Mechanics of social networks

I wrote already a few blog posts about the declining importance of search on the web and the growing role and competition of social networks. I think the only thing certain in today’s technology is even more change and even faster change. We like to think that the currently large user bases we have on certain technologies are almost immune from competition. Google controls today still 65% of all web searches (Bing together with Yahoo the next 30%, 5% other search engines do the rest). MS-Internet Explorer on PC is on the Desktop with slightly more than 50% still market leader (down from 90%) and if you include mobile web browsing, it is not above 50% anymore.

I follow a lot of discussions related to the vast dominance of Facebook and its 800 Mio user base compared to the still tiny in comparison google+ and other social networks. So why is there a risk for Facebook to lose its current market dominance? The answer is content!

I am participating and running a few social network groups, some still based on old fashioned “php-style” bulleting boards, a couple on linkedin and one on facebook. I am member of even more groups, probably around 50 or so. The funny thing is, that all these groups work based on a fundamental economic rule, the so called ‘pareto principle’.

To give you an example, I ran actual numbers on one of these networks that I use for work. The group has about 350 people as member and had yesterday 1511 posts. More than 50% of these posts have been provided by the top 10 posters in that group. Less than 3% of the group accounts for more than half of its content. The next 10 people bring the total up to close to 75% of the content. The top 10% of all posters provide 80% of the content. After I ran these numbers, I went back to may facebook newsfeed, 10% of my “friends” provided 90% of the content in my feed. Linkedin, same thing.

Now, coming to think of it, facebook does not need to worry too much about its 800 Mio readers as it needs to worry about its contributors. If just 40 Mio of high frequency posters would provide their content on another platform, facebook would lose 50% of its content. As a matter of fact, I tested it. Because of different content limitations on facebook, I moved some content exclusively over to google+ and within a day, I had moved quite a few of my “friends” over as well, because they would like to keep in touch with the content I provide.

A lot of companies in food are harvesting this power, providing great content with their facebook fan pages or the linkedin discussion groups they run.

At the heart of everything we do is the content. The content of our websites drives the results on search engines. The content of our discussion groups drives membership and even more content. Lack of content kills entire platforms. Content is king. As you can see, it does not take much to become a threat to the established platforms, at least comparatively speaking.

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