The following is my edited response to the request for feedback on a Social Network I requested to be removed from, but in reading through it, provides some insight into my thought process behind where many Social Media services may extract some value. It should also be stated that this was done in response to my personal on-line experience, not in any usage based on leveraging Social Media for business promotion, marketing or branding promoting a product or service.
Aside from not having a lot of time to "manage" my interactions on a minute-by-minute basis, I was beginning to continually receiving notifications which previously were only from those individuals in my friends list, not from people inviting me to various groups. I live in North New Jersey, which is far enough from NYC to be comfortable, but too far to take advantage of the various events and societies emerging in the city daily. As a result, I was beginning to see content that was primarily focused on NYC which I do not benefit from directly. In factoring in the signal-to-noise ratio unfortunately, your service lost out.
I began to loose the sense of MY community. To be fair, I am still struggling with the true value in each of these services. For example, with FourSquare I am beginning to see some "return of time invested" via various partnerships with sponsors who have a local presence, in offering deals, specials or discounts to loyal users of the product.
Gowalla on the other hand, is a product that I have used since the beginning and enjoy the "scavenger hunt" features of collecting items and checking in at landmarks for the collection of what I consider to be some of the best graphics out there. Also, I have started leveraging their Trips feature to explore areas of interest when I have time to explore my surrounding communities.
Then there are the community service focused social sites like twitter, where I have a discovered a number of individuals with common interests and built very strong relationships with. Like others, they also offers the geo-location services. Of course personally, there is FaceBook, but that is personal and seperate from my general social experience in the inter-realm.
So why so many services? I still haven't found that single service that gives me a consolidated welcoming experience, incorporating most if not all of the above, without overwhelming me with functions and features. I work in Technology, IT Service Management, to be more specific and it seems like many of these services have either lost sight of the customer experience or simply haven't figured out what will makes their services "stick" with users.
For me, personally, I am all about the experience and am often turned off by over the top feature loads. I simply want a service with a simple, well designed interface, that has a logical flow that requires almost no thought to utilize. I want geo-location for sponsored check-ins, friend meet-ups and in some instances a record of previously visited locations. I also want the simplistic, visually elegant interface to support my work-flow (for lack of a better term.) Lastly a service which allows me to build an interactive community experience.
I think in the future, the Post + Comment method of community building will need to evolve and become more dynamic and interactive. What I don't want is a "Push" service, where information is blasted to me all of the time. I want to choose what I see, when I see it and from whom. This will be more difficult to manage as things like sponsorship and advertising come into play or economic pressures drive users to bring in, or seek out new members to invite or connect with. Most of this should be organic and driven by the user, not by the service. How that interaction is supported or introduced to the users driving them to become engaged will be key.
It has nothing to do with your service personally, many of the services mentioned above have some of these issues as well. Few have been successful at giving the user a simple, enjoyable experience, then getting out of the way and allowing the user to drive innovation through usage. Many of these services are scrambling to add features already included in other services just to keep up, instead of finding new ways to innovate and push the experience to the next level.
Using my personal computing experience as an analogy; I don't want another Microsoft, HP, Dell or Toshiba, I am looking for what an Apple is going to give me next that more than likely don't know I need yet, giving me that "warm-fuzzy" or "Ah-Ha!" moment. I am pretty passionate about Technology and the user experience in my own career, which has followed me on-line as I continue to explore as an early adopter of Social Media focused on capturing what it is the user wants to experience. Unfortunately in its infantcy, I have been met with primarily an experience where new features and market share are still the driving the force, instead of a well-tuned user experience allowing growth to be driven organically.