The New Social Media Landscape: A Roadmap

July 20th, 2011

It may look like Google+ is competing with Facebook and Twitter, but I don’t think that is what will happen in the end. I think Google+ is a very different kind of service and it’s not clear that it can or will, or should, replace these other services.

In a series of articles here on my blog, I’ve explained the differences between these services, and what Google+ is really for and what it means for the rest of the social media giants:

  1. Google+ is Really for Sharing Knowledge, Not Social Networking
  2. Should Facebook be Worried About Google+?
  3. Why Twitter’s API Strategy Must Change in a Google+ and Facebook World
  4. Why the Google+ Developer Ecosystem Will be Different from Twitter

The conclusion I draw from all this is that instead of one social network to rule them all, I think it’s more likely that the social media landscape is going to divide into different territories, with each of the major social networks playing a different role.

Here’s how I think this all going to shake out:

  • Facebook is for social networking
  • LinkedIn is for business networking
  • Google+ is for knowledge networking
  • Twitter is for notifications

They just don’t know it yet.

Here is some more detail on this idea:

  • Facebook is for social networking
    • Facebook is the new social infrastructure for the planet, and Google+ is no match for it. By social, I mean non-professional, personal, friend-to-friend and group communication. There’s a lot more happening in Facebook than this however: gaming, branding, groups, marketing. But all this other activity depends on the fact that people spend so much time in Facebook, socializing. This is very different from what’s happening on Google+ and Twitter as well.
  • LinkedIn is for business networking
    • It’s the infrastructure for professional networking in the old-school sense – as in getting a job, finding customers, locating partners, hiring people, doing biz dev and sales, etc. LinkedIn is the most differentiated and focused of all these players: they know what they’re good at and they’re not trying to be all things to all people. Now LinkedIn needs to build more bridges into more third-party applications and services to keep people aware of it and using it.
  • Google+ is for knowledge networking
    • Google+ is an infrastructure for sharing knowledge, not social networking. Knowledge has always been Google’s strength and core focus. Knowledge is not just articles, but the conversations around them, and these conversations are one of Google+’s best features. More importantly, because Google has such a powerful search infrastructure, and such a powerful computing architecture, they are in a position to combine Google+ with search and massive analytics and machine learning, to dynamically re-organize and connect both the Web and the real-time Stream. By doing this Google+ could be a potential successor for the Blogosphere, and could leap far ahead of other competing search engines as well.
  • Twitter is for notifications
    • Twitter is really a notifications infrastructure. That’s what they do best, and what they should be focusing on. They are executing on the wrong strategy right now. They are trying to be a media company, but that is not their strength and others already are far ahead of them at that. But as an infrastructure for short notifications, Twitter has an opportunity to be unique and win, if they focus on that. Twitter has replaced RSS, for better or for worse, as the primary way people and applications share and track these kinds of notifications. Twitter could leverage this position to become the notifications infrastructure for the whole world – and for all of the other networks – even for G+ and Facebook – if they played their cards right and stopped focusing on competing for eyeballs.