Facebook and Twitter were two very different animals… until Google+ hit the scene. G+ developed their network around the most popular features of Twitter and Facebook and addressed their deficits by creating Circles. Facebook in turn stole the Circles idea. Until recently, Social Networks have pretended that there’s no such thing as competition. But when they roll out features that bear a striking resemblance to their rivals’, it becomes obvious that they’re paying attention. They try to play it cool, but they are freaking out! The new competitive pressure being placed on companies like Facebook and Twitter will completely shift the way they operate.
The more that each network resembles the next, the less incentives we have to create multiple profiles and visit each on a regular basis. Dashboards like TweetDeck, SproutSocial, and Hootsuite allow us to check several profiles in a single place, but somehow lack the same sense of community provided by the networks themselves. The bottom line is that few users will visit multiple networks every day and dashboards are just not as fun and community centric as the real deal. So what’s the solution? Social Networks will become more like dashboards.
I call this Open Architecture – meaning at some point, I will be able to settle on the network that I prefer but still interact with my friends from outside networks. How is that any different than a phone company? The plans, phones, and features that distinguish one cell phone company from another are minimal and easily copied – rollover minutes, touch screens, family plans. Instead they compete on customer service, coverage, and market share to draw in customers.
I have been an ATT customer for almost 15 years (long before there was such thing as an iPhone). They reward me for calling people within my network but that doesn’t stop me from calling my brother who has Verizon. We each communicate over the phones and company we like the best, but we don’t all have to be on the same network to do so.
Social Networks will start taking a cue from the phone companies. Google already allows users to post their G+ stream to Twitter and Facebook – essentially turning those sites into dashboards. Facebook will fight this with every ounce of their being, and rightfully so. (After all, they do have the largest market share when it comes to Social Network users.) But at the end of the day, the Network that becomes the best dashboard, will get the most traffic. Facebook will have to follow suit just like they did with their reactions to video chat and Circles.
I love competition. Imagine how hard Networks would fight over you, the user, if you could easily transfer your profile, contacts, and photos to a different network of your choice – just like phone companies let you keep your number when you make a switch and help you transfer your contacts from phone to phone.
As a consumer I don’t want to be taken for granted. I love seeing Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and imminent newcomers fight over my business. Competition is a good thing. The Networks that embrace it will become giants. The ones that pretend it doesn’t exist will find they have a lot in common with MySpace.
Check out Part 1 of “Mark My Words. This is Where Social Networks are Heading”
Image courtesy of http://ow.ly/aukaw