I really don’t care what you had for breakfast – how social sub-network tagging can end irrelevance on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Net: Facebook and Twitter updates are becoming increasingly irrelevant and brand diminishing as users broadcast information to their entire networks that are of interest to only some of their friends and followers. A relevance increasing solution could be the ability to selectively send and receive updates using social sub-network tagging.

I have written before about the importance of relevance; it’s one of the Four R’s of developing relationships.  We believe it is one of the most important elements of any effective communication – be it advertising or talking to a friend.  Relevant communications have a chance at being listened to.  Relevant messages that are interesting to the recipient have a chance at being acted on and looked at again.  Junk mail and spam isn’t necessarily something you didn’t request; it is most certainly about something you have no interest in.  I’ll gladly click on ads for Lib Tech snowboards 50% off; but not for Single Under 40? I’m an avid snowboarder; I’m also avidly married.

How many social networking updates are actually relevant?

If your Twitter and Facebook feeds are anything like mine, you get a fair amount of info about the details of your “friends'” daily lives.  A recent Jeff Koterba cartoon from the Omaha World Record (no I don’t read the Record, it was reprinted in the NYT), parodied this fact.

If you are reading this on a small screen, it says in part:

” You waste time boring the daylights out of your  friends with the most mundane details of your life.”

The concept of Social Sub-Networks

I have been guilty of boring friends and followers when I post updates or pictures that I know are irrelevant to many on the receiving end.  And I check in with Facebook less often than I would if I didn’t have to wade through updates I just don’t care about – e.g. what the weather is like in London this morning or what someone had for breakfast.  But when I do read through updates and tweets, I often find something I wish I had know about earlier – “U2 concert tickets go on sale Friday” or “this is the last day to get a discount for the Web 2.0 Expo.”   Relevance is subjective.  You don’t care if had eggs Benedict for breakfast, but my sister would as it was one of our father’s favorites. Relevance is person specific and it is at least partly by your interests.  One way to think about things that are interesting to you is to look at your sub-networks of friends.  Mine looks something like this:

My interests include:  work – Web 2.0, loyalty, customer service; my family; my nonprofit interest – Year Up; Snowboarding; Red Sox; etc.

My friends on Facebook or followers on Twitter likely share at least one of these interests with me – updates about them are relevant.  It’s probably safe to assume my connections would like to read about my experiences in a shared circle.  But when I post a picture of the sign in Leicester Square asking Londoners (e.g. users) to go to a web site and provide their input to redesigning the square, it’s safe to assume that many of my friends don’t really care about that – but those in my Web 2.0 sub-network clearly would.  Similarly, most of you don’t care about a photo of Myles catching big air on his snowboard, but those in my “family” and “snowboarding” networks would love to see it.  As the Venn diagram of my social networks illustrates, there are very few people I have relationships with who share all of my interests – I can’t think of one right now.  Therefore the majority of my updates are irrelevant to those receiving them. And thus, if you believe the importance of relevance to creating repeating behaviors – like visiting Facebook and actively participating in Twitter – most updates are actually decreasing the utility of those and other “social networks” whose greatest hopes of delivering value for shareholders relies upon repeated usage by members.

Facebook and Twitter have attempted to address this phenomenon by letting users select those they want to “hide” or “follow.”  But these features offer only an all or nothing solution.  They are giving me a meat axe when what I am looking for is a scalpel to select only those relevant updates and tweets from the many some post.

Your choice:  All or none of Ken?

The solution (at least a non-technical one): Social Sub-Network Tagging

So, how could these growing and therefore increasingly irrelevant updates become more relevant and increase the value of sites like Facebook and Twitter?  What if we could all set up our own sub-social network groups (and even sub-subgroups like “immediate” and “extended” within “family”) and “tag” or categorize our updates with these.  The concept is already being used on blog posts and other Web 2.0 applications.  Because I write about four topics – collaboration, Web 2.0, customer service and loyalty – I categorize each post or white page with one of these topics. That way, those who only care about loyalty can click on the loyalty header and see only the posts in this categorized.

If Facebook, Twitter and others gave users the opportunity to set up their social sub-networks and then “tag” updates to be sent to specific groups, they would cut down a lot of noise and – at least I believe – brand diminishing irrelevant updates that clog member’s home pages.  This could also be “receiver controlled” as well, by making it easy for followers to select the update categories they wish to receive.  For example, I would select “Enterprise 2.0” and “Red Sox” from Andrew McAfee but maybe not “andyasks;” “For Immediate Release updates,”  but not “London weather” from Neville Hobson; etc.

Or better yet, why not develop a new site or application that would be a simple “input page” where we could all fill-in the “what are you doing/thinking about/want to share” box, attach URL’s, pictures and video’s, categorize them to send to relevant sub-groups and then post on Facebook and Twitter?

For now, I’ve secured www.myinputpage.com.  I’ll leave it to the programming teams at Facebook, Twitter and Echo Ditto to figure out how to make this work.

Questions:

  • Does this already exist and is in high use among those under 50, but I am clueless about it?
  • If not, do you agree this would add value to existing social network sites?
  • How would you develop the concept of sub-social network tagging?
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6 replies
  1. Matt W
    Matt W says:

    I’m not a huge Facebook user, but people have been clamoring for this on Twitter for a long time. It’s kind of amazing that neither service supports tagging of network members. Tagging was the original Web 2.0 concept, after all.

    A Google for twitter groups – http://www.google.com/search?q=twitter+groups – shows a few third party attempts at implementing this. Again, not sure if the same goes for Facebook.

  2. Chet Geschickter
    Chet Geschickter says:

    Great post Craig. You’ve articulated something that’s probably in the back of a lot of people’s minds but not on the tip of their tongues.
    I agree with Matt. It’s amazing this is not available. I’m relatively new to Facebook so the problem here is not as acute, plus I try to use Facebook for social and Twitter for business. Although I’m relatively new to Twitter, imho it’s a complete mess. Once in a while I pick through the rubble to find some good stuff, but even with a limited number of people to follow there’s way too much extraneous noise. The key would be how to add tagging without creating a lot of overhead to the poster. Low overhead is one of the reasons why people post to these tools, it’s also probably why there can be so much junk.
    Maybe it’s a relationship filter of some kind?

  3. Bill Ives
    Bill Ives says:

    Craig – nice post. I use TweetDeck to sort out the people I follow on Twitter by categories. I could never make use of the native twitter page except to remember whether I have already tweeted on something. However, that only starts to address the problem. We need to work on the intersection of writer, tags, and reader. I cannot subscribe to particular categories of a blog or particular hash tags of a Twitterer. Of course, I can browse a blog’s categories or search twitter hash tags. But this is only a start. Thanks for this, Bill

  4. Bill Ives
    Bill Ives says:

    Craig – nice post. I use TweetDeck to sort out the people I follow on Twitter by categories. I could never make use of the native twitter page except to remember whether I have already tweeted on something. However, that only starts to address the problem. We need to work on the intersection of writer, tags, and reader. I cannot subscribe to particular categories of a blog or particular hash tags of a Twitterer. Of course, I can browse a blog’s categories or search twitter hash tags. But this is only a start. Thanks for this, Bill

  5. Bill Ives
    Bill Ives says:

    Craig – nice post. I use TweetDeck to sort out the people I follow on Twitter by categories. I could never make use of the native twitter page except to remember whether I have already tweeted on something. However, that only starts to address the problem. We need to work on the intersection of writer, tags, and reader. I cannot subscribe to particular categories of a blog or particular hash tags of a Twitterer. Of course, I can browse a blog’s categories or search twitter hash tags. But this is only a start. Thanks for this, Bill

  6. chu
    chu says:

    Thanks Bill. Have been using TweetDeck over the past couple of weeks – which at least gives you some options. Hopefully they will do more soon.

    CHU

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