The Life Span of a Social Network

Social networks come and go. Think: Friendster, Myspace, Facebook, Twitter and all the ones that have come in between or are struggling to keep up (Plurk, Pownce, Jaiku etc). As someone who uses social networks both professional and personally, it’s important to identify and understand these trends. As a brand, understanding these trends will keep you above your competition and relevant in your industry.

Social Networking Life Span:
1. Launch
2. Growth
3. Peak
4. Plateau
5. End
*Some social networks won’t ever get pass #1.

Once a social network peaks, you’ll hear about it everywhere from the mainstream media and all throughout the blogosphere. Everyone and their grandmothers will be on the site. The site will eventually become over saturated with users, companies, brands and ultimately, spam. Additionally, there will be other social networking sites that are able to fill the
needs/wants/desires of users and grow with the user base (I hope to revisit this topic at another time).

As a marketer, It’s during #2 (growth) and #3 (peak) where it is most beneficial to join the site. Build your reputation, “social capital” and community while the social networking site is growing. Thrive during stage #3 as more users join the social network. All the while, keeping your ears and eyes open for the next, up-and-coming social network. As the first social network starts to plateau, utilize the second social network. As previously mentioned, when a social network plateaus, it is infiltrated with spam, glittery icons and too much music (think: MySpace). You (of course) are not spamming your community, but they are getting spam from elsewhere in the social network–perhaps your competitor who hasn’t a clue how to effectively or strategically use it.

What’s important to remember: if your messages and interactions are in the company of spam and junk, you are no longer relevant. Your community gets bored and your messages are drowned out. Marketing is an arms race. You have to understand how your communities want to receive, see, “hear” and consume your message and use the appropriate technologies to implement your strategies. At the same time, marketers also need to be aware of the life spans or social networks while keeping an eye and ear open for the next up and coming sites. Doing so keeps you relevant as a brand and ensures your engagement and interaction with your customers, consumers and communities are maximized.

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