I believe that, eventually, some consolidation will be needed in the social networking space, especially as social networking sites’ membership grows. I am already experiencing some networking overload with friends and business contacts trying to connect with me on more than 3 sites. While I see different value in Facebook (mostly for connecting with friends), LinkedIn (mostly used for business purposes), and Twitter (a completely different value proposition, altogether), I do not seem to be able to also maintain a presence on Hi5 and have not even explored other sites like MySpace or Bebo, for example.
Another issue I wish to touch upon is the idea of integrating communications and presence with social networking sites. It seems like a no-brainer that people who wish to socialize with others, would also wish to communicate with them more directly and/or using different media (in addition to the direct messaging service available on most sites). It is interesting to see the results of our survey in the charts below.
These results seem to prove that some people would, indeed, greatly appreciate the opportunity to communicate with their social networking contacts via chat, voice, video or conferencing, but the fact that some are not interested in having any new communication capabilities available to them is significant as well. Over a quarter of Facebook members, for example, are not interested in conferencing, telephony or video, which, in my opinion, is again due to the greater variety of members, some of which obviously prefer to share opinions, pictures, etc., without engaging in direct interactions. Similarly, the majority of survey respondents seem to value instant messaging and chat the most. My interpretation is that it is the least invasive, maybe also the fastest and most convenient of the suggested communication tools. Surprisingly, voice and video appear to have a very similar appeal to our respondents, which may be due to the growing popularity of video and the fact that those willing to engage in a live conversation are equally willing to see the other party.
I believe that, in 2010, we will witness some very interesting developments in social networking. One of the most significant ones will be the increasing adoption of social networking tools in the enterprise space. Business social networking tools will need to have some different capabilities in order to be effective. Obviously, security will be key. Further membership segmentation and ability to target messages and postings to specific user groups will be important as well. Finally, integration of advanced communications and collaboration capabilities will eventually turn business social networking platforms into major productivity enhancement tools.
While I do expect to see a movement from outside in – either consumer social networking platforms becoming transformed and adopted in the business space or business platforms being created in a way imitating consumer ones, I also expect to see a lot of business applications integrating with consumer social networking sites from inside out – through mashups of enterprise UC interfaces with social networking ones, for example, for more effective communications and collaboration with individuals outside the organization.