Is “Social” A Destination Or Part Of The Networking Journey?March 5, 2008
I’m always a bit confused when people talk about social functionality using the context of specific social networking sites. Never mind that there are only a few social networking sites that are more urban than wasteland. Ignore the fact that even on the populated social networking sites, groups spring up with great fanfare and are quickly populated and just as quickly lay dormant. Let’s forget all of that for a moment.
Let’s think of social networking sites as online versions of cocktail parties. A cocktail party is a destination…you go and then come back. What occurs at the cocktail party is actually what makes the party “social” not just simply showing up. Trust fund babies can easily afford to attend the same parties with the same people. However, to be socially successful in a business context, the goal should be to attend different cocktail parties, strengthen old acquaintances, and also continually make new ones.
The online versions of social networking often resemble a single cocktail party with more or less the same guests. In some cases, the arrival times of certain regular guests are completely predictable. How many more of the same parties do we need as an industry?
What then how could we possibly think about functionality that is different?
– Make “social” an approach rather than a destination: Getting people to join the conversation no matter where they might be socially located would be an interesting change. I’m unaware of good social tools that span specific webites (the promise of social platforms may end up meaning that vampires can bite you on more than one social network).
– Blur the line between industry focused destinations and consumer destinations: Few, if any social sites, seemed really focused on being a single type of destination. ActiveRain is generally considered an industry social destination while listing or general social sites tend to be more consumer focused. The true power of the social approach vs destination would be the blurring of these lines between consumer destinations and industry destinations. Participants could leverage the access to knowledge that crossing website social lines can bring in terms of content and personalities regardless of their intended destination or current waypoint. The social approach would therefore have functionality aimed at discoverability matching content with people’s information needs across industry or consumer destination. So, for instance, applicable Facebook, Real Estate Shows, or other content could be available to me whether I knew about the specific site or not.
– Remove email as a primary cross site distribution mechanism: Though email for many has been the killer app for some time, its use is less friendly than ever. Our thinking is that if a friend sees something that may be of interest to me, they should be able to just send it to me with a few clicks rather than go to email to send it to me. We are all busy and inundated with unwanted email. Things like opening an email app, potentially having spam filters delay my content, or having to pick up the phone anyway to ask if they received my email can interrupt an otherwise seamless social process. After receipt, I should just be able to publish it for others to see without having to cut and paste a link or know how to position a video player. In short, the less technical obstacles and 3rd party tools to open the better.
– Increase discoverability of content: The rewards of great position in search engie result pages is tangible. However, there is often great non-SEO optimized and applicable short tail content that exists deep in the results of online searches. Social functionality should play a role in making such content more discoverable and assist in aggregating long tail content.