Social Media, What Next?

Hybrids come naturally in most businesses. Hybrid products/ services. The easiest example that comes to mind, is the BMW X6 (something between an SUV and a sedan). I don’t think that particular line has been very popular, though it does look massive, and reasonably cool. A more common hybrid is a mutual fund or similar investment program. Another recent hybrid is the Connected Camera by Samsung. We are surrounded by hybrids.

Hybrids attempt to give you the good of two or more worlds, and unfortunately more often than not,  not the best of those worlds.

Surprisingly, I don’t see any hybrid social media sites yet, that have tried to take a shot at Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (unarguably the top 3 social media sites on the net today) by capturing the good bits from all three.

All three lack certain features, or are an overkill when it comes to certain  features. And they’ve been around long enough for some, if not a lot of us to have started getting bored of them. Here are some of the lacking & overkill features.

Facebook recently added a ton of sections to the Timeline (I know a good number of people who find the Timeline itself way too complicated). Anyway, the new sections include one for movies you’ve watched (bringing to you, the likes of themoviedb, etc.), for books you’ve read (that’s like shelfari or goodreads on FB), for tv shows (phew.!). All in all, overkill.!

LinkedIn’s got a lot missing. It won’t let you add an acquaintance without knowing their mail id. But if you select that person as a friend, it doesn’t complain. Then why the fuss differentiating between everyone from an acquaintance to a long-lost childhood friend? Look at it differently, and I might raise an eyebrow (if I could) if someone I’d just interacted briefly with at a conference added me as a “friend” on LinkedIn. The discussions pages on LinkedIn are just bleeding boring. Plain, dull, and I think its something to do with the layout as well.  Sleep-inducing. I’ve already written enough about my reservations with the endorse feature already.

And a la Twitter, while quite progressive in thought with the ‘all-you-can-do-with-140-chars’, could have been way more useful from an information sharing point-of-view, if the limit was more like, say a paragraph. Because unless you’re at a school chatting with friends or reading one-liners or short jokes off my Twitter page, apart from getting news updates, most of the interesting stuff is still a click-of-a-short-link away. And the click takes you to a big post or news article. I have a view about a lot of things, but it’s difficult to sit them comfortably in 140 chars. Now imagine if you could tweet a short-link along with a short note sharing your views about a certain event or news item. Kind of like a comment on FB. Maybe even have a conversation about it there  with like-minded people. Wouldn’t that make Twitter more interesting?

What I had in mind about a new social media site, is a hybrid that can be used for professional as well as personal purposes. Firstly, because it would be less complicated than managing stuff across 3 or more sites. And because I believe for most of us, our Facebook profiles would be a better reflection of who we are in real life (if you’re extremely formal and uptight, and are more at home on LinkedIn than for FB, that too would reflect easily on FB, right?) Instead of everyone looking all formal and uptight on LinkedIn when they may be just the opposite in real life and on FB. It would even make it more accurate for your colleagues or prospective employers to understand your personality better (of course, they’d only have a limited view), enabling better job fits. LinkedIn is a little too formal, a little lacking and quite boring. Facebook’s alright to stay connected. And Twitter does really well when it comes to communication, but it does feel a little too restrictive.

So if you do plan to create such a site after reading this, I wouldn’t mind 15% of revenues or the venture funding received 😉

Just kidding there, but let me have your thoughts on it. On what next after Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn?

What Next

Social Media images:Courtesy sayingitsocial and DesignBolts

Like Endorsing, Endorse Liking?

We all remember the notorious financial meltdown of 2007-08 that washed away a lot of dreams. We all know why it happened. Some wise (read greedy) people built a huge structure on an extremely very weak foundation (sub-prime mortgage). And then went ahead and added floor over floor to their fantasy at the cost of the masses, till the foundation and everything with it, buckled.

While the ‘Like’ on Facebook (FB) and ‘Endorsements’ on LinkedIn (LI) probably could not, and definitely would not cause any such global shock wave, it is interesting to see how we are adding to its weak foundation, floor by floor, and to see what might happen when it buckles, and buckle it will.

Paid, Forced or Uninformed ‘Likes’ on FB, and ‘Endorsing skills’ without being sure on LI, are really creating a big mountain of unconfirmed information, which at best, is questionable.

Quite some time ago, when I’d see a few hundred likes on an business’s service page on FB, I’d assume it was probably a respectable/ liked business/ service. But once you know that Likes can be bought, or when you get ‘Like Requests’ from friends & acquaintances that almost forced you to like a page (most FB like requests I receive read like this ‘Hi Shrutin, please like this page [link].’), and when you see people around you obliging to such requests, then those hundred likes don’t seem that impressive any more.

On LI, people endorse skills of their contacts. Which, literally is vouching for a skill that your contact claims she or he possesses. I consider vouching a responsibility, especially since that endorsement is public. It means you know, and acknowledge that your contact is good at, or even just knows, the particular skill that you have endorsed them for. And when you get endorsed for a skill by people you haven’t been in touch for a while, and you are dead sure they haven’t a clue whether you even know that skill, that’s when you wonder about the genuineness of similar endorsements showcased on your contacts page. LI’s recommendation option is fine in itself, as contacts recommend based on good interaction or experiences based on past work done; and mentioning it in words gives more credibility than just clicking ‘endorse’ over some key words.

Like Endorsing, Endorse Liking

I recently interacted with an eminent person from the social media industry, at a TiE session. He was speaking on the advantages of social media for business. I asked him whether he saw concern over the  questionable ‘endorsing on LI’ and ‘Paid/ Forced or Uninformed Likes on FB’  that are creating a false world around us.  He, thankfully acknowledged the problem, which meant it existed. And he added that the average person wasn’t affected or bothered much about it, so life would go on at least for a while.

Many people you know might not have a clue as to what exactly you do, or how good you are at what you do. And yet they’ll go endorse you for certain skills. Which, I’ll agree, makes you feel good. And you might be the best your industry has to offer, but knowing that the person who endorsed you for it doesn’t have clue about what exactly you do, doesn’t that make you question the value of the heap of endorsements that you are piling up?

I don’t have any suggestions for the ‘endorsing’ deal on LI, but if you intend to spam inboxes with ‘Like Requests’, here are a few things you could take care of:

  • Write what the page/ company/ service is about
  • Highlight any achievements, differentiating factors
  • Reasons why I might want to like it
  • And last, and only if necessary, request the friend to ‘Like’ the page if they find it interesting and if they can relate to it. Also offer to provide them with more information if they are interested

Here’s a recent article that shows how this hype that’s been going strong for a few years now, is not much more than just a hype [Quality over Quantity]