Shared Interests, Passions & Quality Content Are The Very Essence of Social Media Networks

Despite having spent decades in the arena of Infocomm, I confess I didn't get some of these social media networks initially. They were essentially yesteryears messengers & chat rooms with a few more features & facilities added. Someone went ahead and coined the term Web 2.0 for them which stuck for a while till the term 'Social Media' came along and swept it away. 

Facebook didn't have too many distinguishing features from many of its predecessors and no one quite imagined that one day it will get well ahead of MySpace which was the reigning deity as far as social media networks went, till some years back.  When Twitter first launched I recall having a hearty laugh at its expense with a friend, proclaiming it as one heck of a crazy idea about sending international texts using one's data plan & predicted that they would be gone in a year's time. I was dead wrong. It evolved into a great broadcast media & a place where fans could follow their dream idols and those were possibly the two most important things that made Twitter take off after struggling initially for a couple of years. Facebook's synchronous networking and features like games, groups and above all photo-sharing helped propel it well past MySpace.

I see a similar story evolving with Pinterest. Few people know that in one form or another they have been around since 2008 and almost seemed fated to die out along the way without getting noticed. Again I was nonplussed after first hearing about it and tinkering around with it because this concept of online scrapbook (you post a picture & then some limited discussions takes place about it & around it) didn't quite appeal to me at any level. Then, sometime during the 2nd half of last year, they caught fire.
I could go on for a while longer citing several more instances but I guess you can see what I am getting at. Most SM networks are nothing revolutionary in terms of technology. Posting, commenting, photo uploading, chatting etc., have all been around in one form or another for a long while. Most SM networks brought one or more of these together on one platform & added a few bells & whistles. Then they made their APIs available to 3rd party apps which got into the act with gusto & started adding many more.

What works though for each of these are two factors primarily: content which is the glue and shared interests which act as the binder.

Social media approximates real-life interactions & engagements greatly. Very few, if any, hang around with a small coterie of old friends, family & relatives all their life. In fact, as someone remarked quite candidly, SM networks like Facebook helped to revive & reconnect a whole host of people one didn't particularly care for anyway and wouldn't have even missed for years together. After the initial short-lived euphoria, when folks discovered that there was very little in common they had with some of these guys in terms of shared interests or content which was of interest, they either got relegated to obscurity again or got dumped into the 'Acquaintances' bucket.

Content itself underwent changes, based on mediums and the transport vehicle. For example there is this new trend of sharing visuals with a few words or at best lines of text and the rise of whole SM networks from 500px to Pinterest to Tumblr can be attributed to this. To my reckoning the increasing movement of SM networks to mobile platforms gave rise to this, simply because, on Smartphones or Tablets, it's often not very convenient to read long paras & pages of text whereas visuals with a few words or lines play out nicely indeed. (if visuals are worth a thousand words, then this combo is equivalent to a lot of text anyway). Chris Brogan calls this 'The Junkweb' but then goes on to articulate why he is beginning to find it pretty interesting anyway. 

Without talking too much about my own experiences, let me end this by briefly narrating the development of my personal profile on Google+. As some of you may be aware, Google+ started off in private beta about a year back and had both an asynchronous following model like Twitter and a synchronous one like Facebook. A year later, while it has exhibited remarkable growth and has added 250 million users, migration of many existing users and groups from networks like Facebook has been rather slow, as is only to be expected. With scant understanding of its sharing models, communities and the quality of the content available, some tech. pundits have even vied with each other in labelling it a 'ghost town'.

Being an early adopter, I have shared posts on G+ regularly, though, not exclusively. I have a little over a 100 guys from my existing networks present on G+ and connected with me. I have never tried to advertise myself unduly or actively pursued groups and circles to include me in their ever-burgeoning communities and networks. Yet, a year later, I have over 1000 followers, which, albeit quite a modest number compared to the numbers following celebrity columnists, bloggers, content curators and superstars, can possibly be attributed to the content and the spheres of interest that I have. Along the way, I have made a number of friends and acquaintances based on shared interests & passions mainly. If you are interested in having a peek at what my posts in that SM network may be like, you can have a look at all my public posts here without even being connected. A complete archive of all the public posts can be seen here as well. You would need to click on the headings visible to see the complete, detailed post.

Social media networks will continue to evolve at a rapid pace and while some will grow, others may wither and eventually fall by the wayside. It is my belief though that the ones which enable its users to view, share and access quality content pertaining to shared interests or passions most easily on mobile as well as on desktop devices will win out in the end. For locating, viewing and resharing content, an effective 'Search Engine' will have to play a major role in this scheme of things. This also presupposes that certain content is only meant for certain people or communities and should therefore be directed at them, to the exclusion of others who may not find it of interest at all . This is where the concept of Google+'s circles proves to be very useful and wins out over all other major networks presently.

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