Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Are You Suffering From Socialnetworkitis?

Friday, October 12, 2007

By Max Kalehoff  "I just don't have time for all these social networks!" the head of a prominent social network told me this week. "How can anyone be in so many places at the same time?" a prominent advertising exec asked me. And "I keep getting spammed by everyone's stupid trivia questions," we've certainly all complained

It seems more and more people are suffering from social network fatigue, which I'm now coining socialnetworkitis. On recall, here's a sampling of the Web services -- broadly defined -- contributing to my own bout with socialnetworkits:

  • First, my work and personal email accounts. Yes, in fact, these are perhaps my most important online social networks, and certainly the ones I'm most active in. This is where much of my business and personal life gets carried out. Dreadfully, it's where spammers are most successful in reaching and annoying me.
  • After email, there's Trillian, an instant message aggregator, which connects most - but not all - of my IM services into one.
  • Then there's Skype, the Internet telephony service, which doubles as an instant-message and video-conferencing service.
  • Next is my company's Salesforce.com CRM system, where I receive a nonstop flow of communications and activities from other employee members.
  • Then there's my personal blog, which has hundreds registered and subscribed via RSS and email. And there's a subset of users who comment and interact with me.
  • And integrated with blog is my Twitter microblogging network, where I post mini-updates and pictures throughout my day, often through my mobile phone.
  • Also integrated into my blog is MyBlogLog, a service which tracks its members and then automatically creates networks based on which blogs they visit.
  • Flickr is another important social network, whose core is a photo-storage and sharing site. I integrate Flickr into at least five other social-network services mentioned here.
  • In the video department, I dabble in Sharkle, Revver and the mammoth YouYube.
  • I sometimes get sucked into an occasional story on Digg, the social news aggregator, and support friends campaigning to get voted on the front page.
  • Facebook has been a pretty active place for my social set as of late, having connected me with old friends, colleagues and interested acquaintances. And the social networking applications building on top are growing exponentially.
  • LinkedIn has been an interesting way to connect with peers in my industry.
  • Of course, I'm a registered member of MediaPost, which enables me to access other members and comment on columns, including my own.

I'm going to stop because I'm making myself dizzy. To be sure, online social networks will rise in importance and become integrated into our lives far beyond what we can imagine. But this brief recall exercise underscores that too many social-network services tend to be clunky media destinations, requiring too much intention, focused navigation and maintenance. There's only so much of my attention and effort to go around, yet still great hunger for value.

How will online social networks evolve? Already, we're seeing that the most successful ones are often those that enable preexisting networks of people to pursue their networks' objectives more easily. While that trait will continue , I believe the more successful social networks will be those we take for granted because they elegantly fall into the background while still creating value. Many will even become as utilitarian as search, where the objective is not to hang out and spend time, but to connect, transact and get the heck out. Some social networks will even travel with us wherever we go, and be present when we need them -- versus us going to them. The best ones will be open and compliant with one another, for often the best way to deliver value is to direct someone somewhere else. Google figured that out, for heaven's sake!

Of course, this evolution will require new business models. While huge scale may be out of reach for some time, social-network services must experiment and collaborate with marketers to identify new ways of connecting with consumers, while concurrently benefiting them. It's clear that today's media frameworks of advertising impressions by the tonnage are not the best answer.

Whatever becomes the future of social networks, I sure hope it includes a cure for socialnetworkitis.

Max Kalehoff is vice president of marketing for Nielsen BuzzMetrics, and author of AttentionMax.com

1 comment:

john harper said...

I like the way you wrote this up - recognizing the need and value, but also addressing the overwhelming issues of social networking. I think you are right on when you say those that will survive are the applications we take for granted.

I have been using Plaxo for about three years to keep my contacts updated. Plaxo just added Pulse which integrates my LinkedIn contacts and also add social networking aspects into their platform. I'll see how it goes with them.