The state of social networking: what site is the best, the worst, a waste

I’ve written about social media here more than I’d probably like to admit.

These social networking sites are transforming the way we receive our news and information. There’s no secret there.

But they keep popping up, so much so that I’ve stopped joining them, because I never know when enough’s enough.

Newspapers are still figuring out the power of the conversation, and some say that media in general is covering social media more than they are using them. It just seems no one seems interested in deciding what is worth anyone’s time.

The real lesson is that social networking and other media are tools, plainly and simply. Not all are good for everyone.

Facebook — The major player is aiming at being a yellow pages for the future. Anyone you need to find will be there. It’s a shame, then, that I’ve seen increasing levels of spam since I joined last summer, and even more since I credited the network’s value months later.

Some good:

  • People still spend a lot of time on that site and will follow links. They will come to your site with the help of link-posting and an RSS feed.
  • By some standards, you don’t exist as a young person — read: potential employee — unless you’re on the social networking behemoth.
  • It can be a hub for your other online presences
  • It’s so popular that, apparently, with the right people, it can make you a happier person.

Some bad:

Twitter — I knew Twitter long before I joined it, but a friend warned me it was a time suck. And it is. What’s worse is that it’s become awfully fashionable, as some have complained. That would be fine if it wasn’t bloating the conception of who should be there and what purpose it serves. I did join and, while I have a somewhat small following of 430 or so, I have found by regularly sharing good links, I can bring small pockets of traffic.

Here are some positives:

Negatives

  • It’s searchability is still janky
  • It still goes down on functionality when it’s busy
  • It does take more time than other social networking tool because a simple RSS feed is missing the point.

LinkedIn — It aims to be the professional equivalent of Facebook.

Some good:

Some bad:

  • Nowhere near as powerful or versatile as Facebook
  • Can’t compare with the number of links Facebook or Twitter bring

Industry-specific social-network — I just wrote about an event-planners ISSN for Technically Philly, and there seems to be the most growth in this arena. I am a member of Wired Journalistss. I also joined Uwire while still a college journalist.

Here are some positives:

  • Job postings and opportunities worth your time. I got some blogging work from a post on WJ.
  • Smaller communities allow you to actually e-meet new people

Negative

  • Out of your work flow mean you might never ever return after setting it up.

Flickr — Not too long ago, I reawakened my Flickr account, putting photos I was proud of there, and hosting other images elsewhere, whether it be on Slide or Picasa, depending the purpose.

Bad:

  • Free service is, of course, limited — active photographers will likely find the premium services worth the cost.
  • Not as prone for others finding you, so it’s hard to develop brand or expect links or traffic from it.

YouTube –I took a healthy look at YouTube’s value as a social media tool, beyond just watching illegal videos and listening to music.

Good:

Bad:

MySpace — I say give it up. Sorry. I took the trouble to joining MySpace last summer, and I even tricked it out a bit for journalists, but I won’t recommend anyone else join. In fact, I trashed it in an entire post dedicated to its shortcomings.

The good:

  • There are still audiences there.
  • It can be incredibly passive after a little time invested to set it up.
  • It can be something else that clogs up a Google search for your name, so you can claim another spot.

The Ugly:

  • It is MySpace
  • Can’t post traditional RSS feed
  • On the decline

There is value in being on all of these and everywhere else, too, if only just to more aggressively control a Web search of your name. College Media Innovation showed some other examples of brand-development through major publication, but, some choices are worth being made.

  • The Winner: With the right attitude, use and effort, right now Twitter brings the best brand development, links and traffic, though your audience matters.
  • The Obvious: Joining Facebook may hurt your pride, but real traffic can come from it, if you cast a wide enough net.
  • The Loser: MySpace doesn’t give any real quantifiable traffic or brand devlopment you’d want. I guess unless you’re a music artist, there isn’t anything there for you.

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