Is there such a thing as “too social?”

Diluted When I talk to clients and colleagues about social networks, most think of LinkedIn and Facebook.  A few more familiar with social media will talk about Twitter and other bookmarking tools like Delicious and StumbleUpon.  Lately, I am seeing niche social networks pop up through Ning and other tools.  With the profileration of community building online, is there a danger that communities become too diluted?

Take the following examples.  I was recently recruited by the business folks behind local Boston sports personality Jerry Remy to join Sawxheads.com, a community for passionate Red Sox fans.  Within minutes of joining, I had a few dozen connection requests from complete strangers – our only bond a passion for the good guys.  The community allows "friending," blog posts that are proprietary to the network, and the equivalent of Facebook wall posts.  The Boston chapter of the American Marketing Association has also changed up how folks interact with the site adding many social features, like ""friending" and wall posts as well.  (It's actually pretty slick – if you are a member please feel free to connect with me.)  Not too shabby. 

Here's the problem: I want to go to one place, one portal, to get all of my social activity.  I'd almost prefer the front end of Facebook as a single 'portal' that I can access from there, and to maintain contacts in one place.  Do we really need to perpetuate the YASN acronym?  Yet another social network?  I love the idea of connecting with other Sox fans, but I don't like the idea of another profile to update, another source of BACN with all of the connection requests, etc.  There is lots of proprietary content on Sawxheads, and maybe if I could RSS stream the activity to Google Reader it would be a lot easier to digest in one place.

There are startups looking to carry the torch on being content aggregators, whether it's merging activity streams to centralizing the management of profiles.  It seems a long ways off before the pain becomes so compelling that these services will emerge as mainstream…but I think it's going in that direction.  In some upcoming posts I am going to explore the functionality of some of these tools, thanks to some of the folks who have reached out to me to ask for a point of view.  This could be interesting – but hopefully each solves a fundamental problem of spreading out that social goodness too thinly.

Photo credit: cayusa via Flickr

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  • Hi Adam, I’m slightly confused how this portal you’re asking for is different than, say, FriendFeed, a social network aggregator that allows one to see any social media action performed on any network that is set up to be shared.
    Or, are you suggesting in lieu of different social networks that perform different functions and cause you to update your status more than once, that you would prefer typing it in one location and having a reverse RSS go out and disseminate your status to applicable networks? Because that is already an option, as you can use tools like Twhirl to update Twitter, Pownce, and Jaiku simultaneously.

  • Hi Adam, I’m slightly confused how this portal you’re asking for is different than, say, FriendFeed, a social network aggregator that allows one to see any social media action performed on any network that is set up to be shared.

    Or, are you suggesting in lieu of different social networks that perform different functions and cause you to update your status more than once, that you would prefer typing it in one location and having a reverse RSS go out and disseminate your status to applicable networks? Because that is already an option, as you can use tools like Twhirl to update Twitter, Pownce, and Jaiku simultaneously.

  • Hi Ari,
    I like the concept of Friendfeed a lot and it’s a good start. I wish I could do the same functionality as Friendfeed in Facebook with a much more functional UI/email/etc.
    The main features I would look for:
    1) One profile to maintain
    2) One list of contacts/connections
    3) One place to view the activity
    Friendfeed is probably the best thing out there so far but only covers 2 and 3 – and most of my contacts are in Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – not in FF. Now add in other niche networks and I have to go there for 1, 2 and 3 related to that network…it’s watering down the value in the social networks I’m already invested in.
    Thanks for the thoughts!

  • Hi Ari,
    I like the concept of Friendfeed a lot and it’s a good start. I wish I could do the same functionality as Friendfeed in Facebook with a much more functional UI/email/etc.

    The main features I would look for:
    1) One profile to maintain
    2) One list of contacts/connections
    3) One place to view the activity

    Friendfeed is probably the best thing out there so far but only covers 2 and 3 – and most of my contacts are in Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – not in FF. Now add in other niche networks and I have to go there for 1, 2 and 3 related to that network…it’s watering down the value in the social networks I’m already invested in.

    Thanks for the thoughts!

  • My concern is a bit different. I don’t mind multiple signups, and I don’t think it makes sense to move “friends” from one network to another given the different focus that each network has. My greater concern is participation and comment creation. I care a lot about commenting, and having one more place to interact and create content is a real barrier for me. I don’t know how common this is though.

  • My concern is a bit different. I don’t mind multiple signups, and I don’t think it makes sense to move “friends” from one network to another given the different focus that each network has. My greater concern is participation and comment creation. I care a lot about commenting, and having one more place to interact and create content is a real barrier for me. I don’t know how common this is though.

  • Adam: Have you looked at ping.fm? It doesn’t answer your question, per se, but it does enable you with a single action to update your status messages on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Friendster, Bebo, Plurk, and about 20 other social networking sites.

  • Adam: Have you looked at ping.fm? It doesn’t answer your question, per se, but it does enable you with a single action to update your status messages on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Friendster, Bebo, Plurk, and about 20 other social networking sites.