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