31 January 2008

Social Networking already peaking (peaked?)

There has been a lot of speculation in looking at the most recent numbers from Comscore for Oct/Nov/Dec 2007. We are actually seeing a downturn in MySpace users in the USA. Anecdotal evidence has been floating around for some time about usage peaking and then declining after relatively short life-cycles. This is however the first time that we have seen hard evidence of this. Here is a good thread on the Blog Creative Capital... http://creativecapital.wordpress.com/2008/01/29/its-official-us-social-networking-sites-see-slow-down/

I encourage you to read it.

My personal position on the subject is to take a balanced view. I am probably a heavy web user - like most of this blog's readers. But I find Social Networking sites like MySpace and Facebook both intrusive and in many cases annoying. I am also very leery of the recent Facebook decision to open up the platform which resulted in viruses and various forms of malware spreading around. I also found the encouragement and the use of mass mailings/messages by users a time sink. Eventually I turned off all notifications from both sites. I find myself drawn to using Linked In and Plaxo as ways to maintain my address book and retain ad hoc relationships with others. Probably more useful for my business. I know many kids however who are quite happy with the management of their social relationships via Facebook. Probably the 20 somethings in New York also find this useful. It just doesn't suit me. Dopplr, Triphub and other tools are "nice" but not a useful as a utility like TripAdvisor.

From a professional perspective I regard social networking as a mixed blessing. It has changed the game for content and trust. A good counter balance for some of the crap and fluff content that has been a stable for Tourism and Travel for years. However the inconsistency bothers me. Can I rely on a single site or a single resource that is rich in one part but sparse in another one? What about the grey bits in the middle? On balance i believe it is good for the market and the industry and it has changed the game - largely an improvement. The biggest downside is that it is another facet that we have to manage. Many of our clients find that hard to swallow despite some hard evidence as to its value.

n the final analysis (and I realize I am taking a huge broad brush to this)I find it a necessary evil. But remember it's called SOCIAL networking for a reason. Its a tool and a service. Use it wisely and appropriately. Adopting it to be trendy is about as useful as taking a space on Second Life. Fun but fleeting. I predict we will see a lowering of the use and the absorbing of Social Networking tools into mainstream activity. I think also we will see a strong backlash against opening up these platforms to crass commercialism. The best analogy I can think of is to compare the utility values of eBay and Craigslist. You use both to buy and sell stuff. Both are appropriate in different cases. So it will be with private social networks, pure social nets, commercial social nets, and special interest social nets. Your life changes doesn't mean that you stay loyal to the same things you used in prior stages.

If I may quote "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things."

(1Cr 13:11 Hey you didn't know I could quote the Bible - thanks to the web I can! So I guess my parents investment in my education wasn't entirely wasted!)

I think we shall see many more things like this. Just don't expect miracles!

1 comment:

Markus Göbel's Tech News Comments said...

On Facebook people "join, accumulate dozens of semi-friends, spy on a few exes for a bit, play some Scrabulous, get bored, then get on with your life, occasionally dropping in to respond to a message or see some photos that have been posted". That's exactly what I did! I am nearly healed from the Facebook virus, just logging in once a week. Facebook is so 2007!