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Jeff Tinsley is the founder and CEO of MyLife.com, the leading social service for connecting your social networks and email services all in one place.
Every other week, it seems a new stat pops up, released to prove that social network X is more popular than social network Y. Whether it’s Facebook dominating the market, Google+ adding users fast, or newcomer Pinterest grabbing 11 million visits in one month, the battle of the social networks shows no sign of letting up. Many ask, “Who will be the ultimate winner?” But perhaps this is the wrong question.
Mounting evidence suggests that the battle of the social networks isn’t a zero sum game. Both Facebook and Google+ are growing in popularity and activity. Tumblr continues to demonstrate it’s more than a fad for millennials. And let’s face it, Twitter is a mainstay.
The staying power of social networks — big and small — proves that there needn’t be a “best” social network, or even a “most popular.” Instead, there ought to be a bit more social networking diplomacy. While the public battle for “most liked” social network carries on, trends point to a far more satisfying outcome: diversity of choice.
The truth is, people aren’t using just one social networking site — they are embracing a dozen. ComScore’s latest digital usage study, 2012 U.S. Digital Future in Focus, found that social networking accounted for 16.6% of time spent online in 2011. In December alone, Twitter drew 37.5 million uniques, while LinkedIn and Google+ drew 33.5 million and 20.7 million, respectively. In that same month, the average user spent 151 minutes on Tumblr, 80 minutes on Pinterest, and 423 minutes on Facebook. Oh, and MySpace just gained one million users — in a month.
The true focus of social networking sites should be less about seeking popularity, and more about helping a user live his life.
People have proven that they will access multiple social network sites, if they have good uses for them. The top sites have already proven themselves worthy. Twitter broke the news of Whitney Houston’s death 27 minutes before the press. Pinterest users are showcasing and caching items collected across the web. Facebook users are posting family photos. Google+ users are learning to play guitar via video hangouts.
The fact is, no matter how great, no one network is able to deliver on every front. For instance, can any platform match Twitter when it comes to short, instant global communication? Or will any network ever equal Facebook when it comes to making and sustaining connections the world over? Users will embrace a variety of sites, each of which excels at its unique method of connecting, sharing and more.
For the future of social networking, that means tolerance is key, and integration and management tools will have essential roles to play. Those that succeed will offer users simple, comprehensive solutions to maintain their connections and make new ones.
Sure, users recognize that a definitive, end-all platform to communicate may be ideal. But it isn’t essential. People will share, friend, link, circle, pin, like, tweet and post — and they’ll do it happily. They know that when it comes to making quality connections, “more” is always better. Social networking, it turns out, isn’t a zero sum game after all.