Social networking sites postmortem premature

Adam Greenfield writes that social networking sites are officially useless to him.

His concerns include:

…the indisputable fact that they introduce awkward social situations that did not otherwise exist, or were at least far less explicit.

…the naked asymmetry. What to do with the “friend” offering a wildly effusive testimonial for you, with whom your acquaintance is so touch-and-go that you barely know how to compliment them back.

…the YASNS’ messaging functionality offers nothing but an extra spam channel.

Finally, there’s what is perhaps the strongest indictment of all, which is something that I call the “so-what factor”: you’ve spent all this time on your social-networking site of choice, building out a profile and establishing threads of affinity, joining groups and posting testimonials. So what? What’s the return on your investment? What have you gotten for all that effort? In my case, the answer is clear – very little but headaches.

While industry pundits have been debating whether or not there’s a viable business model, and while Adam has had 18 months of no success with social networking sites, my co-author and I have been collecting dozens and dozens of success stories of people for whom they ARE working.

I’m not just talking about web designers and work-at-home moms — I’m talking about people doing 4, 5, 6, even 7-figure deals as a result of relationships made through social networking sites.

In an informal survey of 125 active Ryze users, more than 1/3 reported having gotten profitable business as a result of their participation on Ryze. I know people who’ve gotten jobs, major clients, sales, business partners, and more.

Take a look at our online networking success stories for a small sampling. We have numerous others that we haven’t published that we’re using for our book. Stay tuned to that channel for more.

As a note… some of Adam’s criticisms are unique to Orkut. I have yet to hear a success story from Orkut. Given their anti-commercial terms of service, and their complete lack of sensible boundaries between personal and professional, I don’t really expect to, but it’s certainly possible. It’s fine for social purposes, but there are other sites that are far more conducive to doing business.

In the meantime, I politely propose that perhaps the problem is not with social networking sites, but with how some people are using them, and that the real issue is not to get rid of social networking sites because they don’t work, but to educate people on how they CAN work, based upon the people who already HAVE made them work.

If social networking sites aren’t working for you, and you’re wondering why, I suggest start by looking at your own practices, and then looking at the practices of the people who are being successful with them.

So, regarding the death of social networking sites, I assure you that news of their death is premature.