A few things have gotten me thinking about the current state of all the social networks I am a member of. Let’s take them one at a time.
I have a love/hate relationship with Twitter. Sometimes I think it’s great and other times I can’t stand it. I am not sure I enjoy Twitter much on a daily basis, but during a hot news moment, it is the network that really shines. There is nothing that can match Twitter’s realtime messaging in a crisis. On a more regular basis, I find Twitter to be a bit vapid and empty. Since it has the worst features for conversation, there is more talking and less listening and responding. I get the least interaction from others on Twitter and I think a good deal of Tweets are computer programmed.
Facebook seems to be the network people love to hate, or at least geeks do. It’s true, Facebook makes some radical changes and has not had the best privacy track record. All that being said, Facebook is still, by far, the largest network. It’s also true that Facebook is the network where you find more friends and family but this can be a refreshing change. I like the variety of topics in my stream and Facebook is the network where I get the most response. People on Facebook are interested in interacting and not just spouting off which, for me, makes Facebook more satisfying than Twitter.
Poor Google+, the red headed stepchild of social networks. Google+ can’t get any respect or any traction it seems. Technologically, Google+ is as good or better than any of the other networks, but Google traditionally has not be strong with their marketing. I have to say, though, the recent upgrade to Google+ with a brand new design is fantastic. It’s a little like Pinterest but also incorporating Google’s new “card” interface. I love the new look of Google+. As for interaction, I find Google+ to be not as good as Facebook, but better than Twitter. Google+ is still swimming up stream but Google is being persistent and certainly has the money to keep at it for a good long time. As Google ties more of it’s other services to Google+, people will be drawn to the network wether they like it or not.
I hesitate to put LinkedIn on the list as it’s not a general purpose network like the others, but LinkedIn deserves special credit for creating the first niche social network and dominating it. There are some competitors, but for business networking on the Internet, nobody comes close. LinkedIn also underwent a recent redesign and I like the new direction. LinkedIn as consistently done a great job and there is no other place to be for a professional social network.
Pinterest, like LinkedIn, is also a specialty social network but deserves big credit for revolutionizing social networks. The design of Pinterest was completely unique and has been widely copied recently. As I noted, even the new Google+ feels more Pinterest-like. Pinterest also is a fascinating network because of its demographics, consisting of more women than any other social network. The focus on more personal things like arts, crafts and home decor also make Pinterest completely original.
In general, I think the big three (Twitter, Facebook, Google+) have most of the critical mass and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. The growth in social networks will be in the niche networks like Pinterest and LinkedIn. I think there is plenty of opportunity in this space and because these networks are more specialized, they provide a great opportunity for targeted marketing.