Yes, I like many others believe it's time for the world to embrace a new social culture, a new social experience, and a new type of social networking model that, unlike many of those that exist today, actually work to benefit those themselves that make use of social media. After 3 years of running a social networking organization myself, I've listened attentively to the many concerns of the average social user. Among the shortfalls of the social world, people have long complained about things like poorly designed user interfaces, a lack of usable features, censorship, and the fact that some platforms actually put profits over people themselves. I wholeheartedly share these same concerns, and want to tell the world you're definitely not alone! As you're about to see, you can be rest assured, that as a social networking organization, we're not only listening, but preparing to act boldly.
The Shortfalls of Social Media:
Among the biggest concerns I've heard from social users over the course of the last 3 years, it appears censorship remains at the top of the list of those concerns. Anyone who's made use of platforms like Linkedin, Facebook, and more recently the Q&A platform Quora, have likely heard these platforms have been under fire for the potential censorship of both people and brands.
At present, the social platform Quora is heavily under fire from its own user base in regards to its moderation system, and the fact that users feel their opinions are often censored by moderators who simply don't agree with their personal opinions. After taking the time to further investigate these claims, it appears from my own experience on the platform that their claims are definitely valid. The platform appears to take a heavy handed approach to moderation, in which a simple argument between two individuals is enough to be threatened with being banned.
The platform uses a system of up and down votes to decide which comments remain visible and rise to the top, or which ones are collapsed due to too many down votes. While this system seems fair enough to me, the problem is, the moderators will threaten to ban users for simply asking questions they feel aren't useful. Once they're called out, they simply deny any such activity ever took place. I have to admit, the platform is beginning to feel more and more like a dictatorship than a social network.
The issues of censorship surrounding Quora also bring to light another issue. What is a social network without rules of engagement? After all, we have things like law enforcement for a reason, and without rules how can we protect the rights of users from abuse across social platforms? I have to admit, when it comes to things like defining the guidelines for the communities I manage on Google +, I find it's solely up to me personally to define what is socially acceptable, and what is not. Here I'm pitted between enacting rules that help to serve and protect the social experience, while also making sure they don't hinder the rights of our users to express themselves freely, without being persecuted for having opinions and beliefs that divulge from the norm.
What concerns me even more is the fact that one person (myself) can have the power to define the rules of engagement for so many. If I have the power to determine the fate of so many, what's to make me think others don't as well? Definitely a cause for concern, as putting such tremendous power in the hands of a single person or even small group of people could open the doors to potentially negative policies that inflict more harm than good to people.
Censorship within Facebook's platform seems to be more of a profit driven problem, than one where moderation attempts to silence its users. For one, Facebook is primarily an open book in terms of the way it allows individuals to communicate, but when it comes to brands, bloggers, and other content creators, the story changes entirely. Facebook outright censors these entities brand pages by hiding the content they publish from those who follow their pages. Unless you pay to promote content on Facebook, the visibility for the average brand page remains a paltry 1% to 3% on average.
My concern here is that, unlike the average internet user, the content creators of the web are the real contributors, yet they aren't valued for their efforts at all on platforms like Facebook. In fact, it appears Facebook punishes them for it. What facebook has failed to realize is that, content itself is created by people who often just want to express their opinion on something, share their latest artistic creations, that invoke a meaningful discussion with others.
The web's greatest of achievements are created by people, who're then subsequently thrown to the back of the bus and shunned unless they pay.
Facebook's pay to play model is of serious concern since it clearly puts profits first over the people it serves. My thought is, the paid promotion of content within public social platforms should be an added feature, not a mandate. Facebook is also a public network since it allows anyone to join.
Other platforms like Linkedin, have flat out proven to be extremely anti-social, where the platform will often suspend and ban its users for simply trying to connect with someone new. Isn't the whole point of social networking to connect with those who share your common interests? To make matters worse, they'll even charge you money just to send your own friends a message on the platform. Apparently Linkedin doesn't understand the concept of social networking at all is the problem. It's no one winder the world of social networkers has become disillusioned with this platform, and it's hardly a surprise that their stock has tanked so hard in recent times, while their user engagement levels have continued to dip heavily at times. It also didn't help that they systematically have kicked out their own members in mass, often providing the users in question with no viable explanation for the reasoning behind their removal. It seems anyone who doesn't have a paid premium account is at risk of being banned.
UI Design and Usable Features:
Some platforms clearly suffer from poor user interface designs, and they lack the interesting features that makes the social networking experience fun and inviting. Google is one such platform. While it's the platform that's most heavily used by my own brands, I'm not coming to Google's defense when it comes to the platforms lack luster features, and the fact the more recently redesigned user interface leaves a lot to be desired. It doesn't take long after entering this network to realize the mass of its members wholeheartedly despise the new user interface Google has put into place.
The new UI doesn't scale properly on high resolution desktop and laptop devices, often displaying elements that are so large they take up virtually the entire screen! At a resolution of 1920x1080, just 2 posts in any given community fill the screen of my laptop, forcing me to scroll endlessly to find more content and engage with more users. It also appears Google has resulted to collapsing comments within posts, and at times hiding engagement metrics, both of which only serve to hamper social engagement, rather than entice it. People are obviously going to be more likely to engage in conversations they can see.
To make matters worse, this is the 2nd failed redesign the network has seen in just 3 years. At present, Google Plus is suffering from a massive lack of social engagement, and it appears many have simply left the network in disgust of the new UI. When people complained in mass of their disliking for the new UI, Google continued to just pretend nothing was wrong. Those who do continue to make use of the platform appear to be spending less and less time there, another cause for concern.
Since Google rolled out their latest UI redesign, all my brands on the network have seen an average decline in visibility of around 50%, and when that redesign was first rolled out, the numbers were closer to 75%, although there's been some improvements in traffic numbers lately. The point is, Google is completely alienating its entire user base, and it's because they're too ignorant to admit they did anything wrong, and refuse to address the concerns of their users.
Lack of Innovation:
Besides the concerns surrounding censorship and UI's, one area where virtually all social networks appear to be falling short is in offering anything substantial in terms of real innovative features that serve to improve the experience of social media from an entertainment perspective. If one network were to score well in this arena, it would likely be Facebook, who continues to expand their online gaming features, which serve to offer a more well rounded and socially entertaining experience for their users.
Google Plus too once had games, but the feature was removed early on due to a lack of interest from the network's users. What Google didn't realize was that, it's not that people don't like to play games, it's they didn't like the games you offered! Another problem with gaming features of G+ had to do with the fact that none of the games were playable for more than a few seconds without having to pay, and the games weren't cheap either.
When Google shut down its gaming features, we served to expand our own, and this site offers over 220+ free games to our users today. By offering more to our users, we've benefited from higher than average retention levels. For example, when people go to our gaming community on G+, we not only provide a place to talk about video games, but we provide the games as well! No other gaming community on Google Plus offers such an experience, and having such features keeps our members coming back for more.
When it comes to innovation on social media, like anything else, coming up with new and never thought of before ideas to drive engagement is no walk in the park. After all, there isn't a Thomas Edison born every day, and often the ability to define new and improved experiences is subject to finding the creative minds that are capable of envisioning what others have failed to see. To put it lightly, people are getting bored with social media, and the lack of innovation we've seen in this industry only serves to further compound that boredom.
All being said, given the fact we have social platforms today that act as dictators who censor anything they don't personally agree with, others that are too ignorant to acknowledge the concerns of their users, and yet others who force the world to pay to even be social at all, It's easy to realize there's plenty of room for new and innovative social platforms on the web. It's also something my social networking organization has now heavily taken into consideration today.
If you're looking ways to improve your social presence, bring visibility to your brand, blog, and ideas, or learn the intricacies of SEO and web publishing, feel free to check out Strategic Social Networking's community on Google Plus to gain insights from industry leading professionals: Strategic Social Networking - Improve Your Social Strategies!