Are all social networks the same? Are all Chinese slant-eyed geeks? Are all blacks the same? Are we asking the wrong questions?
As with race issues, a little knowledge leading to general ignorance shouldn't be tolerated.
What's a Friend Worth?
The cover of the June issue of BusinessWeek asks, "What's a Friend Worth?" Not to single out BW, but many primary news organizations have promoted the same thinking - flawed thinking.
The assumption that all social networks depend on the notion of expanding circles of friends makes them all the same. This notion IS in common among Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, NYTimes, and others are trying to copy the same notion. Thus, are all social networks the same?
Only to superficial analysts who can't see beyond the color of faces.
Facebook for Friends
Facebook is about past friends. I've reconnected with hundreds of old friends via Facebook.
Facebook is not particularly effective for making new friends. The policy for dual agreement to connect - slows one's ability to gain connections on Facebook. With my open policy to connect, about 150 of my connections are new. And many of those who spam frequently, I wish I had not connected with them at all.
LinkedIn for Business Development
LinkedIn is about business connections - some old, some new.
LinkedIn is not effective for maintaining touch among friends. LinkedIn does do a good job to introduce people with common business interests.
Twitter for List Development
Twitter is not for friends, but for lists.
A minority may use Twitter to maintain touch among true friends. But, it's not particularly rich in features to support contact management.
In reality, Twitter is list management. Celebrities use it to manage their fan base. Millions compete to develop their mutual lists. It's an adult game, popular among marketers and entrepreneurs.
Everyone loves it for receiving, sharing, and distributing information.
Myspace is Neverland
Myspace was the leader. I'm not sure what community they serve. Not surprisingly, they are losing share rapidly to the new leaders.
What will happen to Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and NYTimes' efforts to build social networks? If they have poor execution and follow the mixed vision from the likes of Business Week, they will have the same future as Myspace. With a clear vision, there's room for more communities based on the common social network notion.
When social networks copy features from each other, are they moving to displace the other?
The stronger companies will copy only those features that reinforce their position in the marketplace. We don't need alarming headlines that suggest XYZ is after ABC by copying one feature of their services.
American capitalism requires competition. It also makes great headlines. But, don't believe everything you read.
What's a Friend Worth?
Back to the question of the worth of a friend. Is it a relevant question - given the different focus of the various sites?
Is a subscriber a friend? Is a friend a friend? Is a follower a friend? Is a connection a friend?
Apples and oranges.