a particular niche isn't adding much value at that point. Something else needs to be present for there to appeal to your segment.

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  3. I wanted to point out three things.
    One: I absolutely love conan
    Two: I didn't know Linkedin existed until today
    Three: Wait maybe its just two

    I currently have facebook, myspace, and twitter for social websites. Facebook is where I get most personal and keep in touch with the majority of my friends. Myspace is where I have my family and where I keep in touch with them and keep them out of my personal life. Twitter is more for news updates from newspapers and blogs I follow. I only have 5 twitter followers so there isn't much updating on my side (I lost most of my followers because I intend to be over dramatic on there). I have an android so I can check on them anytime I want.
    I can say I have my fare share of social network fatigue. I hate the fact that most people prefer to communicate through social websites then in person or over the phone. I got most annoyed when people where tweeting rather then sending me a direct text message. Now I have a HUGE family so myspace is pretty convenient. Facebook is mostly close friends and school people so I see them on a constant basis.

    Social networks are essential but not required.

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  4. Thanks for all the comments!

    Ed-

    Good to hear from some one in the business. And you are 100% correct about the behavior of SM users. The number of twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook accounts give no indication of their purpose or the activity within them, and I've read many articles stating that active/engaged accounts are only a small fraction of the total. You are also correct about Buzz. Google's strategy has always been to swing away in hope of one grand slam. For failure, see Google Wave http://ow.ly/2pFrR .

    And regardless of the approach, you hit on the magic word, "engagement." That's the secret to marketing in the hyper-communicative world we live in. If you are able to create a niche network where members are engaged, you have accomplished a feat that many have failed.

    But, I would love to see niche aggregators, rather than new networks. This would utilize the current infrastructure across networks and enhance it. But, I guess this would bring us back to square one. Is it better to use current social network platforms or to your point, create another single sign-on network?

    Thanks for joining the discussion, and best of luck to your niche site. Keep me posted on its progress. I love hearing about emerging businesses in this field.

    Lance-

    Thanks for the inspiration. I stole your verbiage, "Social Media Fatigue," but you also "cheated" on the Dice.com question on HR Happy Hour. ;)

    D-Rod-
    While, from a marketing and business perspective, I think that Social Media has become to big to ignore and are essential, I agree with your point on the corrosion of communication it has created. And, our generation is most guilty.

    I met a manager at YouTube (he was probably in his mid-twenties), and while I'm sure he is much smarter than I am, he talked like a walking facebook wall. And, this wasn't at some bar or party, this was for a presentation in front of Dallas marketers and executives. It's pathetic how some Gen-Yers lack basic communication skills. I'm going to stop complaining, and save it for another blog post.

    Thanks Everyone!

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