Trust is essential for social networks

2008 will be the year of business networking, says Bernard Lunn, who offers six predictions about some of the social networks that are getting a lot of attention at the moment – Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing and Plaxo.

He also mentions one I’ve not thought of as a social network – Viadeo. It seems to me to be more of a news portal. Plus no mention of MySpace, still the giant of social networks.

But I’m sure Lunn will turn out to have made some pretty good predictions. He has some good arguments on developments by marketers in monetizing social networks as well as what might happen in a marketplace that’s rapidly changing through a mixture of acquisitions, investments, combinations and evolving offerings.

As a member of some of these social networks, I’m not sure I find any of this appealing at all.

I’ve been a member of LinkedIn and Xing (previously known as OpenBC) since 2004, MySpace since 2006 and Facebook earlier this year. I had a flirtation with Plaxo a few years ago that never went anywhere.

Facebook is currently my network du jour although I’m becoming quite disenchanted with what’s going on there regarding the Beacon advertising opt-in/opt-out debacle, a disastrous idea that seems to be gaining more negative commentary every day.

Basically, my trust in Facebook is rapidly diminishing.

And it’s all about trust, isn’t it? If you can’t trust the people who run the places you participate in, you’re going to leave.

Looking at much of what Lunn predicts I get the feeling that anyone who’s a member in any of these big social networks is seen as a commodity, a number to be marketed at, sold to and generally regarded as just another notch on a marketer’s scoreboard.

Well, count me out in that case.

In July, I wrote about Facebook versus other networks and relevance concerning what you want to put in and get out of being a participant in a social network.

This is to do with niche networks – those social networks that are small, and tailored to specific interests that aren’t necessarily mainstream.

In my case, I’m referring to niche networks like and Melcrum’s Communicators Network, both relevant to my professional interest area of organizational communication. Both of those networks are growing fast.

In that July post, I also talked about why Facebook was so compelling, which focused on its ease of use, cool applications and informality.

All important things, to be sure, yet nowhere near as important as trust.

In July, my conclusion was this:

[…] Sooner or later, a crunch may come where I decide to go with the one that provides all I need in one place – the opportunities to connect and the opportunities to collaborate.

I wonder how long that will be.

I think that moment has arrived.

Ironic, really, as I meant that conclusion to be about moving closer to Facebook. The meaning for me today is not towards Facebook and other big networks but away.

Here’s my prediction for 2008 – we’ll also see a rise in niche networks, well outside the frame of the big ones Lunn talks about.

The ones that become successful – which certainly doesn’t necessarily mean the ones that are biggest – are the ones you trust.

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