Utility in Social Media

I started cre8Buzz in 2006. cre8Buzz was about accelerating exposure for the little guy. We wanted to create a way for the content of the masses to be seen. A sort of long tail accelerator. cre8Buzz didn’t make it and we shut the doors in 2008. (you can read about the buzz here) Tons of social networks have come and gone in the last 3 years and I’m seeing a trend. Like everything else in our lives, social networks that provide utility are the ones that work. Regardless of their features and functions, Social Networks need to provide utility.

LinkedIn has become the leader in professional development and networking. It’s utility lies in connecting professionals with other professionals, in helping them find jobs and connect in groups around similar professions.

Facebook, is the personal site. Yes, many companies are using it for marketing, but the majority of users are connecting with H.S. friends, finding old acquaintances and staying connected with their current friends. Facebook, to me is about the personal relationship. I don’t have a lot friends or followers on Facebook, just good friends and acquaintances. I am creating a Facebook page for my larger online network of friends and followers.

Twitter is about branding (personal or corporate), broadcast messaging and realtime search. Twitter is a great online marketing tool. Providing people looking to distributed information or get information an easy way to do it. Twitter corrals the masses. With no intended recipient Twitters lob stuff out and see what happens. Twitter has created a platform for dynamic information flow and network building.

MySpace is declining in it’s numbers. They’ve laid off 400 people. Why? Because their utility is quickly becoming niche. Myspace is the place to find cool new bands. It’s the place to discover new music and talented musicians. It’s utility as a meeting place to hang out with friends is waning, they can thank Facebook for that. I think in a few years, Myspace’s value will be strictly for fans and bands to connect. It will be a music site.

As the use of social networks grows, we will become increasingly particular on how we use them. We are going to expect that they provide some sort of value. We will expect them to integrate into our lives. Social networks will not longer be a hobby or strictly entertainment but an integrated component of our lives that we rely on to accomplish things. Facebook may become our new contact manager or phonebook, where we dynamically manage our friends and family. Twitter may become our news channel and search engine. LinkedIn may replace resumes and cover letters and become a career development platform.

Social Networks are becoming increasingly utility driven. Users on them today, look to get specific value from those they use. People not on them are asking; “why?” They are looking for a reason to invest their time. They are looking for a return on that time. They’re looking for utility. I think we will see an increase in the utility we get from Social networks. As users are going to want more meat and less fluff.

I think this trend is only going to increase. It’s happening already. Have we seen the last of new social networks? I’m not sure. Although, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and MySpace to small degree have the key area’s covered. I think we will see them look for more ways to add value. I suspect they will create more hooks into our lives making them that much more integrated and that much more difficult to for us to unhook.

I see us looking at social networks through a lens of value. We are moving into a the next phase of social networking, and this phase is not about the cuteness or the fun, but the value. Users will relentlessly ask, what can you do for me today and the answer better be good . . . or their gone.