If you’re anything like me, you’re inundated with requests from social networking sites. There seems to be new sites sprouting up every week and they each claim to fill a niche that no one else does. It’s been confusing figuring out which invites to respond to, or which sites I should pay attention to. To see how everyone else is handling this overload, I conducted a very informal survey a few weeks ago to see which social networking sites are useful, and what are the shared best practices. Here are the results of my research and analysis.
For professional use, almost everyone agrees that Linkedin is the clear winner. Pretty much everyone has a Linkedin account and if you don’t have a Linkedin account, then you should sign up for one today. According to Linkedin, they have 19 million registered users. Their focus is on building and maintaining a professional network and they also provide a job posting board, service providers, and an Answers section (similar to Yahoo Answers). You should also pay attention to Linkedin’s newly designed home page. From a usability perspective, this is a big improvement.
Two other sites for professional networking that you should pay attention to are Ning and Plaxo. Ning’s focus is developing and extending formal social networks. Each Ning social network can setup its own identify, invite its own members, include selected widgets, and publish its own documents.
Plaxo has a number of fans too and its key strength is its address book integration. Plaxo was originally known for its Outlook add-on that allowed users to maintain an integrated address book. A few years ago, Plaxo made a lot of enemies by violating the permission marketing principals by sending emails to everyone’s contact lists without obtaining permission first. Now Plaxo is now trying to become a one-stop destination site integrating feeds from many other social networking sites under the Plaxo Pulse umbrella. Plaxo is up for sale.
For personal use, Facebook is the market leader. Most people have accounts on Facebook and most people are pulling away from their Myspace and Friendster accounts. Facebook provides an abundance of features including many third party applications. Some people have commented that it is these applications which cause people to go into overload. It can be overwhelming keeping up with all of the traffic from them. MySpace is useful for keeping in touch with family and friends but the poor usability and heavy use of advertising make it hard to use.
For those who live every moment in the digital space, Twitter is the site for you. Twitter’s premise is about telling your world what you are doing at any given moment. Subscribers post throughout each day discussing everything that they’re doing every few hours. For me, this site is a bit too intense but obviously many people love the level of communications and openness.
Digg is a favorite of many as it focuses less on the networking aspects and more on sharing content. It concentrates on the integration, rating and sharing of content in all forms including blogs, video, news and podcasts. Even though I have not spent a lot of time using Digg, I believe that it has a lot to offer.
There are hundreds of other networking sites for both professional and personal use but I’m not sure how many of them are relevant, or how many will succeed long term. For example, Spock is one of the sites that many people mention receiving invites for but I find Spock’s acquisition strategy questionable. They don’t make it obvious that they are contacting your contact lists until it is too late. Spock also aggregates data from multiple sources, which one person referred to as “creepy”. Other sites include Biznik (business networking), Blue Chip Experts (recruiting), Ryze (business networking), Naymz (business networking), Jigsaw (contacts) and Xing (business networking and events). For a partial list of sites, see the List of Social Networking sites on Wikipedia.
Based on my experience and from talking with others, here are my recommended best practices for the typical networker:
- Select one or two professional and personal sites each to proactively manage.Plan on spending 10-15 minutes a day keeping up with requests. For me, I actively manage my Linkedin account.
- Select which sites you want to passively manage. These are the sites that you might accept invites but you do not spend anytime networking or sending out requests. Plan on spending 5-10 minutes a day managing these requests.I passively manage my Facebook, Ning, Plaxo, Spock, and Jigsaw accounts.
- When deciding whether to participate on a new networking site, you need to evaluate how many of your friends and how much relevant content is on the site. If the answer to both is low, then I recommend passing on the site. This is particularly true of the niche sites popping up.I’m not sure how many of these will be left two years from now.
Next on the horizon
More and more sites are trying to become a one-stop site where all other sites could be accessed and managed but that brings up many issues. First, many of the sites rely on an advertising and paid subscription model and you lose that with a one-stop site. That also brings up the issue of how much mixing do you want between your professional and personal networks. Do you really want your Linkedin contacts to see the steamy pictures from your last trip to Cancun?
In the meantime, you’ll find me on Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Bigthink, Friendster, Flickr, Plaxo, Xing, Orkut, Spock, Naymz, Ning, Jigsaw, ere.net, Zoominfo, mashable, Mediapost, jobster, Ecademy, Xing, Ryze, Workster, Orcut, Digg, iSABRD, Meetup, GoldPlaceNetwork, Behance, Jaiku, Pownce, Yelp, and Librarything.