I start seeing more articles that emphasize the social ‘features’ over the social ‘network’ (also see my post Increasing relevance by adding social networking features). This video on FriendConnect shows some examples and makes the difference more obvious.
I love Nova Spivack’s comparison to cars and how the choice of a Social Network will come down to personal preference (ultimately determined by brand). For this to happen the Social Networks will have to open up and support a common base feature set. This is already happening today but will accelerate. I’m convinced that soon most of our online activity will be aware of our friends and that ‘social context’ will lead to a more relevant user experience:
- Amazon book and NetFlix movie suggestions based on what your friends like
- Craiglist and ebay items from friends of friends
- Search results ranking enhanced by sites friends clicked on
- Yelp reviews and ratings from friends rather than 200 strangers
- News that your friends have read
Things to think about:
- ‘Friend’ is probably to strong a term. What are better terms? How will this evolve over time?
- ‘Soocial context’ brings trust. Trust brings economic opportunities.
- How can the 2nd and 3rd degree be used especially on commercial sites (LinkedIn is already using this)?
- When will large retail sites grasp the concept and what kind of opportunities will arise?
And the big question is: How can the Social Networks be open (interop) and closed (privacy) at the same time?
I’m already tired of hearing about social network fatigue. The problem is not the ever increasing number of social networks though. As long as the ROI is right users will continue to join new ones as well as keep using the existing ones.
The cost of being part of a social network consists of:
- Fixed cost: Signing up for an account + creating inital profile
- Recurring cost: Connecting to friends + updating the profile
The value provided by the social network varies from network to network:
- Keeping in touch with friends – Facebook
- Job offers, Sales leads, Professional Networking – LinkedIn
- Recognition, status, new friends – Yelp
These are the key drivers for joining a social network together with peer pressure and the fear of missing out. But the ROI is the determining factor for long term adoption.
What stands out is that the return isn’t always immediate. In LinkedIn’s case the return isn’t even certain. It’s more an expectation (or hope) to benefit later – potentially months or years later. In my case I haven’t gotten a job out of LinkedIn and I’m still actively using it. For Facebook, the ROI (friends vitality) is more immediate. Once you connect you can immediately see their latest updates, pictures etc.
Before you launch another social network determine its ROI. This includes determining the cost to a user of being part of the network as well as defining what the generated value is.
I spent some time tonight updating my LinkedIn Network, something that I’ve been putting off for far too long. While doing this I realized two things:
- A ton of people are on LinkedIn
- I don’t remember using LinkedIn for anything other than connecting to people I already know
Is it just connecting for the sake of connecting or will it serve me in some way eventually?
Someone mentioned once that only job seekers are really using it. Is this it? LinkedIn definitely is the ‘professional network’ under the networks. Could this be hurting it in the long run? Should I not connect to my boss in that case? No worries, I’m not planning on switching jobs anytime soon.
I’ve also wanted to play around with MySpace for quite a while now to better understand this phenomenon. Next weekend maybe…