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Social network fatigue

Posted by Michael Bloch in online world (Saturday February 9, 2008 )

I’ve grown a bit weary of social networks lately and it seems I’m not the only one – according to some recent market research; social network users are spending less time on these services, or quitting them altogether.

When MySpace first started taking off, it looked really promising – such a great way for people to connect and express without needing to know code.

Then Facebook opened up more; wonderful stuff. In between all this social networks popped up left, right and center catering to every taste. I even came across one for folks with an unnatural interest in sneezing; I kid you not :).

The shine has worn off somewhat and I hardly bother updating my MySpace page now. Soon after signing on with Facebook, I got tired of the invitations to participate in this, that or the other. I just put my increasingly lackluster attitude to social networking down to advertising and information overload – too much to keep up with.

But I’m not alone – according to this article on Business Week, quoting data from ComScore, the average amount of time spent by individuals on social networking sites has fallen by 14% over the last four months and they are becoming less responsive to ads. Much of the money being spent in advertising on the networks is reportedly trial/experimental campaigns.

Marketers say as few as .04% of users are clicking on ads placed on social networks, which is one-fifth the rate with advertising elsewhere across the web.

Users losing interest in social networks isn’t just because of the ads I feel, but the value in what’s being published – particularly in the more broader-interest services – FaceBook and MySpace. To put it bluntly, users have a tendency to post rubbish :). People get in, do what they have to do and then get out again these days – I’m seeing this happening with the rest of my family as well with the exception of a game called Scrabulous played via FaceBook; seems it’s highly addictive.

Is social networking dead? Far from it, but it just seems to be in a “where to now?” sort of phase – I think the very niche networks such as LinkedIn are going to fare better in the long run – people will gravitate more to a certain “tribe” themed neworks rather than attempts at creating tribes within larger community they don’t feel connected to. I can’t see either MySpace or Facebook becoming ghosts of their former selves either, but I don’t think they’ll meet the very high expectations that many (including myself) envisioned. Facebook still has a better chance of getting it right as it has been able to sit back and watch MySpace evolve.. and devolved in some ways.

On the bright side, I feel this means there will always be a solid place for standalone blogs and sites – but perhaps we’ll just see more social networking type features connecting sites of a certain genre together.


5 comments for Social network fatigue
  1. As MySpace offers blogs and depth of user generated content, and Facebook doesn’t, it will be interesting to see how Facebook grows in filtering external blogsites through their network.

    I think we will see more niche networks heading top of the lists – I looked at the top 400 sites for time-on-site and I knew NONE of the top 50 except the British GayDar site. And Sulakes Habbo I think. Niche is where we live – mass is where we visit. Nice post by the way :)

    Comment by Laurel Papworth — February 9, 2008 @ 5:23 pm

  2. I never could understand how billion dollar operations like Facebook survive without a viable business model. Who are the “investors” who pump money into such ventures? What is the ROI? Has any of these monetized even a tenth of the investment that may have gone in and which requires enormous amounts of cash to stay afloat (millions of new users every month means billions of GB of space and bandwidth…) I wonder who pays for all that?

    Comment by Sam — February 10, 2008 @ 11:49 am

  3. Laurel, thanks for stopping by – could you point me to that list you mentioned please? It would be a fascinating read.

    Sam, hardware infrastructure in itself isn’t all that expensive these days, but having the folks to run it is, for sure. I watch X million being poured into this project and X million poured into that project every day – and I get somewhat puzzled too when looking at where the money is going. But then again, I think services such as Twitter are rather silly, so it’s probably just me hitting the cranky old fart stage :).

    I think it’s sort of like a brute-force attack at times; throw enough money at a project and something will work :). I would love to see some stats of how much venture capital is burned each year.

    Good tax deductions I guess.

    Comment by Michael Bloch — February 11, 2008 @ 2:33 am

  4. i dont have much time to spend on these kind of sites but i believe as long as new niche networks get in the market, big ones like facebook will loose blood just like myspace.

    but i absolutely dont think social networking will be less popular in future! only shape and methods will change, nothing else…
    btw michael, you run a great blog and its one of my favourites… keep on writing :)

    Comment by tevfik bülent öngün — February 11, 2008 @ 9:47 am

  5. Tevfik, thanks for your very kind comment :)

    Comment by Michael Bloch — February 12, 2008 @ 7:02 am

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