The networks I reviewed here are Google Plus, Twitter, Pinterest, Inbound.org, Facebook, Quora, and Linkedin.
Pros: None that I could find...still looking.
Cons: If you've been yearning for the social experience of being screamed at by uneducated and semi-illiterate trolls who hate themselves and just want to see the world burn, Reddit is the network for you! Heck, the platform itself can't even spell right.
It doesn't take long after viewing any subreddit to realize virtually every comment on this platform is hardly readable at best. Besides the platform's rampant illiteracy, virtually every conversation is centered upon heated arguments by extremely self-infatuated losers who scream expletives at each other.
Given this network has no policy for dealing with trolls, it's user interface makes one want to cry, and the fact it's easier to read hieroglyphics than it is a single sentence on this platform, it scores a 1 out of 10 in terms of its usefulness to users. While I'm not bashing those who have reading problems, you probably don't have much room to talk when can't even spell your own name.
Although, if you like hearing others explain to the world how wonderful they are, and how they're always right and you're always wrong, this network might just work out for you!
Pros: This is truly the network for the interest based user who seeks to connect with like minded individuals who share the same passions. From photography, to movie buffs, and independent artists, to gaming enthusiasts, there's literally a community for every interest imaginable on Google Plus! The network itself is driven by its massive and awe inspiring community bases. In fact, they're the largest community based network on the web today!
Google Plus also offers many benefits to its users. For one, unlike some competing social networks, it doesn't appear as if Google discriminates against certain parties over others, as people, brands, publishers, and other content creators appear to share this social platform in unity. Google is an open book with the way it operates its network, allowing people to decide for themselves who they want to follow, who they interact with, and what they want to see. Users also have the option to find tune their notifications, as well as their circles to weed out all the digital fluff and zero in on what really matters to them.
Because of the network's openness to all, it's one of the web's most heavily sought platforms for content creators.
Cons: Google Plus is currently suffering from serious problems, including a strong lack of engagement in many areas of the network, along with millions of angry members who insist Google's newly updated user interface is a train wreck! Their concerns are also not without merit. Google failed to properly test their new desktop user interface across high resolution laptop and desktop monitors, and the results are a complete disaster. The new user interface doesn't properly follow the principals of responsive design, and so it improperly scales content to massively overflow the screens of the monitors its being viewed on. When viewing the new interface from a laptop monitor at 1920x1080 resolution, just 2 posts inherently fill almost the entire screen within any given community.
Other problems like tiny fonts that are hardly readable also present accessibility problems for users with partial or severe visual impairment. For instance, in order to access the edit menu in communities, users must find a series of tiny dots on the screen!
To make matters worse, despite the cries of many, Google continues to insist nothing is wrong, and the complaints of its users continue to fall on deaf ears. Due to Google's unwillingness to listen to its user base, the lack of engagement that continues to hamper the network, and the fact the network no longer scales properly on high resolution monitors, I give this network only a 5 out of 10. If it weren't for the failed redesign and the fact they refuse to listen, those numbers would likely have been closer to 9 out of 10.
This is too bad too, because more than 90% of my own brands audiences exist solely on this network. If the network were to fail, it would surely destroy everything I and many others worked so hard to build. Nonetheless, I still have faith Google Plus can pull through, they just need to make some serious changes to the way the platform is managed.
Pros: This is a Q&A platform that was first launched in 2010 and has since heavily grown its user base to include professionals from just about every industry imaginable, and today it serves as a wealth of knowledge that sit in line with top informational websites like Wikipedia. If there's a question that's been lingering in your head for some time, there's likely a good and solid answer waiting just a simple search away.
Besides the platform's main focus on questions and answers, it also has additional benefits for its members such as the ability to produce your own blogs right within the platform and share your content with other networks.
This network also serves as a great place for one to build their authority and influence on the web; both of which are strong factors in terms of ranking in search engines like Google.
Cons: This platform suffers from heavy handed moderation and rampant censorship at present. In fact, among all the social platforms reviewed here, this one was by far the absolute worst when it came to allowing members to communicate freely. Often the network's moderators will threaten the platform's users with being banned for simply disagreeing with someone, or asking a question for which the moderators do not like.
Despite the fact Quora consists of a mostly positive and productive user base, and it provides a wealth of knowledge and enticing features for its members, the censorship by staff leaves a lot to be desired with this platform. For this reason this network scores just a 3 out of 10, and they're lucky they got that.
After all, who wants to join a platform where they're going to be threatened every time they speak their minds? This is not exactly the type of social experience the world would be hoping for.
Pros: Despite the cries of many that this network is lacking in terms of engagement in recent times, the individuals making these claims are likely not engaging themselves. In fact, what makes Twitter so great is the fact it has a 24/7 audience that never falls silent! Just as New York is the "City That Never Sleeps", Twitter is the "Network That Never Sleeps!"
The platform wins in its ability for users to quickly organize their interests into lists, and the layout of links makes it easy to differentiate between conversations and content, something most other platforms fail to do.
The platform also offers great features, such as many paid promotional capabilities, and Cards for publishers, so they can achieve full bleed images, with full titles and descriptions to boot.
One has to honor the fact Twitter doesn't mess with its users ability to communicate freely, and the fact the user interface is so simple to set up and use is an added bonus. Despite recent assumptions by the media that Twitter has a learning curve, I have to disagree. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out how to make use of Twitter.
Another plus to this platform is that fact Twitter is doing away with taxing its user in word counts for URL's, images, @mentions, etc. Given the platform is driven by short statements this is a positive change.
Cons: Paid marketing promotions on this platform are extremely expensive. Given that most publishers earn just a couple of dollars for a thousand impressions, unless you're selling a product or service, the cost of their promotional services is likely not worth it to most. Given the fact Twitter has suffered from steep drops in their stock and stagnant growth levels, the platform really should consider easing it's paid promotional rates to more reasonable sums.
Nonetheless, despite the high costs of paid promotions for this platform, Twitter still deserves an 9 out of 10 in terms of its usefulness to users. After all, they don't mess with your ability to communicate!
Pros: It's the network of choice for connecting with family and friends! For those who like to keep their social connections close to home, Facebook remains the place to be. This network recently rolled out its Instant Articles feature to all publishers, which is likely to speed up the delivery of content to users across all devices, especially mobile ones.
The platform also has the advantage of entertaining its users with a strong library of social games, and they have the largest user base of all networks today.
Cons: Despite being the world's largest social network, and having the strongest user base, this network suffers from serious problems, including heavy spam within certain parts of the platform, and the fact it violates freedom of expression and freedom of speech on every level imaginable leaves for a lot of concern. To make matters worse, this platform is quickly alienating itself from content creators across the web, as bloggers and major publishers continue to see their overall reach on the platform remain in significant decline.
This article from Adweek Publisher Reach Down 42 Percent, which further explains the lack of visibility hitting content creators within the platform, including the fact that the average brand page has lost 42% of their visibility since the beginning of this year.
At present, those who operate a brand page on the network, including bloggers, artists, brands, and other content creators are literally forced to pay in order for their followers to see their own content. In fact, visibility for Facebook brand pages remain at an average of just 1% to 3% today. Even if you do pay to promote your page or content with Boosted posts, once the promotions have ended, Facebook once again hides virtually everything you publish from the audience you did gain.
The problem is, forcing people to pay in order to communicate clearly violates our basic human rights to freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Despite the network's massive user base, it remains a social platform divided. I'd make a sure bet the day will come when the federal government decides to take action against this network for the way it operates. If it violates the constitution, then it violates federal law as well.
Besides its violations of human rights, the network also has a serious problem with spam! At present, the network's algorithms for finding and attacking spam remain among the poorest of all social platforms in existence. Facebook Groups remain heavily spammed today. Besides the rampant commercial spam, one is often met with posts of explicit violence when viewing groups across the network. In fact, the posts I discovered during my writing of this article were so bad I've decided to leave the descriptions of them out of this post entirely, they were that bad.
Putting profits over people is a serious fail, and so is the fact the platform has failed to gain a foothold on spammers. To add icing on the cake, the network is now the worst bet for publishers across the web. If you're looking to grow an audience, it may be best to focus on other networks that don't segregate their users for money. Facebook scores a mere 1 out of 10 on its usefulness to users.
While Facebook continues to tout its many features, such as Instant Articles, and now a greater focus on Livestreaming, these features are useless if you're posting content into thin air.
Inbound.org: The true network for professionals! While this social network is heavily utilized by marketers, the platform itself is extremely diverse, both in terms of its users, and the IT based industry related subjects it covers, including everything from digital marketing, to SEO, blogging, and more. The platform's community exhibits strong engagement levels, and if you're one who's still fuzzy about internet based marketing tactics, or getting your first blog off the ground, this is likely the platform for you.
The platform today serves as a wealth of collective knowledge for its users, and is home to both seasoned professionals and beginners alike. One of the many great features of this platform is the level of tolerance it exhibits, and the incredible respect it shows for its members. Unlike platforms like Quora who'll slap their members on the wrist if moderators don't agree with their statements, this platform is an open book and lets everyone express themselves freely.
Nowhere else on the web will you find as many up to date stories for your favorite web based industry subjects, and best of all, virtually everything published there is of excellent quality. This platform is full of good information that's actually useful to users.
Cons: None! Considering this platform's level of professionalism, the fact its very well managed with staff that's almost constantly present, and it doesn't interfere with its members abilities to communicate, I give it a 10 out 10, which it greatly deserves. This network serves as a role model for what every network should be. No doubt, this is by far the best social platform on the web today, especially for those in the IT and marketing realms.
Pros: Awe inspiring graphics make up the hallmarks of this heavily content driven platform. It's no wonder Pinterest tends to be the network of choice for the artistic masses of the social web today, and with a mere glimpse of this platform it doesn't take long to realize why. If you have interesting creations you're eager to share with the world, this network is the place to be! From digital artists to homemakers, you can almost find something new and inspiring upon each visit to this platform. I have to say, it's the one network that's truly eye appealing.
One of the many great features of Pinterest is its ease of use. Setting up an account and getting started takes virtually no direction, and the platform makes organizing your content based on interests a breeze with simple to setup boards. If you're looking to collaborate with others who share your interests, great, just create a group board for everyone to post!
The platform is also among the cleanest and least cluttered of all social networks, where elements are laid out cleanly in a manner that makes effective use of space. Their integrated search feature is also among the best you'll find on the social web.
The platform also takes security seriously! The platform is heavily moderated by Pinterest staff 24/7. Considering how strongly internet users feel about their privacy and security on the web today, this is definite bonus for the platform!
Cons: This platform lacks engagement, although it partially makes up for this because of its visual appeal. Also, it seems much of the purpose of this network is to build your own personal collections of what matters to you, so not having a ton of engagement isn't so bad for Pinterest.
What the platform could do to increase engagement is to put some staff to work by engaging with members across the network. I've learned from my longstanding experience of running communities on the web that if engagement is lacking, sometimes you just have to create it yourself. If no one's talking, be the first to speak and get the conversation rolling.
This is also how Inbound has managed to retain such high levels of engagement, as their staff is not only constantly present, but they're among the most active of members as well. So, there's definitely options for Pinterest to increase its engagement levels over the long term. And, engagement itself is a must for any platform that intends to continue to grow.
There's a few more things to be concerned about with this network, including the fact their support often will not respond after being contacted, ever in fact! We recently had an account suspended, no reason given either, and after being told we could contest this decision, we've emailed them multiple times. A month later and no response, fail.
Despite the lack of engagement, and the fact their customer support sucks, this network still has a lot of positives, and for this reason it deserves an 7 out of 10. If it weren't for the lack of support, that score would likely have been closer to 9.
Pros: This is often the network of choice for professionals and employers, and the platform offers a number of features that help one to build their personal brand and ultimately influence, such as native blogging features, and groups to engage with others in your field. Often seen as the network that connects professionals and employers, Linkedin is still the most sought network by recruiters worldwide.
Cons: Despite this platform's high praise by companies large and small, I have a lot of concerns with the way this platform operates, including its treatment of users.
For one, the platform has a habit of suspending the accounts of its users in mass, and in many cases banning them from the platform for merely trying to engage with others. Trying to follow or contact someone you don't know is enough to get your account closed. Sorry to say, but it looks as if Linkedin has failed to comprehend the entire purpose of social networking, which is typically to connect with likeminded individuals who share your common interests. Punishing people for trying to be social is the hallmark of this social network, and a complete social disaster if you ask me.
Another problem I see with Linkedin is the fact the platform has long enticed people to tag each other with endorsements for skills they often do not have. The platform also appears to have developed a culture of self promotion and self infatuation.
To make matters worse, the platform is largely pay to play, where a user would attempt to contact another user and are told they'll be charged if they plan to do so. This merely puts up barriers between people, and it doesn't create the best of an image for the platform either.
And there's more! I know, the negatives just never seem to stop coming with this platform. Unfortunately, when this platform suspends and bans accounts, they will do so with no explanation to users at all, just you're banned, and that's it. It takes repeated emails to the platforms support team before they'll finally give you a reason why.
For instance, back in 2013 I decided to get active on the platform for the first time in years. I updated my profile and created a group for me and my friends that had accounts on the platform to engage. The very next day I logged in and tried to communicate with those in my group, and kept getting a message that stated I needed approval from a moderator? I owned the group, so it made no sense I would need someone elses approval. Then I come to realize I cannot access any groups on the platform at all, and not just my own.
It took me to email their support multiple times before receiving what amounted to one lame excuse after another, where they insisted I was spamming, and when I asked them to explain how, they refused to acknowledge anything. How could I possibly be spamming I thought? I hadn't posted anything on the platform in years, and in fact wasn't even active until a day earlier, but somehow I'm spamming?
As if all the negatives of this platform weren't bad enough, apparently they didn't realize I'm actually the co-founder of one of the world's largest social networking organizations, Strategic Social Networking. It's probably not a good idea to piss off industry leaders in the social networking world when you run a social platform yourself. Epic fail for Linkedin.
All being said, it's no wonder this platform's co-founders have locked their profiles on Google+ to private, being as they're so hated by the general public there's no doubt in my mind they would just get hammered with insults. I also don't recommend for employers to take this network into consideration at all when screening for potential job candidates.
It also looks like the platform is being bought by Microsoft. At first thought this sounds like it would a be huge plus for the platform, until you realize the fact Microsoft is planning to leave the same failed leadership in place that exists their today.
Considering the headaches this platform causes it's users, and definitely taking into much of what I mentioned above, this platform scores a 1 out of 10 in terms of its usefulness to users. In fact, this was the worst network reviewed here, and it was so bad I merely mentioned a handful of the negative aspects that engulf it today. There's was so many I decided to spare myself the agony of having to list them all.
Out of all criteria used to grade these networks upon their usefulness to users, the ability to communicate freely was a strong and defining factor. The reason being, the whole point of social media is to connect with those who share your interests, and just be social. Unfortunately, as I pointed out above, some platforms have clearly abused their members by putting money as a first priority over people. If there's one thing that both I and the organization I help run strongly believe in, it's that people should have the right to communicate freely on the open web. Censorship and segregation suck, and those who continue to abuse the human rights of many will one day come to pay the price for their misdeeds. I hope the money was worth it to them, as one day all that bad karma will come back to haunt them.