The cons of current Social Networks

Maybe, just maybe let’s just assume that everything is perfect with Social Networks currently. Social Networks are going through the normal evolutionary cycle of free capitalist enterprise with Facebook stealing its soul from MySpace, the not-so-successful stories from snapchat and various other white-collar plagiarisms. People are loving being social and more-so are brands.

But I do have a few interesting observations:

  1. Humans are social by nature. Some more than others, but being social and having conversations has always been part of human nature.

2. To some degree, business has always been social. From the corner coffee shop to Starbucks to Corvette meets to Athletic events all the events have tried their maximum to be social through whichever means possible.

3. Social Networks at large (FB, Twitter), just like the internet per se, are not disrupting technologies. They are just sustaining technologies that enable disruptive business models.

Most businesses today need social media presence not to make money, but to make sure they don’t run out of their customer’s notice. Just like the telephone and the yellow page ads were in the past, businesses are using social media to stay in touch with their customers and to offer them better value proposition.

Doc Searls & Friends were correct when in 1999 they proclaimed that “Markets are Conversations”; unfortunately Madison Avenue (mis)understood it as “Conversations are Markets” which gave raise to the Banner Ads and now the “Social Marketing” which is often abused as nothing more than Banners meets Spam. To be frank, Social media has made connecting easier. Easier for people and easier for brands too. Never has it been this easy for customers to directly talk to brands and made them sweat! The awesomeness of social networks has been seen various times during the past few years, in case of various brands.

Then again with a lot of ‘Ups’ come some ‘Downs’ as well. Even with all the magic that social media has added to our lives, they do lack something.

For example if you consider the various Social networks , they are great for staying connected with existing friends but what about meeting new people and making new friends? Dunbar’s number states that the average person can only maintain 150 active connections but it’s not a static set, i.e. your 150 today are not the same 5 years ago and will not be the same 5 years from now. There is a natural desire to continually refresh your active connections which is why we hear of “Facebook fatigue” which is “the same old people posting the same old stuff.”

I believe that fulfilling the core human need to continually meet and connect with new people is the big opportunity of social discovery.

I’m just getting started , this is just one of many things that I feel is missing out in the current social media. This doesn’t mean we can’t mend it , below mentioned are things I’d want improved in the future of Social Networks .

1. Integration of the Social Networks

  • It’s not easy to keep track of all of the networks, or all of the people being followed. I have different networks on LinkedIn than I do on Facebook. My Facebook friends are different from my Twitter stream. It’s a lot of places to go. Having a single interface without a ‘single id’ would be grand. Tweetdeck does an admirable job but it has to be monitored and is limited to twitter management. Even hootsuite is more of a business management tool only. I would like to see something that works with me to notify me of things I want to know about from within my own network.

2. Tools to pull data/interactions from networks in real and past time

  • There is a lot of information out there. There’s lots of software to help companies pull relevant data from networks (Hootsuite, Radian, etc.) but few for consumers. I can’t think of a network that has made any such tool on their own. They tend to leave it to third parties which results in people looking farther and farther afield for a tool that works for them. The farther out people have to go the less likely they are to bring people with them.

3. Get rid of anonymity

  • It’s time for people to pare things down and just be themselves. Fake accounts can be funny but they diminish the value of the network. Especially in the eyes of neophytes.

4. Ownership of data

  • The ability of a person to own their own data (pictures, videos, etc.) on the cloud no matter where it is and no matter when it was posted. I understand the way things are on Facebook but they really don’t have to be that way. I should have the ability/right to remove content I have posted without fear that it still exists somewhere on the provider’s servers.

 The ability to ‘separate the wheat from the chaff’. 
 This is similar to context, but I’m thinking of something more dynamic. I want to be able to easily pull out content or interactions which are relevant to what I’m doing, or who I’m doing it with when I’m doing it. The idea about ‘history’ fits well here. The ability to go back to a ‘snapshot’ of my social network at a certain time would be powerful; more powerful than the algorithms that FB uses and better than the ‘memories’ feature of FB.

So Mark Zuckerberg are you listening?