Social Networking – I Still Don’t Get It (Actually, I Do)

My partner Gary Rieschel was recently part of a Time Magazine roundtable that has shown up in an article titled Start-Up Your Engines! One of the topics that came up was social networking. Judith Meskill wrote about the exchange in her post on The Social Software Weblog titled Social Networking Glut = Greater Than Four.

To date, my personal experience with social networking services (yes – I’m a member of many of them – just to see how they work) is that it’s content enhanced spam. For example, so far I’ve received about 300 linkedin request and have accepted 108 requests (hence – having 108 connections). From these connections (directly or indirectly), I’ve received about 10 actual requests for something with only two of them either (a) appearing remotely interesting or (b) from people I felt comfortable hooking up. So – there have probably been 1000 emails involved in this experience, at least 300 visits to the linkedin web site, and absolutely no value to me.

My conclusion is that the current construct of social networking is a feature of a product. So – the concept of a “social networking company” doesn’t make sense to me. When combined with something like a blog search engine, you start to get somewhere. David Sifry from Technorati and I were talking about this today – you can start to see where my network, combined with what I’m interested, who I’m interested in, and who I’m connected to starts to become more interesting.

Now, I know that Tickle was just acquired by Monster Worldwide for about $90m and that ZeroDegrees was acqured by InterActiveCorp (although I don’t know the price). While Tickle had a very nice ad revenue business (the press release says TTM was $25m), you can see that Monster bought Tickle not for the ad revenue (although that helps), but for the “Online Assessment Testing” feature for Monster’s onlne recruiting product.

So – look for the feature of “social networking” evolving into something broader as the cross product of two other constructs (thing-of-real-value = social-networking x something-else).