It is an accepted view among many Internet pundits that there are simply too many social networks out there today.
To underscore my point, The Times UK Monday reported a study that people using one-size-fits-all social networks exhibit “chronic unfaithfulness” with respect to these networks.
No kidding. What did you expect?
That’s like saying people were unfaithful to AOL when they started to use the Internet. When you give people the freedom to create the exact right perfect thing for them, they flock to those places. They experiment. They discover. They explore. That’s why freedom wins. That’s why platforms win.
So, how many social networks are too many?
I would argue that there can never be too many social networks as long as they are authentic, unique, and populated by at least a small core group of passionate people who make them a dynamic, authentic slice of the Internet.
I would also predict that the numbers, types, and very definitions of social networks will continue to grow dramatically.
There are 1.3 billion people online today. Less than 15% of them are currently using social networks. If you think that the market for social networking can support more than 15% of the total internet population, then, even in the most conservative case, the number – and use – of social networks will grow.
Taken from another angle, there are 70 million blogs today. There are blogs for every conceivable interest, topic, location, language, you name it. In many cases, blogs are currently being used for purposes that might be better served by social networks. Even if only a small percentage of blogs become social networks, we’re still going to see an explosion in the number of quality social networks in the world.
That’s the freedom to create. And that’s a very good thing.
Now, my bullish musings about a future with millions of social networks does have a few caveats.
I do believe there will be a limit to the number of generic, one-size-fits-all social networks that are created to compete feature-for-feature with MySpace and Facebook, but that’s not really a surprise. There were plenty of people who tried – and failed – to topple AOL. These MeTooSpaces are still about you joining their generic world, not creating your own unique one.
If you are starting a new social network today, not only is “chronic unfaithfulness” great for you, you should build it into your plan.
Embrace it. Use it to your advantage. Get the word out about your network on MySpace and blogs. Promote your network’s photos, videos, and music on Facebook. Leverage these one-size-fits-all networks to drive people into a new social network that is yours alone to make the exact right perfect thing for you and your members.
The most important thing is that your own social network stands for something. It’s differentiated, not by features necessarily, but by your brand, your focus, and your members.
The world is your oyster.