You Are Here: The Confusing Landscape of Social Networks Just Got More Confusing


You’re out on a date when your wife asks if you want to head to the local comedy club to see her favorite comedian perform. “Sure, why not?” you say. His jokes are pretty entertaining, and his last HBO special that aired had you chuckling.

So off you go to the club, taking a table close to the stage, sitting through the opening act and without further adieu, the featured performer takes the stage!

There’s only one problem. The jokes all seem familiar. Yes, you heard them before.  In fact it’s the same act you saw on television. Annoyed, you clap politely, and force a smile when your wife exclaims, “Wait for the punch line this is a good one!”

The predictability’s killing you.

You see this is the conundrum that every social media manager faces.

Two is company, three’s a crowd…

Life was so much simpler 12 months ago. If you were overseeing content distribution across social media platforms, your focus was most likely bifurcated between twitter and Facebook. Sure you’d host your videos on Youtube, your images on Flickr, and your documents on Scribd, but they didn’t have the same internal visibility as the other two. This may be generalizing, but I’ve worked with enough CMO’s to boldly point out that they perceived the latter as curation sites and the former as relationship building ones.

So life’s good. You have your weekly editorial calendar, your humming along on interacting with your communities, and then Google drops a bomb on social media.


Ohai +1…

Hear that? It’s the collective world both yawning and groaning concurrently. The very prospects of Google+ have left the world of social media divided. On one side of the argument are purists who believe content is federated, and as such will make for the bed of straw necessary to house the stables. “Isn’t content agnostic?” they ask.

On the other side of the argument we’ll call them the social media compartmentalists, argue that the content you share on Facebook has very little opportunity to succeed on other channels based on the fact that community personas are distinctly different even if speaking to the same person.

Let’s put it out there. Both sides of the argument are right. Yes, content is free to roam the binary plains of the internet. Conversely, optimizing content is a necessity to reach your audience in a manner that they’re most receptive to. And that starts with understanding the behaviors of each respective community you manage.

For example, there’s a ton of pressure, both internally and externally for brands to develop a Pinterest presence. In fact one of the first questions I personally received while speaking at a Cincinnati Social Media Club meeting was specifically about when not if my employer will provision a pinboard.

This is completely backwards. We, as social media strategists, shouldn’t be expected to jump in the proverbial social media pool head first without knowing how deep the water is. By rushing into the “next big thing” you run the risk of incurring more damage than actually being methodical. And speaking of methods, here’s a quick one to keep in your back pocket while facing internal pressure to evaluate new channels:

  • Observe – What is the purpose of the channel?
  • Define – What value do you bring to the community?
  • Develop – How do you plan on engaging?
  • Learn – What are the metrics you will apply to help define success?
  • Optimize – How will you use your metrics to create deeper levels of engagement through insights?

In Conclusion

New channels aren’t going away. Quite the opposite, in this era of new entrepreneurialism, we will continue to see burgeoning social networks placed squarely between the eyes of the hip and trend setting. Yesterday’s Google Plus is today’s Pinterest. Today’s Pinterest may be tomorrow’s Diaspora. And so forth…

What’s lost on our shift from one social channel to the next is how this impacts our user base. I found a great quote I wanted to share with you; a passage from a post I read on Horse Says Internet. Nothing I’ve read so succinctly defines the point of inflection (and point of view) we as social agents, consumers of content and producers of engagement face every minute, of every hour of every day.

The idea of being able to seamlessly manage different identities on different parts of the Web is a holy grail that remains practically elusive. We think that because we can do this in real life, be a different person at work, at a bar, in our photography club, with our family, etc., we should be able to do this online. But in real life we shift identities intrinsically, with very little conscious curation, as many pieces of psychology research have shown…Online, where identities are much more publicly visible and personal branding much more explicit, there is a certain “natural monopoly” that the incumbent social networks have established (Facebook for personal, LinkedIn for professional, etc), and this will make it hard for new entrants to displace them.

Keep calm my friends, and carry on.


  1. Brad Hogenmiller (@JavaSTL) · March 5, 2012

    It’s disappointing to see tactics still leading strategy for many people. While I’m all for experimentation to support R&D, it’s ludicrous for an audience to assume that every one should be everywhere regardless of the fit. Following the shiny object to an audience that doesn’t fit your objective isn’t effective in the long term.

    Here’s the rub for me. The early adopter masses that spur growth on channels like Pinterest and Google+ love these channels partly because they’re manageable. They aren’t filled to the brim with marketers and brands. Will we be able to develop the same level of relationships with our audience once that changes? Will the quality still be there?

    -Brad (@JavaSTL)

  2. josh · March 26, 2012

    I don’t think Google+ can be grouped in with all of the start-ups, because its Google and eventually enough people will click that + icon just from seeing it every day. A google+ profile from an seo point of view is going to be massive. Other things will fissile out and start up but from a consumer point of view some people just won’t keep up on every different type and reaching the ones where the customers you can build a relationship with actually are and are active is important. How can you use this networks benefits to build value. Not what can this network do for me? but what can I do for the network?

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