This is not supposed to be a technical post at all. It is just a comparison of some behemoth social networking websites that are notorious for creating a hullabaloo in this sensation-starved country. The purpose of this post is not to ridicule one or to praise the other for the presence/absence of their features, but is more of a viewpoint relating post that tells the reader what does/does not appeal to a normal (read light) user of social networking sites.
To start with:
KISS – no…not the gesture or the band, but more of the acronym which has a zillion expansions already, but my favorite – Keep It Simple, Stupid! I guess the fact that so many applications / widgets / gadgets / profiles / communities / events / blah coming in, it gets really confusing for a normal user who just wants to see what his friends are up to off and on and would like to reach out to them once in a while to wish them on their birthday, check their status messages, capture a couple of great videos that they are already watching, take a look at their pictures – I guess that would be about it. But, not only are you subjected to that, but much more with what time they brushed their teeth to what kind of tests they undertook, to who gifted you what, to who scribbled/scrapped/wrote on your wall/scrapbook, etc.
Never has the acronym held truer than when it said – keep it simple, Please! I, for one would love to be present on the main social networking sites of my generation, if for only one criteria – it should be fast, logical, and easy to navigate (ok, that’s 3). Instead, I got sucked into this web of endless tabs, toolbars, applications, and gadgets. Thanks to them, today – I am completely off social networking and reply/respond only to my friend’s messages.
I don’t want no music, I don’t want no invites to applications, I don’t want no hugs/kisses/kicks.
Clean interface: I love Google’s web designing. Hats off to the Ux designer of this website. One of the comments that I have heard from an ignorant friend of mine is how can a company whose website looks like it is under construction with no pictures and just a text box rake in millions, sorry billions, of dollars every quarter? Well – the answer is simple – keep it clean…keep it white (without being racist)…keep it sane…keep it original…keep it simple – ok, this point is also veering towards the first one, but you get the point, right?
The ability to customize: This is where I feel an iGoogle will help. See what you want to see. Do what you want to do.
Stickiness: I guess all social networking companies are out to guess and make sense of what is it that will make a user stick to their site. Well, honestly, it takes a LOT to get that audience and keep them there. The fact that the audience to these websites is waning is not an encouraging sign for a social networking business.
Nicheness: It’s about time that nicheness kicked in in the form of a LinkedIn. However, I sincerely hope that there won’t be more sites trying to carve a niche rather than fitting into the niche segment and becoming popular.
The constant ‘wow’ factor: Every company needs to keep innovating and social networking sites are not an exception to this rule. Big Adda did that with Amitabh’s blog…Facebook did it by using a combination of the invite/old school chums method…Orkut did it by the invite method and keeping things simple…MySpace did it (in the US) by sticking to the discovery of music…iMeem did it by figuring out what your friend’s were listening to. Note that all these networking sites are now in the process of seeing receding/slowed traffic. Why? The ‘wow’ factor that they relied on so heavily initially is not so ‘wow’ any more. Everyone is copying everyone and making everything as plain as day. There has to be some standalone, exclusive, constantly changing ‘wow’ factor to keep a user engaged in whatever he/she does.
Watch the spam/porn: Very important if you want your users to stick with you. You will have an audience if you have a lot of porn and you will also have a lot of audience if you don’t have any porn. However, the spam thingy – strict no no!
No ads – please! Unless of course a user opts into seeing ads of any kind.
Don’t try and become no. 1. If it has to happen it will. If you keep it simple enough, the #1 position is reserved for you. Well then – how do you end up making money? Simple – don’t. If you are not into some other business, then social networking is not for you (yet). However, if you are in a very competitive advertising market and people and companies do believe in the power of the internet apart from measuring it in a very ROI-centric way, then my friend, you are in business. Then, it pays to go out there and capture all the world’s traffic.
Stand out – and definitely not like a sore thumb! Differentiate yourself from others. Don’t do what other’s have done and try and ape them. Retain your style. Make a statement like I am making one right now – Goodnight!