Chip Shots by Chip Griffin

Is Facebook the Answer to Social Networking Overload — Or Is It Part of the Problem?

Nick O’Neill does a nice job today of asking (and answering) the question: “Is There Any Point In Launching Your Own Social App?” 

logo_facebook-rgb-7inchI’ve been wondering the same thing myself.  With the sudden explosion of Facebook among my friends and colleagues, it feels like there might be a central meeting place already.  As Nick points out, Facebook offers great functionality to enable it to serve as a one-stop shop for people.  Many companies are racing to roll out apps that will work on that platform to take advantage of the dramatic growth the service is experiencing.  In fact, just this morning I heard from a senior exec at a major web player who told me:

Up until a week ago I had absolutely no interest in using facebook. As a marketer, I certainly get the market impact, but I couldn’t ever care much about the concept. But with the platform release, we’ve all been rushing around trying to get apps released onto the platform … Its just crazy.

At the same time, however, new “walled garden” social networks are cropping up.  Many in my circle have joined either MyRagan or the Melcrum Communicators Network or both. 

It is getting to be too much, as Mary Hodder pointed out recently when she discussed “social information overload.”  Shel Holtz addressed the question several months ago:

I’m skeptical that a bajillion social networks will make for good social networking. It’s not that people won’t join networks like ”The Classical Guitar Network” (although it does have only one member so far); it’s that people will belong to so many that their participation will be cursory rather than fully engaged. Nope; sorry. I just don’t see it.

Here’s Nick’s conclusion:

Is there any point in launching your own social application? In the long run, probably not. All sites will eventually become content providers that allow users to decide for themselves how they are going consume information. RSS feeds and OPML are only the beginning of such technologies. While this is going to take time to manifest, in the foreseeable future you are going to have access to all the information you want right at your fingertips, all from one page. While search will still be necessary to find new sources of content, users will be able to avoid navigation the web on a daily basis to consume all the information that they want. While its not going to happen immediately, Facebook has just taken a huge step in that direction.

Now mine: Facebook seems to offer some real benefits and could be the standard social networking platform going forward.  The ability to easily layer apps on top of the service provides a real benefit.  There are still issues that need to be sorted out (someone recently suggested a secondary relationship on the service, like “fans” to allow limited interaction between users), innovation that needs to occur, and of course, time must pass to see if the growth trend continues and if all these new users become regular diners and not simply nibblers at the Facebook table.

But if I were seeking to build a social network today, I’d think long and hard before I built my own closed system.  Facebook may or may not be the ultimate answer, but for social networking to be truly effective there needs to be fewer, not more, platforms.

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  1. Fewer platforms? Sure, but I’ll follow–or stay with– my network on whatever platform gets the most use. Right now, that’s Twitter.
    The interesting thing about Twitter is that it is everywhere– on our blogs, on our phones, in desktop widgets, even on FaceBook. That’s pretty powerful. Find me on FaceBook, and you may only see my Twitter app. But that’s all I need right now.
    As for closed networks, if you mean a professional networking site like MyRagan or Melcrum, I welcome those. If either or both get used, I am there. I should disclose that Robin Crumby asked me, among many others (like Neville), to help spark discussions on Melcrum– but I volunteered because I thought I would be there anyway.

  2. Doug, I agree with the notion of being where your network is. And I love the idea of groups like MyRagan and Melcrum. Bringing like-minded people together to exchange ideas, information, camaraderie, etc. makes sense.
    What concerns me is having so many places to go to and to communicate. That’s why I’d love to see groups created on a common platform — it still allows networking to take place among the like-minded, it just removes the hurdles as far as logins, learning curves, etc.
    Imagine if you had to use a different email app for different groups? Some do that already with a work email and something like Gmail for personal correspondence. And isn’t that less convenient?
    I don’t think we’re far apart here on the substance, my concerns are more on the logistics level.

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