Conversational Social Networks

Ben Thomspon wrote, “How Facebook Squashed Twitter“.  The article looks at social networks from a marketing point of view. I like conversational social networks. Social networks by their very name are for conversations. They are about connections and they are about friendship, collaboration and more. 
In its Golden age twitter was a social network to establish new friendships with people we had yet to meet. It was a great tool, especially in places like London where the community of users was big enough to be interesting. Facebook, on the other hand, was a network of school friends, university friends and eventually colleagues. Facebook was more of an interactive yearbook.
Between 2006-2009, both networks were good because they were about friendly conversations, event organisation and personal sharing. At this time user engagement and stickiness were very high.
Both Twitter and Facebook are losing their appeal. Twitter lost it’s sense of community in 2009 when people went from following friends to following celebrities and when conversations went from being  individual to threaded by hashtags. As the closeness between users faded so did the stickiness of the network.
Return on investment has always been looked at from the point of public relations or marketing because they are the people paying. Their cost is financial and so twitter wanted to keep them happy. They ignored the other cost. Time. Private individuals need to justify giving their time and attention to social networks too. In the early days of twitter, when it was a conversation tool, we could justify spending the entire day on twitter because it allowed us to establish new business contacts, new friendships and more. When attention shifted from conversations and friendships to utilitarianism the network declined in value.
Facebook too is declining but for other reasons. It is a network of friends who are getting married, having children and working hard. They don’t use facebook in the same way as before. Social networks need to re-invent themselves as time progresses. Twitter needs to work on re-creating tight-knit communities and Facebook needs to find ways of making itself relevant to parents and working professionals now that our university lives are behind us, for the most part.
Social Media and Social networks have been around since the birth of civilisation. The difference is that social networks are now online as much as they are offline. Social media have gone from being paintings in caves to being Devo art, memes and other products. Facebook and twitter were great social networks because they helped to assemble communities on the World Wide Web. We are now shifting to regionalisation and interest based networks. I am thinking of Strava, Glocals, Sports Tracker and more.
I stopped using Twitter because I stopped finding conversationalists. Facebook too, is at risk. If they do not make an effort to remain relevant both of them will become dormant networks.




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