On June 28th, 2011, Google added its shiny new toy to the social networking space.
Although it has only been about two weeks since the launch of Google+, many blog posts and news articles have already been written about it.
Some talk about the features of Google+, some focus on its potential business uses, and others speculate that its introduction could mark the beginning of the end for Facebook or Twitter.
Although I received a Google+ invite on Monday, I haven’t taken the time to explore it yet. Therefore, I’m going to wait a while before I weigh in on these topics.
Instead, I want to focus on one of the key benefits of a social networking site, in general.
Access to Thought Leaders
In a recent post on spinsucks.com, titled “Three Reasons Twitter Is Beginning to Suck,” Kary Delaria, a digital PR strategist and social media research analyst for Kane Consulting, explains why she feels Twitter has lost some of its value.
“Some people have stopped playing altogether,” is among her top three reasons listed in the post.
“A handful of thought-leaders who I used to really enjoy having in my timeline have grown their networks to the point where the possibility of engagement is almost non-existent,” she writes. “When you have more than 20,000 followers, you can’t really stop using the platform. I think that, in order [to] maintain presence, their content has become very robotic and sanitized, void of any true engagement. My guess is that they’ve moved to other platforms for their engagement and are doing so with a smaller, more manageable (and “elite”) group.”
Although I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Twitter is beginning to suck, I wholeheartedly agree with the point that she is making.
What I’m beginning to wonder is whether or not this is just part of the life cycle of a social networking site. That is, in the beginning, you get a lot of thought leaders flocking to the new social networking site, looking to learn as much as they can about it is so that they can either find ways to use it to build their own businesses or become experts so that can explain the value of the particular social networking site to other businesses. In the process, they connect with other thought leaders who are doing the same thing, and for a while, the new social networking site is an extremely valuable resource to them. And then, as it becomes more mainstream, it loses part of its value, for the same reasons that Kary Delaria pointed out in her post. (Or, if it doesn’t catch on, it disappears altogether.)
In a recent blog post on chrisbrogan.com, titled “Using Google Plus to Source Ideas,” Chris Brogan writes, “For a long time, I’ve used Twitter to help pull together ideas. Since jumping on Google+ however, I’ve found that so many more people respond, and that there’s a great range of potential answers given to questions. Because comments exist under the post, I don’t lose them in my stream the way I do in Twitter.”
Chris Brogan is definitely pointing out some potential benefits of Google+ in his post. However, as the network grows in size, I wonder if he will still get more responses to questions on Google+ than he does on Twitter.
A Perfect Social Networking Site
From a marketing standpoint, I think the perfect social networking site is one that is used by as many people as possible.
However, from a user’s perspective, this is not always true.
The type of social networking site and your purpose for using it in the first place definitely influences your opinion on this matter.
For example, if you are using a social networking site similar to Yelp, which has a review component baked-in, more people joining the network means that there will be more people who will potentially review the product or service that you are interested in. In this case, adding people to the network makes the site more valuable.
On the other hand, if you want to have access to experts in your particular field of interest, more people on the site may decrease the likelihood that your question will be heard in the first place, thus decreasing the value of the social networking site.
With that said, I wonder if there will ever be a social networking site that is valuable enough to attract and keep the attention of thought leaders, while remaining small enough so that people can actually connect with them and exchange ideas. Is Google+ that network? Or, are new social networking sites needed every so often in order to serve this purpose?