where is the value? connections or conversations?

i definitely see the value in social networking sites (facebook) as well as professional networking sites (linkedin) but what i find more important and more valuable than connections on these sites is conversations. you can use both kinds of networks (social and professional) to get networked with people in your geographical location as well as your industry and even with people that share your interests. what i don’t see these networks doing is facilitating people in leveraging these connections into useful conversations. these conversations, it seems, are happening off the sites and through other mediums.

yes, these sites have tools like person-to-person messaging and status updates but for the most part conversation through those features feels disconnected and contrived. for me, these conversations are happening over email and instant messaging, but primarily through twitter (the microblogging tool has pretty much replaced networking tools for me) as well as blogging (either in the comments sections or as response posts). similarly, when people refer to social news or social bookmarking sites as social networking platforms, i think the classification is somewhat misleading. while these services definitely have both social and networking elements to them, they are very limited and almost ‘tacked on’. even for these sites, once the connection has been made, a large part of the conversation takes place off the site.

while we wait for these to sites become truly social (as in mediums for conversations not just connections), i am curious to hear what tools you are leveraging to extend conversations beyond the limitations of these sites.

follow me on twitter: msaleem

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12 thoughts on “where is the value? connections or conversations?

  1. Ben Cook

    I definitely think the value lies most in the conversations. I’ve connected with several people but I’ve only had conversations with a few and that makes those much more memorable and meaningful in my mind. However, I think you must first connect before having the conversations so I’m not sure you can separate the two from each other.

    I agree that Twitter has become probably the top site for having conversations other than of course the IM platform. But, I still think the other social media sites provide the best opportunity to make the initial connections.

  2. allen

    I agree with that – I find the majority (over 90%) of actual conversations are either on aim/skype or email not on facebook/myspace/linkedin. I may get a nudge on those social services but then the conversation moves to the im client or email.

    i’ve also never received a pitch for a startup on a social networking site.

  3. Reem Abeidoh

    I think you need to appropriate your need to the medium you are using. They all have social features, it just depends on what you want to say and who you want to communicate to. For example, Twitter provides instantaneous updates to your followers but you can’t really have a constant or personal dialogue with a person or two. You can, however, exchange multiple messages on Facebook and it doesn’t disturb/annoy your entire network.

  4. Chris Baskind

    I’ve really come to value Twitter. It can be noisy, if you let it. But Twitter has been the catalyst for some new business and personal friendships in a more conversational way than most other social media.

  5. Valeria Maltoni

    I find Twitter most useful to have group conversations where the facilitator or person who initially asks the question or presents the statement for discussion can (and should) introduce the people in her stream to the others who pitch in. Those who are there and “show up” to participate enroll in the conversation about the topic – they self select. It makes total sense to introduce them to each other.

    I’ve done a lot of research for posts that way. And built communities of practice around ideas. Which is always great for everyone the ideas resonate with.

    Blogs to me are still best for deeper exchanges. I left Facebook – too much noise, not enough signal for me. I use LinkedIn to help people in my network with connections. Then again, that would be my value prop and brand promise.

  6. KdFrawg

    This is basically correct. Then again, most conversations are private, and have always taken place somewhere else, or off in a corner of the public forum. It’s just the way people do things. For public conversations, we have forums and blog comments, to name two. There are public conversations taking place in SU groups, and in similar places on other social sites. It is just a matter of public vs. private conversations, going back to the day we came out of the trees.

  7. Edward Beckett

    Great point … there are many opportunities to actually engage with your contacts through Twitter. Though other social media platforms also have their strengths …

    Twitter goes a step beyond Instant messaging to deliver a visual solution to communication within social communities …

    Excellent post



  8. Gerard

    I guess I’m old school. i still use IRC channels and forums for “conversation.” I like twitter, but – to me – it’s really only useful for a quick, short question and reply. if i’m going to have a conversation with others, i’d like it to be in-depth and interactive. IMO, Twitter and site mail just are not sufficient for that.

    I just had a conversation recently with a co-worker who asked me what value was there in social networking. He cited how he receives a lot of friend requests on Facebook and other sites (not just random people, but also past acquaintances) and never “talks” with them. I told him he’s just using it wrong.

    I see my social network in layers like an onion. The idea is to bring others from the periphery into the core where you’ll interact and converse with them more. Eventually, you should establish levels of trust with them and with others through them. The internet can be noisy, crowded, and anonymous. my social network helps me break through all that and prevents everyone on the net from becoming “imaginary people.”

  9. Corvida

    So far FriendFeed’s comment system and personal community allow me to extend the conversation far beyond my own site or the original point of origin for the conversation. Nevertheless, everything pales in comparison to the PHONE!

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  11. Mark Dykeman

    As Ben Cook says above, connections are generally pre-requesites to conversations. However, a lot of times when we add “friends” on social news, social networking, or even microblogging sites, we’re acting more like Pokemon collectors (“gotta get ’em all!”) than relationship builders. I’m terribly guilty of this at the moment, but I’m trying to turn that around.

    I’m a bit like you: blog comments and Twitter are where my conversations seem to start, although the indepth conversations eventually migrate to IM or more private channels.

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