What makes the perfect social network?
For a while now, I’ve been trying to figure out what makes the perfect social networking platform. Is it ease of use? The largesse of the network? The design of the site itself?
After reviewing Tom Standage’s upcoming book, Writing on the Wall: Social Media — The First 2,000 Years, I started re-assessing the way I use social media. I wanted to know what made the perfect social network to fit my needs.
Three Factors for the Perfect Social Network
I think the perfect social network comes down to these three things:
A community of like-minded people to share your interests, both personal and professional, and forge relationships
A place that provides a place for both chatter and deep discussion, and interaction with amateurs and professionals alike
Easy ways to find information and interesting users through search (using hashtags, search, public feeds, etc.)
Many other factors come into play in any social network, but these three areas represent the best networks.
Some might say Twitter’s 140-character limit doesn’t allow for deep discussion and interaction. Surprisingly, I’ve found the opposite to be true: the limits actually lead to better interactions, all things being equal. Participating in tweetups and using relevant hashtags has helped me use Twitter effectively.
It took longer for me to understand and use Google+. But now I get it: Google+ is a better platform for sharing your interests and passions than Facebook, and it offers better tools for controlling your networking. Google+’s two big advantages over Facebook are its robust communities and its integration with Google search. That means you can find more information and users similar to you quicker than on Facebook. Facebook has tried to mimic this with its graph search, but from my experience, it doesn’t compare to Google+.
The key to using both of these sites is participation. A social network isn’t designed to promote a website or a book without first establishing yourself as a contributor to the community. Using social media can lead to more book sales or more work opportunities, as can any networking. But ultimately, social networking is about following your passions with like-minded people, not using it as a sales platform.
What about those other sites?
I also use LinkedIn and Facebook, but for different reasons. Facebook is my personal social network to keep in touch with friends and family. I also use my Facebook Critical Margins page for this site, with mixed results. By the way, any help or advice on using Facebook for promoting this site, let me know.
LinkedIn, on the other hand, is my public resume. I use it to find paid clients for my growing freelance editing work. I participate in LinkedIn communities, but they have a different vibe than Google+ or Twitter.
I move in and out of networks like Reddit and Goodreads, but I just can’t get into them the way I do with Google+ and Twitter.
And, I feel like all of these sites suffer from these problems:
Not all of my friends on Facebook, Goodreads, and LinkedIn care about my niche interests, so why bore them?
I feel there isn’t the same openness and acceptance on Goodreads and Reddit as on other networks.
Most of my Facebook wall is a feed of silly memes, political discussions that go nowhere, or things I’ve already read on Twitter.
Surprisingly, LinkedIn has a lot of spam and questionable accounts, and many of the communities aren’t monitored effectively, leading to more headaches than new opportunities.
Plus, there’s the issue of network overload. I only have so much time in my day to network, and I have to work, too. And anyway, there’s my real-life network, like spending time with my wife or meeting up with friends.
It comes down to finding those networks that work for you. Facebook is not as effective for me as it used to be, and the other networks are too niche.
Another reason to stick with Google+ and Twitter? Both integrate well with the Internet at large. For Google+, writers benefit from Google Authorship, which integrates article bylines into Google searches. Since Twitter is mainly public, tweets gain more prominence than Facebook’s closed-wall approach to social networking. That might change as Twitter goes public, but for now, it’s a better option.
How do you use social media? What are the networks most important to you? Obviously, I’ve left out a lot, and I didn’t even cover the most popular networks. So, let me know!