At Social Media Week in Hong Kong, I was asked to speak on the topic of “How to Build a Social Network from Scratch.” I spoke about formulating the idea, building the product, and ultimately delivering it to customers.
My very first piece of advice to anyone who is thinking about building the next social network as a utility is: Don’t. The land grab for the social graph is over. The relationship based “friend and share” model has its winners and your new social network won’t be one of them. Furthermore, these networks now form an interconnected social backbone on the web and their transformation into platforms are making the next wave of social possible. This is where I think social really gets exciting both for users and marketers.
This year will mark the accent of interest based social networks. It is these micro networks that will allow us to develop high quality and relevant relationships outside of our existing social graphs. There is Foodspotting for food lovers, Flixster for movie fanatics, Pinterest to help you organize and share those things you are passionate about and many more. My company is a social network for stock market investors. Where Facebook stops, the interest-based networks will pick up. These new micro networks form a symbiotic relationship with platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn as neither can thrive without the other.
Many have claimed the rise of social is over. This could not be further from the truth. We are on the cusp of extending our social graphs to include people we don’t yet know. The new micro networks will form the basis of highly relevant and valuable relationships that are simply not accessible today. As a marketer, you must start to re-think your social strategy. You have two clear options. You can fish for individuals in the ocean that is Facebook or you can fish for audiences in the ponds of micro networks. To build a relationship with prospects and customers you need to be relevant and focused. Nobody is looking at your ads on Facebook because they simply don’t care what you have to say. There may be passionate individuals on Facebook but they are not a passionate audience and that is a core necessity for social marketing to be effective.
If I want to build awareness and sell microwave popcorn, where is my audience? I will choose Flixster over Facebook every time because I have a captive audience of movie lovers. The value of the network effect and social proof for my product will be far greater within a passionate interest based community than on Facebook. Please stop wasting your marketing budget. In 2012, put a hold on some of that budget you have allocated to Facebook and put true relevance back on your agenda.