Increasing relevance by adding social networking features

Not every company that’s adding social networking features to its product is trying to become a social network. In fact there is an important difference that doesn’t seem to be well understood.

The goal of enhancing a product with social features is to increase engagement and relevance of the experience. The core feature set is still front and center. Let’s illustrate with an example, say a news site:

Features that enhance the core experience:

  • Seeing what your connections are reading
  • Commenting on articles within your connections
  • Sharing articles with connections

Features that distract from the core experience:

  • 3rd party vitality (e.g. Flickr photo updates, Yelp reviews, …)
  • Profile page
  • Managing connections

And that’s exactly where having a portable social graph becomes key. We will have one main social network where we’re managing connections, checking friends vitality, uploading pictures etc. This will be whatever comes after Facebook. All other products use that social graph to enhance the product experience.

A gaming site that knows your connections/social graph can show you how you score compared to your friends and let you challenge them instead of playing strangers. All this without you having to re-enter all you connections.