Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Socially Fatigued?

There is a lot of talk about marketing within social networks these days and is one area that I have playing around in since I joined LinkedIn in 2004. For the past several months, there have been signs that perhaps there is some exhaustion occurring. That anyone that is already well connected is not interested in forming new networks - even as those networks may offer interesting value propositions for anyone willing to invest some of their social capital in starting a new network on another site.

In an article from the UK's The Register, they talk about social 'fatigue' - the notion that people are tired of social networking sites and that the Facebooks and MySpaces of the world are on the decline in engagement numbers such as pages viewed and time spent. That folks are just plain "bored" with these sites.

While I do not completely agree with the article, I do believe there is some shifting occurring as users of social media look for value in the technology they are using to connect with each other.

In my attempt to keep up with new technology, and after being flooded with requests to join one of the newest sites, Naymz.com, I decided to take the leap and join. During the setup, I imported my LI contacts and blasted everyone in my network by accident. Ahh yes, usability - or lack thereof.

While there are some bugs that need to be worked out, I like their concept of using the network to build your reputation, but how many networks can one manage?

While a decent portion of my contacts joined me on Naymz, I did get some mail from some of my contacts who declined, saying:

"What are you seeing here that Linkedin isn’t doing? Just debating the need for “one more” social networking site."

And another:"Just wanted to say thanks for the invite to Naymz, but I'm going to stick with Linkedin ... So ... PLEASE don't think I'm blowing you off ... never would. Just sticking to the Linkedin for now."

The referenced article above and e-mail from some of my colleagues is indicative of how much time it takes to invest in building a network, and the value that network returns. I also believe that it is up to networking sites to keep up with consumer demand for better tools and capabilities - giving people a reason to stay beyond the novelty.

Marketers can rejoice, while some of the sites are seeing a decline, there are ways to learn from how people are using social networks and interacting online. That the oldest form of marketing, word-of-mouth, is being enabled by the latest in technology. If you can figure out what's a fad vs. what has true value, harnessing socially connected individuals can be a powerful, very efficient, retention and acquisition tool.

What do you think? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

2 comments:

bsglaser said...

I work at a college, and these days we have no better way of communicating with students than through social networks. The grown-ups who write analysis may be getting tired of these sites, but in my day-to-day experience, your average 19-yr-old is still very much in the Facebook game!

Allan Sabo said...

Todd,

Couple issues (with some solutions on the way)

1) Redundancy Fatigue - From the reduncancy of logging in & out, to managing multiple profiles & the over extension of tracking activity across each network one belongs to.

2) Dissimilar Value Propositions - Each network & its members tend to gravitate towards its strengths, network composition, interaction or social features from bulletins, chat, or various privacy controls.

3) Niche Network Growth - more niche networks compliment a persons real life roles & interests but need users to customize their profiles & tailor their participation appropriately. I call this "Persona Management"

Theres hope. new standards around the social graph (the conceptual structure of ones personal "data" & its interrelationships with others for the presentation or use in online / offline social interaction) promises to treat each of the "networks" as chapters of interest & making ones profile, friends & messaging more "portable".

Additionally, "Open Social" is a set of standards to create interoperability between networks.

Combined, there will emerge a whole new set of ventures, widgets, tools & adaptations that could usher in Web 3.0.

Im currently working with one such company in "stealthmode" as they seek angel capital to develop their technology and begin beta-testing.

Thanks again for asking the question - good to know others are also struggling with these issues too.

Allan Sabo