They say it’s not what you know but who you know. In social networking it seems like it’s not who you know but how many. The most blatant example is Tom of MySpace fame must be hard to have a life when you have millions of friends in the double digits. Whenever a new social networking site launches it’s like a land rush where everybody goes out to claim their little space.
I really haven’t seen a social networking site that handles these relationships all that great. You either have mutual friends or one way friends or a mixture of both. There’s really no index for quality other than the fact that it’s the people you’re messaging the most often. The experience doesn’t really scale.
Maybe that’s the reason why these social networks do a great job of promoting minor celebrities. It works because you have legions of admirers and fans that you can broadcast information to on upcoming shows, club appearances, etc. and not get back to each of them. But for the average user, that really doesn’t scale. You can’t get away with one way communication.
I actually have experience using social networking sites to build real communities. I’ve hosted all kinds of events for the group with the largest being a party for 200 people. The pool of registered users is around 1000 with quite a few emails that bounce. It’s been three years and now I do absolutely no recruiting or advertising. Why? Because now I’m more concerned with quality.
These past couple of days I’ve been experimenting a little with MyBlogLog. It’s still a very young service with lots of potential. The idea of a distributed social network for bloggers is just too enticing to pass up. Right now is the best time for experimenting because lots of people are exploring and testing what works as well. I think the biggest thing about social networks is that early adopters get a good advantage if they work on it.
Just like my social group, building something from it’s infancy lets you cultivate your network more. You get to play a mentoring role to newcomers and even have more access to the great people building the service simply because you’ve stuck with it and you’ve experienced more of the system.
I’ve found that MLB’s blog communities are the real gold mine. Your own blog communities add a layer of value that even goes beyond RSS subscribers, usually the most loyal. Ever since implementing MLB I’ve seen comments to my blog go up quite a bit. Maybe it’s because when they see their avatar on my widget they feel more comfortable making a comment (after all, I already know who visitied) but it’s really good. I also feel like it’s helping to keep down random trolls from talking trash too (we’ll have to see).
However, I did get some good traffic and didn’t encounter any of the comment moderation dilemmas a lot of sites experience. MLB’s idea to separate your blogging acquaintances from community members is a great way to add value to a typical social network. You really don’t need that many community members to start a great dialogue with your readers. Just explore the world around you and foster your community.