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Are Big Social Networks Evolving Towards Best Practices or Merely Stealing Each Other’s Stuff?

Often people follow experts via social media to learn how to emulate their best skills. That works out well for both the follower and the person being followed. Now it seems the actual social networks may be doing a form of exactly the same thing. 

Every time you turn around one social media giant is trying to emulate what the other is doing successfully.

Or, they’re adopting what the latest up-and-comer is doing to differentiate themselves.

 

So, is this a good thing, leading to the best practices coming to the foreground for everyone? Or is it a bad thing, moving all these channels to a sameness that negates the need for many of them? Or at least, causing some of them to lose their unique charms? Before you answer, let’s look at the latest moves by a couple of the SoMe kingpins.

The Facebook Want Button

Recently, Facebook announced it was testing some new alternatives to its “Like” button, including a new “Want” button. This would allow retailers to showcase parts of their collections on Facebook, and fans could then click the “want” button to show everyone that this is an item they want. This action would then show up on the person’s timeline and in their friends’ news feeds.

In essence, Facebook is using its want button to try and create the same functionality that has made Pinterest so popular with brands and online retailers. Reportedly, they are also working on a “buy” button that will take you straight to where the item is on the retailer’s site.

So, is the giant social network stealing Pinterest’s thunder in an attempt to make pinning irrelevant, or is it learning what works in the marketplace and incorporating the best practices into its arsenal? You could make the argument either way. I would certainly think Facebook is going to grab at any plan that might bring in revenue that will please its grumbling stockholders, but, I don’t think it will kill Pinterest. That’s a niche network that has its own charms that Facebook will never match. Facebook is a lot of things, but charming isn’t one of them.

The LinkedIn Endorsement Play

 

Another of the giant social networks, LinkedIn, recently launched a new feature called Endorsements. 

Basically, they allow you to endorse certain skill sets of your connections.

 

If you’ve taken the time to fill out the “skills & expertise” portion of your profile, your connections can now endorse you as an expert in that category. Or they can suggest a new one for you, which you can accept or not.

Many articles I’ve read point to this as LinkedIn’s answer to the Facebook “Like” button. But, LinkedIn already has a like button for your status updates and such. I think it’s actually closer to the +K part of Klout, the only difference being that you set the fields of expertise rather than the social network’s algorithm. And, of course, the fact that more people actually use LinkedIn.

Does this make LinkedIn more social? They have been looking for ways to get non-job seekers to interact more on their network. It certainly does that. And it’s a lot easier than taking the time to write a real recommendation for someone. The trick to making it useful and getting a clear picture of a person’s expertise will be weeding through the people trying to either suck up to the person in question or trying to get that person to endorse them back.

One of the endorsement procedures is a popup on your home page with one of your connections and one skill field chosen by LinkedIn.

This popup asks if you endorse this person for the skill shown.

The problem is that it’s one click and too easy to do.

 

For that reason, one HR person told me she wouldn’t be putting nearly as much credence in endorsements as recommendations. That makes sense. If there’s no effort or seeking out, how strong a recommendation is it? Although, after looking at a few people I know, their list of endorsed skills does seem to accurately reflect their areas of expertise.

Are We Heading Towards The Great Homogenization?

 The real question is; regardless of whether it’s adopting best practices or stealing someone’s thunder, does this trend threaten to make everything the same? If every social network adopts the best features of the others, will they become less useful? Will there be no need to belong to more than the couple you really like or will there always be new niche players that lead the way to change? Probably it will be a little of both, only time will tell. What do you think?

Photo Credit: Gee Ranasinha (KEXINO)