Trying to explain social networking to an outsider is like trying to explain a rainbow to a blind man. There really is a little bit of something for everyone. While social media marketing fascinates the bejeezus out of me, the underlying infrastructure is what makes the profitability of the whole shebang possible.
Any decent social networking IP can provide satisfaction for its user base completely on its own. But the real beauty of social networking is integration between multiple IP’s. My good friend Jolie O’Dell wrote a pretty comprehensive piece about the pitfalls of aggregators, and status-pushing and file pushing services here. With that in mind, I’m not going to get too into that part of the equation as she is by far a more qualified subject matter expert than me.
What I am saying is that the integration between the many SN services that I use have truly simplified my life. I’m the type of person who starts to keep a journal for a couple weeks, updates it religiously, then abandons the whole idea within a matter of weeks. It’s not that I don’t want to keep a log of the events of my life. I’m just an impatient person and possibly A.D.D. If I had to track down all of my friends across multiple social networks, link them to the pictures that I want to share, and type out the same updates redundantly, I would have walked away from this mess months ago.
But Jolie does bring up an excellent point. We’re discarding the need to post the same updates over and over again by redundantly pushing the same updates to our friends and peers. Here’s my example. Whenever I send a new photo to my Flickr Photostream, it sends the title and a link to the photo to my Twitter timeline. It also sends a thumbnail and link to my Facebook page. On top of that, whenever I send an update to Twitter, it pushes that content to Facebook. You see the problem?
People who follow me on Twitter and are also my friends on Facebook see the same Flickr update twice. But the problem doesn’t stop there. Facebook also receives the update that was sent to Twitter. So now my Facebook page shows the Flickr update twice. Friends who follow me on both networks have now seen either the picture or the link three times. But from a usability standpoint, the problem is also the solution. I’ve never received an angry message from a friend stating that my redundancy irritates them.
I guess my point is that, for a casual social networking user, redundancy is OK. I have to believe that my “real” friends would rather deal with the redundancy than not get updates from me at all. And let’s be honest: if I didn’t have the integration between Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr, they’d all be so disconnected that friends on all three networks wouldn’t experience a very comprehensive view of my life.
There are other services that I use that get pushed to Twitter and, consequently, Facebook, just not as frequently. I like what Blip.fm is doing. It reminds me of what MySpace included on their blog entry page. Music has always been such a huge part of my life, so I’m a big fan of including music updates in my “lifestream.” But I honestly think I’d use the service more if it were integrated into one of the IP’s that I do use daily. I think Kevin Rose and Leah Culver had the right idea with Pownce. It just never took off.
Third party apps like TweetDeck and Seesmic Desktop are starting to fill some of the gaps. But when is a comprehensive social networking intellectual property going to step forward and make all of the redundant content-pushing obsolete? I don’t think we’re ever going to consolidate the whole shebang into one central location. But I do think it’s possible to push all of our content from one source to multiple networks and still have control over what updates go to each individual network.
This is getting wordy, but I’d like to give an example of what I’m talking about. I’m not looking for just an aggregator. In fact, I’m looking for the exact opposite in addition to being an aggregator. I’m looking for a central content-pusher that allows me to choose which networks my updates get pushed to. I’d like it to be split up in tabs a la recent web browsers. One tab would pull my friends’ Twitter updates. One tab would pull my Facebook account. But the most important tab would be for updates that are pushed to the various networks.
I’d like a place to input text and attach files. If it’s a photo, I’d like to be able to have a default image recipient of my choice. Maybe that’s Flickr. Maybe that’s TwitPic. If I want to push a video, I’d like to have the option to send it to YouTube, Vimeo, and/or another service. I’d like to decide if I want links or thumbnails to be sent to Twitter, Facebook, etc. Either way, the interface needs to be completely customizable on the fly. I’d like it to be as simple as checking boxes to determine if the update is pushed to all of my social networks, just one, or a few, but not all. Is this really that groundbreaking of a concept? Or is the R&D just pricier than startups are willing to part with for an IP that might be difficult to monetize?
Wow. This post was intended to be an homage to the beauty of integration amongst social networking IP’s. Instead, it turned into a diatribe about its shortcomings. Nonetheless, I am a fan of the simplification of sharing updates of various forms of media across multiple social networks. I just think the whole thing needs to be tweaked. An improved Twitter might be the answer. If not, there’s a gaping hole out there that can be filled by an ambitious upstart. Either way, things are getting more exciting every day. I can’t imagine how Noah will be networking with people ten years from now.