Let’s face it – Google+ never really got to mainstream adoption as a social network, and its future is now uncertain as Google redeploys internal talent away from developing it.
And Twitter? It has lost its heart. In recent days, good friends like Chris Brogan, Joe Cascio, and Carrie Wilkerson have lamented the shift in Twitter, which once was a great discovery engine of people and information. Now, it’s more of a noise machine and link-pimping platform. Sigh.
So, who could win? Well, ironically, I think Facebook could – if they’d make one not-so-major new advance.
A paid, private, premium layer for serious networkers. Let’s call it Facebook Premier (for professionals).
These public networks – YouTube, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, etc., all have a few glaring weaknesses. One is that they’re “free,” and therefore YOU (the user) are the product: you are being marketed to. That’s how money gets made to finance the “free” service.
That means advertising, and it also means lots of privacy compromises. Yuck.
Also, there is no barrier to entry for spammers and link-promoters and other noisemakers (it’s free, after all). More noise. More yuck.
So, what if Facebook created a pay-to-play, professional layer? For those of us who remember the early days of social networks, it could be like the friendly digital tailgate parties of old, instead of the current stadiums full of strangers and acquaintances all tooting their vuvuzelas. Making it a paid service would help filter out the imbalanced signal-to-noise ratio that now threatens to drown us.
In this Facebook Premier setup, we could create our own “tribes” of desirable people; we could set up multiple levels of connection and interaction with self-determined levels of disclosure (not just simplistic settings like “friends,” or “connections”). And this: no brands or businesses. Only individual people.
There would be no information shared with marketers (and no advertising) and Facebook’s data-mining would be limited by actual user-selected privacy settings that really work and don’t change every week (ahem, Zuckerberg). I wouldn’t mind some level of data-sharing if it helped me discover people with similar professional interests.
Facebook could easily set up both private and public chatrooms for paid members, where you could view discussions in either timeline or threaded views (good-bye, Twitter chats). Something like a Google Hangouts capability would seal the deal. I’d move all of my professional networking over in a heartbeat to have a more limited, curated, controlled and private platform.
Want to dip back down to the public Facebook for interactions with your other connections? No problem – just click a button. And, since Facebook appears to be de-coupling its array of platform services, give options to include/exclude connections to Instagram, WhatsApp, and the like. Make the user experience configurable and flexible.
One very cool feature would be the ability to turn off/on views of shared links, depending on if a user is in info-gathering mode or people-interacting mode. And Premier should have NO automated postings allowed.
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I could think of all kinds of other features that would make this well worth paying for. Here is an updated chart of what a current Facebook user is “worth” – and it’s way, WAY less that what I’d pay per month for a private, premium platform.
As Mark Schaefer puts it, the exponentially-growing amount of digital stuff out there is leading us to a place of “content shock.” I think one of the best filters we can employ is creating digital walled gardens, where people of affinity can pay for the privilege to network and discover and learn on their own terms.
Facebook is the most natural candidate to take this on because they already have the core platform and user base – just add a new layer for those who want a superior networking experience. Would you be on board? What would you pay? And what features would you want to see in a Premier version?
Also on the blog: Five Steps Toward Finding Your Professional Sweet Spot
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