The Great Social Experiment – #1 Getting Started

REPOST from original article on blog.thinkfree.com back in September of 2007

Last week I posted a blog article about a new experiment I am doing – The Great Social Experiment. Since then I have tried to explain this experiment to friends who are not involved in the everyday technobabble in which I live. The main question I get is – why? What I am trying to do is find out how well social networking sites (defined very loosely) can help businesses expand outreach, generate conversations around topics of interest, and increase their friends and family network.

Now for the first stage of the experiment – getting started.

The only word I can think of right now is overwhelmed.

The sheer number of social networking sites is mind-numbing. On top of that registering for each and every one of them has been an absolute nightmare. Filling out all of the information about who I am, what I like, should I add my birthday, what should I allow people to see in my public profile, what about my private profile. What people belong where – is she a friend or a co-worker, he is in my family but is he a friend? Not rocket science mind you but – each little question takes a little chunk of my mind with it. And if I don’t understand the context of the question how can I really understand the option I want.

Then oh my oh my, in the middle of filling out the extensive form, you forget to save and navigate to another site.

My wish list:

  • Make it easy for me to do something meaningful without having to fill out my entire life history. Start me off slow and let me work up to running my life from your application
    • Good Job – Pownce, Plaxo
    • Bad Job – MySpace
  • Don’t make me fill out the same information repeatedly
    • Not sure how to make this happen but it is really annoying, for example, to have to upload a picture for each site, where each site has different requirements – 120×120 pixels or 90×45 or whatever. And how many times do I have to write my bio (I know copy and paste works well, but then you have different character size requirements).
    • Maybe this is actually a good thing though – it makes me think and rethink this information, so it gets refined. It also skips repeating the same thing over and over again which adds freshness to the information.
  • Clearly articulate what you do differently or better than everyone else
    • There are so many sites out there. I have no idea when I start off why I should use you vs. some other site.
    • You may have something I need, but because I think you do the same thing as any other social networking site I may skip over you because I think it is basically the same thing as any other site. Even if this feature/differentiation will not make me use your site instead, it may make me think – hey I need both sites.
    • I know this is a broader marketing problem that all companies have had, not excluding our own, but in such a crowded space…
  • Work well with others
    • Don’t make me live work and breath only in your service. Connect my blog, view feeds from my other profiles, etc.

Which leads me to the next question – who all is listening and are we talking to each other in an echo chamber? Tune in next week when I find out – will you be my friend?

Follow the experiment on these Social Networking sites:

ThinkFree Docs
digg
del.icio.us
Facebook
Pownce
Technorati
Reddit
Twitter
Jaiku
Newsvine
Flickr
Plaxo Pulse
StumbleUpon
Yahoo!360
MySpace
Friendster
LinkedIn
hi5
orkut

Previous blog articles in this series:

Can you digg it? I knew that you could – The Great Social Experiment

Future blog articles in this series:

The Great Social Experiment – #2 Will You Be My Friend

The Great Social Experiment – #3 owwww, i’m u’r biggest fan

The Great Social Experiment – How has it gone?

And the round table discussion:

  1. Did I devote enough time to the exercise? More to the point, where should social networking be placed in terms of marketing priorities? Does this change for companies that are more or less mature?
  2. How should we be judging the outcomes from social networking activities? Are there tools you recommend?
  3. Is social networking the right tool for the tests I created? Are my expectations of social networking in line with what it can do? What is social networking best geared to address?
  4. How much of getting social networking to work is the contacts you bring with you? How aggressive should one be in reaching out to new contacts? Should I, for instance, try to befriend Chris Anderson even after I have composed a note meant to appeal to what he is interested in?
  5. How can I build better mechanisms into the framework to increase feedback?

Oh and don’t forget to use the social networking tools below to share and enjoy – part of the experiment right?

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