Social Networking: Overrated?

3 03 2010

Well, it was bound to happen eventually. Google Wave was advertised as a collaboration tool and email replacement, but not as a social media device. That’s where the newly released Google Buzz comes in. What is it? It’s twitter without the annoying character limit, and it’s Facebook without all the nonsense of applications. An improvement to both? Maybe, maybe not. I’m not sold on social networking in general, despite having a Facebook and forwarding my blog posts to a twitter  which sets my Facebook status. Maybe it’s the other way around, I can’t remember.. nor can I get it to stop forwarding anymore..

First off, what is the point of all these social networking applications?

  • Internet “small talk”. You don’t want to send an email or make a forum post, you just want to say hey and see what someone’s up to.
  • Group communication
  • Sharing of information and news

So why has social networking never grown on me much? Well the reason is I just find it a hacked together combination of IM, forums, and blogs.

For Internet small talk I prefer IRC, a room based IM protocol that still flourishes for the geekier types that like chat rooms. The conversations are mostly instant, but messages can also be left and looked at later for those who stay logged in and logging all the time.

I used to be a member on several forums, even a moderator and nearly an administrator on one. If you want to have a conversation about a certain topic or ask general questions to the community, a good forum will win over a Facebook Group any day of the week.

Finally for sharing information or reading about interesting news, an RSS reader with a few blogs and news pages will suffice nicely.

With far more powerful ways to share and communicate available, why would anyone want Twitter, Facebook, or Myspace? I think the answer to that is simply that social networking pages are targeted to general people and designed to be extremely simple to use. For a power use type of person like me, logging on IRC, posting on blogs/forums, and creating my own webpages to post content is no big deal. Social networking pages mash together a bunch of ways to communicate and interact. Almost all of these exist in a superior stand alone application or protocol, but perhaps not with the ease of usability.

Another reason it’s become so popular is because it’s become so popular. Yes, that may sound like a contradiction, but it’s really not. As the user base grew, pages like Twitter took off at exponential rates until almost everyone had heard of it and probably had an account. The reason everyone uses Facebook is because all their friends are on it. Some of their friends might sit around and IM, some might hang out on forums, but Facebook is a centralized place with a huge user base.

So on one hand these social networking pages certainly don’t contain many interesting or innovative ideas or technology and really are just a mash up of photo sharing pages, IMs, forums, and blogs. On the other hand they offer a simple interface to do a lot of things and have a huge user base, which propels them forward in popularity.



One response

10 03 2010

And now you have all sorts of these linking features so what you post on twitter will post on buzz, facebook…

I agree with the whole aspect of being popular because they are popular. The only reason there’s this big hype (in the technology world) for social networking and social network marketing is because while there are multiple huge unified user bases, there is no single mega huge unified user base. Why is this? Every time a new social network comes out we do one of 3 things, either (a) ignore it completely, (b) try it once, get tired/bored of most and stick to one, or (c) use all of them at once. So then you end up with these huge fragmented groups.

So this makes marketing harder and easier at the same time. Easier in that we only have a few large unified user bases to target. Harder in that, we have to market to ALL of them, and compete against the bombardment of other useless information in the process.

Like right now I have to put up with a certain ACM president trying to get me to post random stuff to a certain fan page so that it may be seen on other people’s newsfeeds.

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