When Social Networks Collide

Ed Sim, asks whether LinkedIn and FaceBook are on a collision course?

The underlying question, is each currently targeting different social networks? Or are there networks starting to overlap? If it’s the latter, how long will people maintain, and consistently interact with two sites offering similar services. Ed asks:

“wouldn’t it be great if there was a meta-service where you only maintained one user profile and you could check off which details were fed into which different social networks.”

It’s a good question and interesting proposal – though I’m not sure it’s the right one.

What’s good about Ed’s proposal is that it recognizes that the future value of these services will sit in one of two places:

– assembling a large inclusive personal network
– applications that provide new ways to associate and interact.

To date all social network sites have been geared to building the former by providing enough of the latter to be sticky and viral. This has naturally resulted in them seeing all relationships as equal, as that offers the best opportunities for viral growth. The down side is that it doesn’t map as effectively to actual social networks – and results in a proliferation of profiles and applications that are incompatible and incomplete.

Take the suggestion that LinkedIn is for ones professional network and FaceBook for ones social one.  This dichotomy suggests that people are two dimensional when in fact relationships are a good deal more fluid and multi-dimensional as demonstrated by the people who have friends and contacts in both applications. For these people the separation is artificial.

The truth is that social applications don’t do a good job of defining (and tracking) the degree of friendship or affiliation. One may be a good friend or important business contact at one time and reverse those roles at another place. Time may reduce or increase friendship, while recent or ancient engagements, personal / professional goals and the ever changing state of reciprocity within the relationship always come into play – except on social sites.

There are immense opportunities for applications to present and filter profile information to reflect the shifting shape of our social lives – especially as these applications become more mobile and relate to presence of others in our network.

I think a meta-service is necessary but that the profile associated with it should be very light and ideally the relationships mapped should be built through a reciprocal exchange of information as applications access the meta-service.

This leaves enough flexibility and value at the application layer for groups to innovate beyond the current one dimensional static relationship that dominates current social sites.

3 thoughts on “When Social Networks Collide

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