Social Networking: Too Much of a Good Thing?

Cross-posted from the OC Report:

A recent article in InformationWeek asks “Has Social Networking Gone Too Far?”

The article primarily focuses on the recently launched redesign of the USA Today web site. An overview article from the USA Today touts many participatory features, like content rating, multiple article sources, discussion groups and uploading photos.

From the article:

“While we’ve refined the design, we’ve also expanded the journalistic mission: Our ambition is to help readers quickly and easily make sense of the world around them by giving them a wider view of the news of the day and connecting them with other readers who can contribute to their understanding of events,” wrote editor Ken Paulson and executive editors Kinsey Wilson and John Hillkirk.

While I think this is an interesting evolution of an “old media” brand experience, it ignores the larger community ecosystem. People belong to many communities and frequent mutiple websites, even for the similar information.

The problem USA Today faces is that it wants to own a conversation that already spans multiple Web sites. “I don’t believe that people in general, even people who are really partial to particular media outlets, are going to want to have a closed social media experience around a single Web site,” (Stew) Boyd (of Blue Whale Labs) says.

Another sign that the team at USA Today doesn’t get it? I clicked on a link from their home page to read an article about the redesign and was greeted by a full screen graphical pharma ad. Firefox also informed me that it had blocked 2 popups.

Most companies that sincerely attempt to engage with their audiences online have an epiphany in the process: they realize that by listening to what their community really wants, acting upon it, and by meeting their community’s needs they generate business value.

I hope USA Today is paying attention to their conversation (277 comments and counting).

Has Social Networking Gone Too Far? Not even close.

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