Jan 24, 2008

Facebook Redux: Social Media Gets Less Social, More Useful

One of the things I’ve noticed about Facebook lately is that it demands a lot more of your time. It’s not just about posting updates and pictures anymore: there are movie quizzes and Scrabulous (for now) and zombie attacks and well, all sorts of things that can keep you very occupied. And the thing is that while most of my good friends are now on Facebook, few of them have the time to do something "newsworthy" with it on a daily basis. That means most of the updates I read, most of the movie challenges I receive and most of the new photos I can look at are from people I’m not especially close with.

And that’s made Facebook more of a solitary activity for me. There are enough links posted on there, enough random groups listed, enough sponsored trivia quizzes, that on days where none of the people I care about have actually bothered to post something new on Facebook, I can easily kill a half hour without ever interacting with another person or their profile.

Now that’s a radical change for something called “social media” and while it’s not always my experience when I’m on there, I’m beginning to think it’s where social media are evolving.

Sites like Facebook will basically function as portals, doors through which you can find a world of sponsored and unsponsored content, while still keeping up with your greater circle of friends and acquaintances. Think MyYahoo or iGoogle with social updates. Or even an updated version of the old AOL.

And that works for me. Because it’s only a matter of time before Facebook figures out a way to let me have more control over my social content. To make sure that on days where none of the 10 people I designate have written status updates, that field is left blank. Once that happens, other content slides in to fill in the void. Like maybe some headlines from The New York Times. NBA scores. A widget with the weather forecast. Some movie schedules. You know, the usual portal stuff.

That’s going to make social media far more useful to all the adults out there, the ones who make up the vast majority of our population and who were never going to become social media addicts, for all the reasons I laid out in Social Media Is Only Social If You’re Alone. They have social lives that are important to them. Just not that important. So a site that gives them the best of both worlds would be very welcome.

Now all someone has to do is build it.


DusanVrban said...

Only one thing I can add: Yeap! :-) Actually I wouldn't reccomend it to social media sites, to become useful.

They should stay focused od social, which means they are dealing with specific target group that has a great need for socialising.

I am even wondering if it is good for social media sites to cover many groups at once (me and some young teenager)?

Anonymous said...

funny thing about all the time one spends on these sites: it actually stops them from spending time with people in an actual social situation, i.e.; bars, movies, dates, etc.

and while the merits of digital socializing might be there, when you actually get to the physical part, you have to do it again: start the conversation, have the discussion about where to eat, etc.

the value as a marketing gold mine is yet to shown.

as dun points out, however, it is a gold mine for weird interactions without actual physical markers sending signals across the room. the hot teenager might never speak to you if she what you looked like at the bar, but as there's no bar....

Jonathan Trenn said...

Oooh you are so right.

The constant barrage of Pokes, SuperPokes, Wolfbites, etc. has made me us it much less. My profile has become perhaps a well-intentioned harassment page.

Anonymous said...

Interesting POV TT. Thing is I never viewed sites like FB as portals in the traditional sense of my Excite homepage, where I have sports/headlines/weather. Although with all its new apps and groups it may well become that, it may well also end up skewing the idea of what our generation knows as a portal.

Seems Gen i/text views them now as ways into their friends’ lives, (“What's so and so listening to, what are they watching, etc.”) rather than checking out a sports score or the weather somewhere.

For me FB is but one destination in the day. Actually never dawned on me to check out blog posts from people because I already read their blogs directly or via Google reader.

You tend to notice though that most new social media sites are all jockeying for position, each trying to build their own communities and be THE place to hang out. “Oooh, Mr. Kotter, pick me, pick me!” and all that.

But it feels more like carnival barkers trying to get you to come in and see the hairy three-armed woman. (GREAT exhibit btw.)

Doesn’t it feel as if what’s happening though is that all these sites are doing is creating different ways to do the same thing: blog, IM someone, save favorites, etc. How many sites can people do this on?

Every time I turn around, some SM app is offering me blog capabilities. Even the directory I use for MTLB, Bloglines, asks me to set up a blog. Really, c’mon guys, it’s too much.

Why should I now have to come up with content for 11 different blogs? FB integrated Twitter so people could read updates there. Cool.

So why can’t it simple take the feed from whatever blogging platform you use, Wordpress, TypePad, Blogger, etc.

I do like one big feature of FB or an AdGAbber, in that it does allow a level of privacy–to a degree–where people in the same industry can hang.

Even that experience though gets co-opted by advertisers on FB too much lately.

Anonymous said...

Well lets see ... I have www.netvibes.com as my homepage portal, where I have all my different email accounts, my social networks,my news, my weather and my RSS fees in one. So I do not need FB for that.
I do not blog via FB (for obvious reasons).
I see FB becoming a great online dating site. Think about it ... your profile has your friends, your intrests, your education information, your work information, and plenty of pictures of you .. some which are unflattering.
Yes this is more true for those under 35 and it will only work as long as FB does not advertise itself as an "online dating site".

Anonymous said...

Interesting. And I find FB to be the consummate example of YBINMF now.

Anonymous said...

Facebook to me feels like i'm staying at a big hotel with a bunch of people i kind of know but have a tenuous relationship with in real life.

and it gives that tenuous relationship some life it wouldn't otherwise have. and that feels valuable.

mtlb knows a LOT about FB btw.

Anonymous said...

“mtlb knows a LOT about FB btw.”

Lol, yeah, I’m that annoying group of kids running up and down the hall when you're trying to get sleep.

Anonymous said...

i think jane hit squarely on the head...when you 're getting up to speed with the social networking thing, you have a fascination with the new (the facebooks, myspaces, second lives, et al).

as you learn about yourself and your world and how it intermingles, you set up your gateway to accommodate your needs and these things fall in and out of favor for more practical lines of interaction.

there will always be a wave of "did you see ______.com? AWESOME!" people to populate these sites.

do marketers really want to tap into the friendsters, etc., to try to eek out the 2% ROI of a dying crowd?

Alan Wolk said...

Sorry to catch up so late - was away for the weekend.

@Jane: I think NetVibes is starting to get it right, but their interface is still too limited for my tastes- it's pretty rudimentary. I was thinking that FB would find a way to make a more customized version of its newsfeed the main functionality of its site. As I mentioned on your blog, I think FB usage changes dramatically once you start working due to privacy concerns with employers and lack of time to devote to updating and maintaining your page, which is crucial to the success of any sort of network.

@MTLB: The Kotter reference is perfect. Even if it does age us.

@LD: I agree- the % of heavy social media users is a small and ever-shifting one.

Anonymous said...

I know this about social networks. For the people i am closest to, I can have a real life conversation but have never been even able to recreate that on a telephone after having lived with one all my life.

However, since facebook, which i never participated in, chooses to recreate me being in a person's living space with all its sensory guns charging into my brain, perhaps the conversations become more real or more superficial depending on your conversation type and ability to sit in someone else's dorm/living room and absorb what is happening.