I would say that a social network is just as popular over a period of years if it is of Real Use to people, so we have to define how old social networs (you know before Internet...) kept their members and if and how to apply those learnings to the future of social networks.
There is no doubt that there is short time use of a specific network, it can be either to:
- Discuss topics of life; tech, movies, books, politics, economy, games whatever
- Store memories, photos, videos, comments, articles, friends contact infos
- Look for partners or jobs, travels, books, music, videos
- Communicate with the contacts
- Buy cheap, sell not so cheap
No1 is the equivalent of the Fora, the Greek square where people met to exchance views, that's why it's called forum today;- and it was effective up until the point when the democracy was extended beyond the city. Forum moved to newspapers and democratic society and that became impossible to use for ordinary people, therefore political parties are for the most eager ones, that can stand to waste time in endless meetings just to say a couple of things along the road.
No1 did a comeback with Internet BBS, and then forum, discussions boards, suddenly it was almost too easy to raise your voice.
But still, it works and we will continue to seek inputs from others in forums, even if it takes a search engine to find them.
No2 is more a storage thing, it doesn't really need a social network. So this feature is neat but useless in the long run. It actually creates problems too. If diving into several networks I need to fill in, update, search, add, connect etc to others then to do the same thing over and over again. So here is cross cover services like Plaxo very useful, I don't want to go into Flickr everytime, I don't want to have almost the same contacts in multiple networks, etc.
Som No2 is not something that will keep a unique network alive.
No3 is more Real Use but there are soooo many of those ones and how trustworthy are they?? I mean have you been out there trying to find a cheap travel and a good hotel at a reasonable price? You need to cover a few portals before you find anything good and in one place the same hotel as in another is at a different price, good work...
Books, music and video is dead objects you buy at best price, so no network will help you there, if they don't give you discount, global sourcing and free shipping. But competing with price is not bringing stability in a relationship.
Talking about relationship, social networks have yet to be competitive in finding partners, dating. At Facebook it's more like High School Musical kind of dealership. Totally not sophisticated, the other more professional ones are just after your money, but what do I know.
I think real time and life chit chat and casual drinks kind of meetings with a location centric scanning process is the future here and I don't see any social network doing that?
Communicate, no4, yes, we want to communicate but shallow social networks, how can they compete? Well by arranging events! And promoting events! And by sponsoring events! That is the big area that is growing fast too, Xing use to be the king in this area, they get people together and this is also a very good way to keep the tradition going, gatherings was the first social network flower bed, here is the future of digital networks; real life meetings!
No5 is soooo boring and has nothing to do in a social network unless you have a contact in your network in Yiwu that can get me a brand new iTouch copy for nothing? I thought so. Don't bother.
Which brings me back to the illustration, the centre of social activities, private or professional, is collaboration. And that takes place with people you trust. How do you trust them? Well they have to prove by their actions that they are trustworthy won't they? So build us a trust-2-trust network based on social network contacts and we have collaboration going;
the only way to keep people working together.