Some thoughts on the crowded field of social networks…

Brief aside: I see Google+ is rolling out a new look today. It might be a good time to check out the network, if you haven’t already. I’m on Google+ here and I follow a lot of interesting people.

I think it’s a false proposition to look for one clear winner among the big-player social networks, the one network that will destroy all the others. Yet this is what many tech and social media bloggers persist in trying to do, as if the social web were a horse race that at some point will clearly be over, instead of a place that is constantly evolving and growing.

There is room for many kinds of networks on the social web because the primary job of these networks is to connect people, and there are many types of people. No one network can be all things to all people, nor should it try to be. For instance, Google+ seems to appeal more to introverted types (like me; full disclosure), while Facebook attracts more extroverts. Pinterest is geared toward people who think visually; Twitter is for those who prefer a rapid-fire flow of information.

Not only do different types of networks work better for different types of people, but no one of us fits into a neatly labeled box all of the time. That’s why many of us like to move between networks as our needs dictate, even though we may have one primary place where we hang out most of the time. I definitely prefer Google+ for most sharing, but Twitter is a good place to exchange links or read breaking news, and on Facebook, I can keep up with an extended circle of friends and family.

So I don’t see much point in the endless articles dissecting why Google+ has so many followers as compared to Facebook, or what people think of Twitter or Pinterest. In this space, there is room for multiple winners. Still, blogs don’t seem to be going away anytime soon, and blogs must be filled with content, so I’m sure we’ll continue to be inundated with these meaningless pieces pitting the social networks against one another or lauding the latest newcomer as the giant killer.

As long as a network has a strong idea of its own identity and remembers who its primary user base is — and doesn’t stray too far afield of that by trying to be all possible things to all possible users — it can probably survive and even thrive in this crowded space. Until the social web is supplanted by something utterly new and unpredictable, that is.

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