Mass Media to Mass Social Networks = FAIL

Some folks believe that the world is flat because of the Internet. I disagree.

The world may be flattening from a data and utility standpoint… but the fact is that geographic distance between people is still an incredible challenge. I work full-time with a team in India and can tell you that, though the group is incredibly talented, communication and setting well-defined requirements and priorities is more important because of the gap in location. My team and I work hard to over-communicate with one another.

I don’t wish to work with other people than the team I have now, but conference calls dropping, holiday conflicts, timezones, language… all of these produce challenges that remove the productivity that we would have if we were in the next room. The world is not flat.

Tonight I got an invitation to a Fast Company beta, where the magazine is launching a broad, robust social network across enthusiasts of their magazine. I’m going to help beta test the application once a week or so – but I believe the future of the network is just plain grim.

Fast Company Beta

As much as I might participate in Fast Company, the fact is that I still live and work in Indianapolis, Indiana. Heck, I have readers of my blog that work on the West-side of town that I’ve been unable to connect and work with for the last six months. Location, location, location… it’s everything.

So – let’s say I abandon my efforts in networking in Smaller Indiana and work to establish a network and professional connections in Fast Company. Will I benefit? I don’t think so. I can’t afford to zigzag across the country, nor do I want to lose that precious time.

Shel ribbed me the other day as the only guy twittering in Indiana. I’m not, of course, but I am conscious that my geographic location has limited the influence my blog has as well as my influence in the industry.

Before you start wondering, I’ll let you know that I have no plans of moving for several years. My son is a very successful student at IUPUI and my daughter is 13 and would kill me if I relocated her from her friends, choir, yearbook club, etc. here in Greenwood, Indiana. Once they are out of the home and on their own, I will give it some serious thought, though.

Very few of us live and work globally. Perhaps even fewer of us really wish to. The world, as we see it, is local and we’ll continue to work and live local. We build friendships locally, business networks locally, and get paid locally. That’s why broad-facing social networks like Fast Company are simply doomed to failure – they’ve ignored geography as a key factor in networking.

As well, Fast Company will never recognize how business is accomplished locally. Hoosiers have a very different business etiquette. We’re often friends with competitors and share human resources and talent from across the region. Smaller Indiana was started weeks ago and traffic is already dwarfing many of the regions more established ‘mass’ media companies.

See you in Smaller Indiana! Sorry, Fast Company!

10 Comments

  1. 1

    I only breezed the article and this is what i read.

    Blah blah blah

    fast company

    blah blah blah

    social network

    blah blah blah

    doomed to failure.

    This is in NO way an insult directed at you but more of an complete agreement with you.

    Another Social Network? Groan… Puh-lease. Don’t we have enough already. I’m already tired of Facebook, My Space looks like a 1996 html wasteland.

    The internet is facing Social networking overload. Give me a break, reminds me of a new product for the Real Estate Industry where an agent can create their own social network for clients and potential clients can interact with each other and have the agents face always staring at them.

    My response was “what’s the point?” your customer are not coming to YOUR social network. If you want to succeed with social network marketing then you should connect/participate with them in their social network of choice.

    Loren

    • 2

      We absolutely agree, Loren. My post is simply a warning to all companies who think they must jump on board the Social Networking bandwagon to save their web presence. A few weeks from now they’ll be out a ton of development money and scratching their heads wondering why it didn’t work.

      It’s simply not the technology or site that the people are attracted to, it’s the network that counts – who, where… and mostly WHY?!

  2. 3

    Yeah, I also agree.

    The proliferation of social networks is getting well close to the ad nauseum threshold.

    One thing I would mention is that I worked in India for 3 years (not with people in India, but in Rajasthan), and alot of these problems that you mention are due to serious infra-structure problems. Namely the power going out randomely at least several times a day!

    Also, I didn’t know you were from Indy. I am too. Grew up on Rockville road, and speaking of IUPUI – That’s where I went to school too!

    Anyway, nice post. I think that alot of people in the blogosphere are whatever are getting a bit burned out on these kind of hyper-social networks.

    Jon

  3. 5

    Heh. This just sounds like Hoosier-specific xenophobia to me… 😉

    But seriously… good post. I’m doing work on a large project remotely and am finding challenges like you describe even though the client is here in the good ‘ole USA (but neither of us are in Indiana. 🙂 I find myself writing very long emails to explains concepts which is taking a huge amount of my time. But of course I couldn’t have even done the project for them 10 years ago…

    OTOH, I am finding something very useful coming out of it. Being forced to justify things in email gives me a great history of the project decisions and also gives me content I can later mine once I finish this project and (can hopefully) start blogging again.

    I see that I will also be able to approach a similar project and be able to reuse much of what I wrote to them justifying the directions I’ve taken.

    Part of this is my client is very willing to take my direction and lets me just explain things and agrees to them rather than fighting me on my recommedations. I am lucky that way, unlike you sometimes.

    JMTCW anyway. 🙂

    • 6

      Oh also, you say that the future of social networking is grim yet you taut Smaller Indiana. Aren’t you really trying to instead say that newer social networks need a strong common bond and in your case that is geography and (somewhat) shared culture?

      My dad has been part of an online social network for probably 15 years now. It’s called a mailing list for people who (mostly now used to) own a particular make and model of motorcycle that was only produced in the USA for 3 years and hasn’t been produced since 1991. His social network is stronger than any web-based social network I have yet seen (Facebook included), and it is all self-organized and managed in email. So strong that they have had annual rallies and as few as 2 places and as many as 4 places around the USA for the past 10 years. So social networks don’t *have* to be local to be strong they just need a strong shared bond (although local is one of the stronger bonds that exists.)

      That said, let’s assume that you wanted to try to build an online social network community for a publishing client and let’s say that client has a shared interest (maybe even motorcycles.) How would you go about doing it given your comments that social networks are grim?

      • 7

        Hi Mike,

        I guess my point wasn’t clear. My point is “MASS” social networks will be failures – but “MICRO” social networks – ones with very specific goals or target audiences will continue to proliferate. Your example of a shared Motorcycle interest is perfect – I could totally see a very targeted social network that would be successful.

        In this case, my example was FastCompany building a mass social network for their readers. It’s simply too broad a subject with no opportunity to concentrate by group, topic, problem, or even geography.

        These Mass mediums just think ‘Social Network’ is the next buzz and they all need to launch one. They’re doomed to failure!

        Here in Indianapolis, there’s IndyMoms and IndyPaws… two social networks that concentrate both geographically and by topic… and both are doing fantastic.

        Doug

  4. 8

    I think one of the best examples of mass media missing the point of the internet is http://www.honeyshed.com. Its described as home shopping meets MTV. I say booo.

    Mass media mentalities just wont cut it on the internet, its too easy to turn off and tune out. I even question the ability of niche social sites since facebook’s open API and large user base make it a ripe ground for developers to take advantage of it.

  5. 9

    Interesting post. I can truly say that I’ve been preaching a similar sermon for quite a while.

    The key challenge is the way people relate and in spite of the fact that humans are by nature gregarious, they still need something in common and that may be geographic or it may be religious, ethnic, subject matter, educational or otherwise. The large networks like MySpace and Facebook are not conducive to this commonality and therefore they are doomed to a secondary position and new networks need to spring up to solve the basic challenge.

    The secondary challenge is that the information out there is too much in quantity and too little in quality because there are no subject matter ‘editors’ or ‘experts’ who filer the content. This will only happen when the networks get smaller and more focused and thus the information is more focused and hopefully more filtered since supposedly only persons with relevant knowledge are contributing.

    Thanks for the post.

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