Exerting Control and Limiting: One Way to Change User Behavior

ControlSome idle-ish thoughts on the fight to build social network platforms:

There is an interesting dynamic – a war, perhaps – going on in the word of social networks. Imbedded in this war is the problem, and fear, that many social platforms have: from the upstart side, the need is to get the users and active use necessary to be considered mainstream; from the “established” platform side, it’s preventing the former.

It is hard to get people to change behaviors quickly enough to satisfy business overlords (or investors). Witness Google Plus: it looks nice, works well, but has a long way to go to become the utility that Facebook has become. It’s hard to justify spending time there when the action is on Facebook or Twitter. And what about Socl? Is Pinterest a visual/shoppers only site? Is “niche” enough?

This is where the game of control comes in. Platform owners are starting to exert measures of control to influence user behavior. For example – slowly, people are remembering that Google controls search, and thinking that being on Google Plus helps search results. Slowly, it becomes evident that Google is favoring its own social network, while Facebook is largely invisible there. If the war is fought on organic search alone, Google will win; but that could take a long time, as if it were an Ice Age waiting for the glaciers to recede; and it’s not the only battlefield.

Another battle in this war is being fought over asset control. Twitter, for example, seems to think it can change behaviors of users of non-Twitter properties by controlling the “fire hose” of Twitter access. Most recently, Instagram photos stopped appearing properly in the Twitter streams. On the one hand, it could seem a ploy by Twitter to drive people to its own photo services; after all, the fights over access to that fire hose are getting ugly, and it’s clear Twitter wants control in many areas, favoring its own directly-owned apps and web site for people to access the service.

But in this case, Instagram shut off access. Instagram wants to drive people to its own site, so is that a ploy to build themselves up as a visual social network? Become popular, then cut people off from the service that helped spread their popularity? Instagram may think it’s time to stand on their own. I wonder if they are right.

There’s no doubt that short-term (will MySpace get a pop on its new launch?) and long-term (will Facebook someday go the way of Friendster?) changes in the social media platform landscape will change. Will exerting control ion these different manners influence the outcome? I have no idea, but it’s fun to watch.

(Did you notice I didn’t mention blogs? You control your blog- don’t you?)

 photo credit: runran on Flickr



  1. Doug, I keep wondering if an open-source alternative will someday defeat the Forces of Corporate Evil in social networks the way WordPress has in blogs.

  2. Like identi.ca? An easy-to-use, even better tool doesn’t guarantee all the people you want will b e there (especially if we’re talking large scale). If the masses go there, I will follow. But they will probably have to do some traffic-control maneuvering to achieve it (or wait for the reigning champs to blow up).

    Also, I’m not defining today’s champs as evil, and could easily put WordPress in that camp (what would other blogging platforms need to do to divert share?)

  3. Nice post, Doug. Recently I’ve been exploring the new twitter-like social network called, “app.net.” https://alpha.app.net/global/ It’s different in a few ways from Twitter (as you may know) – you can use up to 256 characters and the API is open. It does cost money though – $36.00 per year, or $100.00 per year if you want to be a developer on the platform.

    I’m finding a world-wide group of people who are a bit technically inclined as well as artists and designers there. I haven’t really found many actual companies there yet. I wonder if the “pay-to-play” model is something that might be(come?) viable.

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