I’ve seen at least 10 articles today about some company adding social aspects to their service or product. How many have you seen today? The urge to make services and products into social networks must stop before it gets out of hand, and believe me, it will!
Social networking has become the thing to do. However, I think some of these companies are missing a lot about social networking.
1. If you didn’t start out as a social network, don’t become one now.
If you didn’t start out as one, then there was probably a really important reason as to why, which you should revisit when you get a chance. Users can see right through this gimmick. Just because users can now see what others are doing, comment, put up a profile, aggregate, and stream 10 million things does not mean your service/product will take off anymore than it already is! Don’t hop on the bandwagon just because. Stick to what you know best.
2. When the little guy does it better, then you probably shouldn’t have done it to begin with.
I hate to see big companies try to squeeze into the market. To them I say, there’s a reason as to why we think others do it better. Seeing your friend’s Google Reader shared items fits into both this category and the first one. They added what I wouldn’t even consider a social feature (being able to see friends shared items), but services like FriendFeed and other social aggregators have improved it nicely and made it into something that Google should have done when it released the feature half-heartedly. Google you need to stop!
3. Adding to the fragmentation of discussions
Honestly, I don’t want to discuss everything on every site that I find it one. Just because I found out about something on Site A doesn’t mean I want to continue to discuss it on Site A. Maybe I’d prefer to discuss it on Site B instead. Companies who try to make the opposite happen miss the point. We’re spreading the word about you! Keep doing what you’re doing and we’ll keep coming back and taking that news elsewhere to be discussed. Then we’ll bring MORE people back.
It’s just not necessary for some sites to add social features. Sometimes, the addition of these features can also take away from why I like visiting the site in the first place. You’re only adding to an already tedious and time consuming workload and eventually users will start choosing those sites that do it better. This is why I enjoy LinkRiver so much! I can go there and do what I came to do and then leave. No comments necessary and yet, I can still be social in a unique way on and off the site. I think some of these companies should take a page from LinkRiver’s…stream (cheesy I know).