Facebook and The Dumbing Down of Sharing

I just caught Netflix’s launch of Netflix Social. It’s just like any other product that shares on Facebook: you link it up, and it tells people “Person [actioned] Thing”.

Facebook’s API, while great for sharing what we’re doing in this moment, in encouraging companies to pass up the bigger picture of coming to meaningful conclusions around the data they’re collecting.

My team is working with a client that is exploring how to effectively plug into the social graph, and what we’ve realized is that the future of social isn’t about telling our friends that we did something, it’s about connecting around why we did that thing.

In the case of Netflix, instead of seeing movie and TV recommendations from my real life friend network, I’d be much more interested to find people with similar movie tastes to get recommendations. Let’s be honest, we rarely have similar movie and music tastes as our friends.

Facebook should be the linchpin to do this with over a billion active users. Unfortunately, the culture of how Facebook is used is that I’m only connected with a few hundred people I know in real life. This one fact will limit the social graph API’s ability to serendipitously connect to people I don’t yet know.

The now passed over Last.fm was on to something with their music compatibility meter. While they didn’t see it through to the end, the ability to load up a person’s profile and instantly be told how compatible we are can lead to networks of people connecting around similar music tastes, not around if we know each other in real life.

Now here’s the kicker: implemented properly, you can mitigate some of the network effects of a social network. New networks rarely pick up steam because my immediate peer group isn’t on it yet, giving me no value on first launch. On the other hand, prior to launch a company could pre-populate their network to give immediate value. Imagine a social movie experience where on first launch, hundreds of beta testers already loaded their movie preferences

Instead, we end up with fleeting, meaningless social sharing. I did something in this moment and it’s gone forever.

March 13, 2013