Social networks are boring and suggested users are evil

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Face it, when you join a social network (Twitter, Facebook, hi5, MySpace, FriendFeed) these networks are boring. The reason why these networks are boring, is because you do not know anybody who joined this network. Most networks solve this by offering you an import from either other social networks or from your email address book. […]

Face it, when you join a social network (Twitter, Facebook, hi5, MySpace, FriendFeed) these networks are boring. The reason why these networks are boring, is because you do not know anybody who joined this network. Most networks solve this by offering you an import from either other social networks or from your email address book. Issue solved, the social network is not boring anymore. No not really, you have solved the issue that you have no connections on the social network, you still haven’t solved the issue that you have no interaction. However since we are human we tend to interact with the people we know en we see, so that is one thing you can solve easily, especially since you know where the people are that you are acquainted to, you just imported them. It is like moving to a new city, you have to invest some time to make it less boring, and if you already know some people in a new city, it makes the process a little bit easier.

Now the evil part: some social network, have the option of ‘suggested users’, this option is trying to solve the same issues as importing your new contacts from somewhere else. However suggested users are most often well known users of the social networking service (for example the suggested users on Twitter) or are users that already have the most followers (like on the suggested users implementation on Yammer), however they have often absolutely not direct or indirect relation with you or your needs. Imagine you are moving to a new city and to make things less boring you get ten addresses of people who are either already introduced to all other people or you get some addresses of famous people who will not speak to you. Makes this things less boring? No it does not, it will create some noise so you will get the feeling you are not living in a vacuum anymore, however if you’d prefer noise you could also go in local pub to test your luck. You probably won’t have any real interaction with them, off course you can be lucky to get connected to someone who cares about you so you have an opportunity to interact, however most often you’ll be just a listener to the noise these social media rock stars make.

There is a better alternative: networks should not suggest users to connect to at the start of using a social network. These users should suggested after a few days by the networks, in this way you, the user, can already contribute to a social network, and you are able to connect to the ones you already know. Based on this relatively small footprint a selection can be made of relevant users that you would like to be connected to. It is also a good moment for the owner / manager of the social network to thank you for joining the network and ask for any feedback. This way the network can use it social graph to help you better yourself and you can help the network by providing feedback.

Social networking is quite identical to the real life: you will only connect to the ones who add value and who connect to you (since it is a matter of giving and receiving). So think twice before connecting to suggested users, unless you are groupie, than you connect to social networking rock stars because they are rock stars, you don’t need the interaction.

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Rick Mans is Information Architect and a social media evangelist within Capgemini. You can follow and connect with him via Twitter or Delicious

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