Chatter and talk about the value of social networking platforms abounds. Can Twitter scale up to satisfy users? Will Facebook open up? Recent moves look like they might. Pownce opens the floodgates. Did it matter? And of course the inevitable question-will they be able to monetize the whole thing in order for the utility to succeed in the long run?
Some of this centers on the value proposition, and rightly so. Facebook and Twitter have taken their praise and their lumps. I'm not paying that much attention to Pownce. I'm just wondering if the value proposition isn't being looked at from the wrong angle. On a personal note, both Facebook and Twitter offer me tremendous personal value. Facebook allows me to reconnect with some folks from my various past lives, and on that platform, that is all that matters to me. Twitter is a never-ending (except for service hiccups) stream of what's going on out there with the people I enjoy hearing about and from. I'm sure others derive equal pleasure for both similar and different reasons. I curiously watched Hugh MacLeod on Twitter this week ask how to terminate his FaceBook account, but then realize his presence there had too many "friends" to do so without causing some disruption. The Gillmor Gang/NewsGang resurgence started as what looked like a Facebook only thing and then has opened up a bit, in what might have been a clever bit of exclusivity first strategy.
My question is this: Is anyone trying to figure out the value proposition really exploring how users use these tools, or are they just trying to figure out how to make them pay off with a revenue model? I'm not sure they are the same thing. Both have pissed me off at various times, but I keep coming back to them because they've become excellent tools for me. Indispensable? No. Valuable? Yes.
An analogy keeps popping up that I'm not sure holds. Both Facebook and Twitter remind me of the neighborhood tavern I used to frequent in my days in Chicago. This was the place that I would have a drink or two on occasion, enjoy the Chicago Bulls playoff run(s), and catch up with neighborhood chums. It was also the place where our theatre company would gather when we had a reason to celebrate something and invite our friends to join us. It was always there, (although it changed owners a couple of times) and always familiar, and always valuable. It has so many different constituencies (customers) coming in and out that is was a fantastic mix of humanity.
Another local tavern opened up across the street from our store front theatre, primarily because of our store front theatre and the traffic we brought in. They did a booming business for awhile, (offer actors free drinks and discount food and they'll pour in) but then failed. When we had a huge commercial hit that we transferred to another theatre in another part of town, our traffic (friends) followed us there and drank at a local hangout adjacent to that theatre. When we wanted to celebrate something special though, we went back to the original tavern, and not the new guy across the street from our storefront theatre. When our theatre outgrew the storefront and moved to another part of town, we'd make the drive to the original when we wanted to hang out with each other or do something special. When it was just a quick drink, we'd hit a local pub after the show. The original survived (and still thrives) and the new guy failed after about 18 months, before we moved locations permanently.
I'm not sure what that means, if it applies, or like I said, if the analogy holds, but it keeps bubbling up from the surface as I watch the social network conversation continue.