That’s a legitimate question. Do we really need another social network? The answer is simple. No, we do not. We do not need another social network. But do we want one? That’s a different story altogether.
In case you hadn’t noticed, there are a lot of specialized social networks that have been popping up. I try to keep up with all of them but frankly, I fall into that category of not needing another social network. Many people, though, are embracing what I like to call social sub-networks.
Most people working in social media would agree that there are “The Big Three” out there right now: Facebook, Twitter, and (questionably) LinkedIn. All serve very different purposes but all seem to play nicely with each other.
Facebook started as a membership website back in 2004 for college students. Today, it’s blossomed to one of the largest social networks in the English-speaking world. It’s personal. It’s social. It’s business and marketing.
Through Facebook apps, you can easily integrate your Facebook status with your Twitter account and also link to your LinkedIn profile.
Twitter is considered a social microblogging site. Say what’s on your mind but do it in 140 characters or less. Your tweet can be seen by anybody on Twitter but usually by the people that are following you. It’s designed to be an open platform that could be considered a goldmine for data research and analysis.
Your Twitter account can be easily linked to Facebook and LinkedIn and designated tweets can be used to update your respective statuses.
LinkedIn, while attracting a much smaller crowd, has managed to keep its head above water by combining traditional networking, social networking, and talent scounting all in one place. It’s primarily been used as a business networking site but is also focusing on social networking based on common interests. As a result, LinkedIn’s user base is well over 100 million users.
LinkedIn also allows users to easily connect their profile with their Twitter account. And through the magic of Facebook Connect, users can also link to their Facebook profile.
It’s starting to make sense, now, why it’s called a World Wide Web. It’s a tangled web, indeed.
However, the fun doesn’t stop there. Many more social networks are emerging. Will they replace one of The Big Three? Or will they simply augment them?
Back in January, I was introduced to the iPhone-only visual social network known as Instagram. Many people joined and connected with their friends on Twitter (in fact, Instagram makes it very easy to do this). Most people I know that joined created an Instagram ID to mirror their Twitter ID. Instagram eventually allowed you to add a bio and a web link, much like Twitter. And photos can also posted to your Instagram stream and to Twitter and to your Facebook profile or fan page.
It’s a subnetwork of photo-loving social network users. There is definitely activity that goes on exclusively on Instagram but users can only share with other iPhone users. Thus, the reason to share externally is much mroe attractive.
(Side note: Contrary to rumors, Instagram has no plans to create a version for the Android OS. But look for similar apps on the rise, including Lightbox.)
Recently, I’ve given in to the temptation of Pinterest. I say “temptation” because I’ve read tweets and status updates stating how some people have lost hours of their lives exploring the site. The premise is based on “pins.” You find something online that you like, you want, you need, you covet, and you pin it to your account, in a somewhat descriptive category (e.g., Food I Must Eat). People, friends, followers can view it, comment on it, repin it to their boards. It’s a bulletin board, or in more technical terms, a mash-up of everything one person finds awesome.
Can it link to Facebook and Twitter? Yes. A user can tweet or like an individual pin, thus perpetuating the whole network idea. Push the information out and pull the people in.
One final subnetwork that seems to be rising to the top is GetGlue. It’s all about entertainment: books, TV, movies, music. Rate what you like, report in on what you’re watching, and most importantly, have a conversation about it. For people like my sister, who is a diehard fan of several TV shows, she can easily connect with people who follow storylines as closely as she does.
Can you share with other member of your network? Of course, silly. You can link your account to both Twitter and Facebook so that while you’re connecting with your subnetwork of shared common interests, you’re still sharing with your social network at-large.
Oh, what a tangled web we weave. Is technology separating and isolating us? That’s a separate question entirely. But are we learning more and more about each other in the process? I’d like to think so. And I’m sure marketers would too.
What do you see as an up and coming subnetwork? Do you embrace these new social channels or are you feeling overwhelmed? Weigh in!