Social Networks Are / Social Networks Aren't

(Originally posted on Open Source CU) I thought it’d be nice to start the week off with a rant inspired by three things:
  1. Jim Bruene’s recent post about the scrappy usage (his word: ‘anemic’) of financial apps in Facebook.
  2. My disagreement with this quote from the CUES Nexus blog (sorry, Lisa):
    If you want to reach Gen Y, why not be where they are? The more than 68 million Facebook users (many of them young people) spend an average of 20 minutes a day on the site. And about 250,000 new users sign on every day. Some CUs are already there, waiting to greet them.
  3. That there are still high-fives given for corporate MySpace pages.
Social networks…

Are Not:

Real estate. If you look at online communities as an opportunity to park your caboose and head people off at the pass, you’re missing the point. Go buy a TV spot, pop up or newspaper ad – stick to the proven, tried and true methods of interrupting and annoying people. To brands who treat conversations like billboards: you’re not just old marketers, you’re also posers. (And I should note that I’m not talking about Lisa here at all.) There are 140 Facebook apps added every day. This is Noise 2.0. The apps that are the most successful are those that help Facebook users do what they came to Facebook to do rather than react to the fact that they happen to be there. More on that in a second.


Communities. If you bust in on that without immersing, participating, understanding, you are a door to door salesman. If you show up, you and your toothy grin, you’d better be adding value to the community by helping them interact, grow, and have a deeper connection with each other (that’s why they’re all there in the first place). The Cluetrain Manifesto said communites are groups “of people who care about each other more than they should.” And each community/platform is unique, but also interwoven. Engaging the Facebook community looks different from engaging the Second Life community looks different from engaging the Twitter community.

For Example:

Why is Facebook’s iLike so successful (361,568 daily active users, $15.8 million in funding…for a Facebook app)? Because people use Facebook to communicate themselves, learn about and connect with people. iLike enables that and, as a result, enhances Facebook for its users. This is shown across the board in the numbers too. According to Adanomics data (made sense of by Asi Sharabi) the most widely used apps (44%) are “Identity Formation / Social Comparison.” Why do I think Fiserve’s MyMoney will not succeed as it is right now? Because, frankly, who cares that you can access your account within Facebook? It is not that difficult or time consuming to open a new window or tab and get to my online banking login. Thank you for saving me three clicks, but until MyMoney brings more to the table I’d rather keep my applications clean. What if you could use MyMoney to visualize your progress as you saved for a vacation, a new toy, or the secret to time travel. What if a few trusted friends and I could use Facebook’s social tools to build a cross-FI collective overdraft protection account that auto transfers cash in a time of need, notifies each person on the account, and in doing so: 1) saves me fees and 2) builds in the obligation to replace that money as soon as I can? By the same token, Financially Fun Island™ (not a real thing, but almost a real thing) in Second Life will, at best, attract a lot of industry insiders who are interested in this “innovative new tactic.” But the citizens have better things to do than go to your island and play money games. They’re building an active economy. However, a financial institution that offers home, land, and small business loans in Second Life for Second Life is enriching the in-world experience…not just capitalizing on it. I’d much rather be enabled than greeted. Alright, that’s all I’ve got. You can yell at me now.