The Desk

September 13, 2007

Where Are the Community Members?

Filed under: Networking — Yvonne LaRose @ 7:27 PM

These days, social networking sites are popping up like flies on honey. They’re all over the place. Each has a unique twist, an appeal to a particular demographic, features that create stickiness and viral use. They all promote connectivity. I won’t even attempt to name all of them. But last year Hi5 hit the scene. LiveJournal was actually supposed to be a blogging site but turned social. MySpace and FaceBook had their day in the teen sun.

The youth got us started. Adults started getting interested. We then acquired Eons which is supposed to be appealing to the ancients (aka Baby Boomers). I still think they need to come up with a better name for the site. Ning and Xanga and Xing have exploded.

InfoWorld IT ExecConnect sprang up daring to connect IT pros with one another and enhance their knowledge of tech matters. Ziggs was around but burrowed in deeper to offer professionals a venue for business-related networking and connection. Ryze and Jigsaw keep doing what they do. And we have our long-standing communities that started as discussion boards that are striving to continue as discussion boards without giving up their traditional personalities in order to yield to Web 2.0 attributes.

Because of Web 2.0 features, we can now know in an instant whether our friend or desired contact is online or not. However, none of these sites (except for Ziggs) offer a means of contacting our presently online friend. So this form of voyeurism is a bit puzzling to me. But we know they’re online.

So Many Places, So Many Friends

There’re so many places to network. These are opportunities to meet new people, make new connections, develop new relationships, expand, leverage our people power. Instead, most people are joining a community and then using their address book to bring everyone they’ve known on one site into the new one. It’s good to have some familiar faces about us when we’re new on the block. It get’s lonely when you’re the first. But to how many places are we going to drag our “friends” before we settle down and just get acquainted with who’s there? Why not set up our little island and develop some of the indiginees as friends and then tell our friends from other places (maybe) about these great folks who have some commonalities with them?

The complaint that’s starting to rise from our address book compatriots is that there are so many networks that it’s difficult to keep up with what’s happening and even more difficult to get actual work done. (Imagine that!)

The reaction to people not getting much of their work done, the stuff that they’re required to do in order to earn their salary (that does all those frivolous things like pay bills, buy food and clothing, put the kids through another week of school, get a dumb toy for the pet), is that they’re monitoring their own activity and putting curbs on where they go as well as how long and how often. It isn’t unusual to go to some of the more popular networks and see the conversations have dropped significantly. Where there had been nearly daily conversations running from numerous members, now it isn’t uncommon to find a solitary post from one member in a week, with no responses nor other conversations. Why? Because the attention of people is being torn in too many directions. There simply isn’t enough time. More importantly, the conversation started on one of the Ning networks is very likely the same conversation that’s running on one of the recruiter or HR networks, with all of the same participants raising the same objections, speculations, projections, and answers.

Thinning Things Out

The social networking scene is glutted. It’s over-saturated. What we need is to have a few of these networks stop trying to compete for our attention in nearly the same way and start developing a personality, a brand, that makes the site unique for a particular purpose. Ziggs has succeeded in doing this. They are definitely a business networking site. Ryze is for marketing minds, or rather, for sales minds. The safety factor on that site is that it’s so extremely difficult to figure out how to add someone to your network that you’re nearly completely insulated. ZoomInfo is not so much a networking site as a search site. There are few, if any, toys. I appreciate the fact that they’ve chosen to differentiate themselves in these ways.

And I also appreciate InfoWorld IT ExecConnect because of their unique stance. I just wish they were more sticky and more viral. It’s necessary to log in each time you want to use the site and you nearly need to live in the community in order to know what’s happening. I’ve found communication there is quite limited, and disappointing. But they do offer periodic email notices about select events and white papers. I enjoyed their older sibling, TechRepublic, much more because they encouraged interaction among members and awarded points for answering questions and offering solutions. The articles had great quality and the content was not only interesting but useful in many ways.

In this regard, however, I also appreciate LinkedIn. They started out as a connection hub. They’ve expanded their palate in order to make connecting with others a more professional event and not a wholesale business card swap. (So much more civilized.) They’ve begun encouraging networking and collaborating by nurturing conversations through strategically worded questions and answers. These then help disclose expertise and knowledge in particular areas and ways to substantiate that knowledge. With LinkedIn, they’ve managed to resist the “upload your image” syndrome that many other sites have adopted. I still like this. I like the guessing game and the disclosure when I am browsing on another site. It’s a bit like having a phone friend and then finally meeting them in person at the department store.

Peaks and Valleys

It would be interesting to do a study of both the older web communities and the new ones to see when the greatest number of users site and use the site to comment or post information. The next measure would be to determine the type of contributions members are making. From that data, the site could determine what is more meaningful to its constituency and when their visits are likely to occur. It could be that some of these sites need to be optimized for certain types of content during certain hours of the day and allowed to “rest” at others. During the peak hours would be the best time to offer the more popular services and goods while the basic services stand alone to serve as and when needed.

Are any of you community builders listening?

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Beyond.com Careers. Business. Life. Go Beyond!

2 Comments »

  1. I hope you’ll continue to enjoy the content on this blog and its companions, The Consultant’s Desk, and The Pundit.

    Like

    Comment by Yvonne LaRose — January 30, 2008 @ 11:12 PM | Reply

  2. Stumbled upon your blog a week ago and decided to come back. Not for the articles you write, but for how you write them, really amazing stuff you’re doing here, I like how you put information into the articles which makes it much more easier to read and much more interesting of course. Keep up the good work!

    Like

    Comment by navtej kohli — January 30, 2008 @ 11:01 AM | Reply


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