How many social networks do you belong to? How many devices do you have connected to those channels? How many apps, websites and services have you granted "permission" to access your data on those networks? How many friends, acquaintances and colleagues have you grouped, circled and filtered?
The dizzying array of social networks that we actively tune into every day is staggering. How does anyone get any real work done? Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, FourSquare, Instagram, SlideShare... and the list is growing. How many can we support and how much more can we share?
These networks are not about us, nor are they about facilitating more personal connections. Social networks are a business and as such, they are constantly seeking ways to suck you in with the latest gimmicks and gamification strategies that will have you logging in more often, staying longer and sharing more. Most have flourishing ecosystems surrounding them -- something the networks actively encourage -- with other businesses who sell you analytic, aggregation and distribution services to make sense of it all.
With this explosive growth in social channels and online engagement come the inevitable issues of privacy, content ownership and copyrights. Oh yes, that's another industry spawning around social networking: IP lawyers. And that's not taking into account the publishing and marketing businesses capitalizing on the evolving trends, threats and opportunities for individuals and businesses engaged in this space. It's a self-propelling universe with seemingly infinite possibilities.
Is the market over-saturated yet? Is the public experiencing social media exhaustion? Bloggers and investors alike are keeping their ears to the ground in hopes of discovering the next "big thing" in social media, eager to pounce on the next shiny object in the social universe.
Maybe the "next big thing" is already here? Has it been here all along?
I'm not convinced that there are cracks in the public's fixation on social media engagement; however, there are signs that LinkedIn might be the network to capitalize on the growing chaos in the social networking marketplace. LinkedIn, first of the big social networks, entered 2013 quietly with a reported 200 million registered users in more than 200 countries and territories. According to LinkedIn, there are approximately 2 new members joining LinkedIn per second, which represents 172,800 new registrations per day. Not bad for the granddaddy of social networking sites. With all the hoopla around Pinterest's explosive growth, legal and privacy concerns surrounding Instagram's new terms and conditions and complaints about Facebook's search and advertising efforts, LinkedIn remains on a positive, if not unceremonious, growth trajectory.
While other networks are busy searching for more ways to gamify and monetize your membership, LinkedIn has continued to do what it does best: connect real people in a real way. Certainly, the marketers at LinkedIn have stepped up their game recently with more outbound emails and reminders, more promotional upgrade offers and of course, more gamification tactics (one-click endorsements) to keep you on their network longer. For the most part, LinkedIn has focused on key areas: an improved, slicker interface that better promotes the member instead of advertising opportunities; a content curation and sharing system focused on the user's profile and activity from which Facebook could learn a thing or two; and an active group community that Google+ is just now catching on to.
Is this a lesson for existing networks or the start-ups yet to come? Is too much simply too much? Maybe a social network just needs to focus on the basics of human need; facilitate an authentic community where trust is inherent in user profiles, connections and interaction. Serve more steak and less sizzle.
What's your take? Is LinkedIn the sleeping giant in the social networking universe? Will it be the last man standing? Or does it need to embrace the games and glitz of the other networks to survive and grow? Join the debate.
Follow Sam Fiorella on Twitter: www.twitter.com/samfiorella