Are Social Networks Like the Fashion Industry?

By Daniel Scocco

Fashion lovers pardon me, but I am very skeptical regarding the usefulness of this industry. I think that all the money that is spent every year into: deciding what color is hot, what kind of dresses and sandals are going to be “in,” producing the clothes and then marketing them to make sure people will desire to buy them – regardless if they need them or not – could be used for more important purposes.

Basically it is an infinite loop, where every year fashionists need to buy the new magazines, new clothes, new shoes and follow the trends.

Now, what does that have to do with social networks? Well, lately I was thinking about them, and sometimes the usage pattern of those networks resemble the fashion industry.

One social network appears and everyone joins it. It is the new cool thing on the web, and if you are not there, you are not cool. People will create an account, update their profile page, and email all their friends asking them to join as well so they can stay connected.

Then a couple of months later a new, even cooler social network emerges. People will then migrate to it, because it has better features and, well, also because everyone is moving there. The loop is repeated over and over again.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming anyone here or pointing fingers. I followed the crowd on most of those occasions as well.

Do you remember Friedster? It used to be the place to be. Then MySpace came, and everyone jumped aboard. Then Facebook. Pownce. Twitter. Plurk.

The question then becomes: will it ever stop? How many times you joined a social network, created a profile, invited friends to join, and then abandoned it completely after a couple of months? Are we looking for something that will add real value for our lives, or we are just following what everyone else is doing?



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35 Responses to “Are Social Networks Like the Fashion Industry?”

  • medyum

    You’re very spot on. Like fashionistas, I notice plenty of social media addicts scrambling for the latest and greatest widget, site, or app. Why? No other reason than it’s new and trendy.I’m in the process of simplifying my life and creating more time for things like work and thinking. This new perspective makes social media all the more hilarious, as people seem to jump around to whatever’s cool at the moment. At the same time, they don’t really consider if any of this is adding value to their lives. And isn’t the purpose of social media and web 2.0 to add value to users’ lives?

  • Mikael

    I’ve also joined some of these sites and left. But one site that I have kept using is LinkedIn. I didn’t get the hype that MySpace, Facebook etc. got and have quietly grown and will continue to do so.

    I can’t explain what the difference is or what it takes but it clearly shows that it works.

  • Get Rich With PPC Coach

    I agree.

    It is very similar with nightclubs as well in my opinion. One is hot one year and the next year it is a completely different club that is hot, then another one and so on….

  • AGDM

    My network http://www.thebeautyroster.net is a productive one.

    Yes we have features that most other networks do but its primary focus is about being productive and striving to be professionals in the fashion or beauty industry.

    I agree most other networks are over saturated and have lost focus in attempts to cast a wide net, and net ad dollars as a result.

    If there were more niche networks I could justify the existence of most. Just like blogs for instance..

  • Rajaie AlKorani

    I really don’t think that it will ever stop. It’s kind of gadgets, the minute you get your hands on that latest gadget, a new one comes out!

  • amirulcyber

    i like your article writing style.good job.

  • Pablo Matamoros

    Information Technology is like fashion.

    Social networking happens to be one of the many products developed in the software houses / garages of the world. Who knows what would happen with blogging in a year time?

    I am a software developer. I decided 5 years ago to quit for a year and to travel. When I tried to come back to the work force my skills were pretty much useless. Technology moves so fast that as developer you are forced to spend X amount of money very year in “personal development”: books, courses, certifications, etc.

    In fact, in my case, social networking (real and online) keeps me informed of what other developers or IT professionals are doing. It even helped me to solve technical problems faster than trying to reach a colleague by phone calls.

  • team ray

    idk if wikipedia is consider a social network per say but imho i find it more valuable then all social network combine

  • Kevin (ReturnToManliness)

    I agree. Social networks, save a few, are a waste of precious time. If you have nothing but time and can spend it on something that is not as useful as working on your site, then do it. But if your time is a precious commodity, then focus on just one or two…great post!!!

  • patricia de miranda

    in Portuguese fashion = repetition of behavior
    then when we study consumption, we are studying which is the fashion of the consumption, so evrything must to be looked with a fashion eyes.
    It will be very simple if we can to define just that one color or a new special fit eill be a new trend, it´s much more complex that it.
    Talking about networks, and i don´t study this point of view… in fact I feel that we need to find a perfect socialnetwork with specific needs , first because it´s clear that all world live a big crisis, and the locals markets are very confuse now, so the attempt of across the networks it´s to find sometimes: solutions, friends, diverse visions about the future, for It will be used like parameter of new researchs, It´s a big new possibility. If the visitors are migrating of a determined one network for another one. … what do I conclude is that he still did not find what are necessary… and this yes should deserve a complete study.
    In my area, that is exactly fashionable… I know more = 300 communities and between this 300 I realy like the concept of 10 and “coroflot” is perfect “to me”, because what do I seek is a channel of new distribution for my work, and through the coroflot I obtained to increase my monthly invoicing in 30%.. what is well significant, therefore seeing printed material development service ( for textiles), finally, today 100% of my work is sold by the Web and in the future I expect that this trial be 100% via social networks, and I find that will not lack a long time for that ;))
    and sorry if my english is too bad ;))

  • uncle wilco

    Our “social shed network” has been going about 7 years it’s not massive (1000 members) but it’s unique and aims clearly at a niche who will not just add their profiles then flit and flutter around different networks its community as well as network- http://www.readersheds.co.uk

    I think the smaller social networks aimed at the passionate users will always be out of fashion, but will always have a following.

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Robin, yeah I don’t see fashion going away anything soon either 🙂 .

    @John, you make a very good point regarding the maturity of the segment. I need to agree with you with the fact that some of the points I mentioned are there because we are still on the infancy of the social networks. Should they became mainstream one day this trend might disappear (the instability, that is).

    @Joe, indeed. I tried most of those sites also, but for now I will just keep blogging on my OWN sites, and watching how the field will develop.

    @reinkefj, thanks for sharing that. LinkedIn perhaps is the most stable of those networks, mainly because it has a very clear target user. But as you said, most of the users are clueless thinking that they are doing some real networking by adding as many people as they can to their profile.

    @Hal, while I completely agree with your point that nothing substitutes face to face interaction, I also think that there is a place for such online networks, or there will be one at least, as more and more people join the web as their main work place. The problem is that we are just getting started, so it will take a while for things to get stable and clear.

    @Team ray, I am also very skeptical regarding the current social networks. I joined Twitter and used it for a while, but I think it passed some 2 months since I posted an update. I just don’t have enough time, and the time I have go into my blogs and websites.

    @funkyboy, will check that out.

    @Masked Millionaire, that is what John said above, but I think in the future social networks might go mainstream indeed. We wil lsee.

  • Lightening@Lightenings Blogworld

    I agree on both counts.

    I hate the amount of money that is spent trying to convince us all we need to spend MORE money. 🙁

    And I’m getting increasingly frustrated with the way social networks keep popping up and everyone jumps to the next one. It takes a lot of effort to learn and understand a system as well as build up a network of friends on there. *sigh* Starting to wonder if my time really is well spent trying to “keep up with the internet Joneses”.

  • G

    I have to say yes to this. The fashion industry always changes. Its economy is very unpredictable.

    ….aaand so are social networks.

  • Devilish Southern Belle

    I have joined a few of these social networks, but honestly? I’d rather just visit blogs to stay ‘connected’. Like the webring phenomenon of several years back, I haven’t gotten much traffic from these places at all, and can’t really tell if it has done me any good to join. I hear StumbleUpon or whatever is great for sharing, but I am not sure if that is a social networking-type site (I haven’t joined…yet) or more of a tool.

  • Joe Reis

    I third this!

    The next site? Probably myface.com or something equally dorky.

  • Rick Vaughn

    I second this!

    I remember when myspace with the “it” network and now Facebook has certainly taken over in that regard. What will the next one be?

  • The Masked Millionaire

    There is a saying, “Fashion is so ugly that they have to change it every 6 months.”

    Social Networking, as far as I am concerned, is a scam. It is the most over hyped thing on the internet.

    99% of social networking has to do with kids in school and young adults in college. If you were to ask the average person what Twitter is they wouldn’t know. And more to the point they wouldn’t care.

    The Masked Millionaire

  • th13rteen

    I completely agree with you. People join social networks mostly because of peer pressure and the whole bandwagon thing. Social networks aren’t really useful and we can live without it.

    Now social networks are also like the latest gadgets. Like iPods for example. There’s new iPods coming out. After some time we switch to the newer and better ones. And this circle goes on and on. See what I mean?

    And social networks are free. So people don’t hesitate to switch over to the newer and “cooler” one.

  • Denise Clarke

    Internet social networks are as fickle as the new restaurant in town. everybody wants to be there and be seen …go figure!

    Denise
    http://www.dubli-network.blogspot.com

  • sptrobb

    I completely agree; However, I don’t think this cycle is going to stop anytime soon.

  • funkyboy

    Many times I joined a network, updated a profile, made friends but then another service came, cooler, with new features and all the “old” friends called me to join the new service. Of course you can actively manage 3/4/5, anyway a limited number of services, unless you are on pension and have much spare time.
    To overcome this problem, and trying to support the active maintenance of many networks I started Posty, a desktop application which allows updating/browsing your and your friends messages on twitter, jaiku, pownce, tumblr and frienfeed.

    You migh wanna check it out: http://spreadingfunkyness.com/posty/

  • team ray

    i am actually one that quit all of few social network i joined
    i quit all three years ago

    i quit facebook because it stop being about keeping touch with your college friends

    to me social networks are for most part lame and just another way for folks to justify being coach potatoes

    none of them imho adds any real value

    i know many would disagree

    social network with the vc in charge will be control the masses if they dont already by pushing their agenda because many have grown too dependent on them to quit

    this wont happen to me because i am not a member of any social network

  • Hal

    I totally agree with Joe. I want a simple life, not glued to a computer. In fact, there is no substitute for actually joining a real club, fraternity, or some physical social outlet.

    I have only joined one social network, and then because a couple of friends asked me. I did it for them. I never do anything with this, don’t care a whit about it.

    For me the whole concept is ridicules – note I said for me. I have friends, I don’t need a job, I like being with real people in a real place.

    Nearly every site I visit anymore requires me to become a member, and nearly demands I communicate with other members, and create a virtual life there. Ain’t gonna happen with me.

    Of course this is nothing but fad and fashion. Someone will invent a better social outlet with web 16, some 3D model, über village to live an almost real life.

    For those who like this, more power to you. This reminds me of the iPhone and other gadgets. I don’t get the concept of having to be the first with whatever is in fashion at the moment. The good thing about all this is, people are spending money for fashion, and hopefully, this will be an economic boost.

  • reinkefj

    “Social Netwoorking” a la MySpace, Friendster, Facebook, and LinkedIn has a wisp of value. If you can catch it?

    It does allow you to “reach” people you would not normally see, speak to, or even know about in the hum drum drone of daily activities.

    Where folks delude themselves is that: this is the “networking” that all the career counselors urge people to do. You know, to “tap the hidden job market” and make a grazillion dollars per year. Or was that per month?

    In a recent experiment, on LinkedIn, (Disclaimer: I am not an open networker who will exchange LinkedIn links with just anyone to generate a high number. I have standards. I’m not a connection slut.) Anyway, in my recent experiment, I was only able to exchange an email, phone call, im, or visit with about a third of my LinkedIn “network”. I was stunned at that!

    In job search terms, one seeks to harness the power of weak associations by creating a granfaloon of people who will alert you when they see “YOUR JOB” go by on their radar.

    What that third meant that I had about 600 less of those “weak connections” to use when I get laid off than I thought I had. AND Yes, I said “when I get laid off”!

    That’s another delusion that people have. That employment is not transient. The days of the gold watch and pension is long gone. The only paycheck you are sure of is the one you’ve cashed.

    So social networking gives these soon to be fired fools the illusion that they are “networking” like all the employment gurus tell them to do. What one really should be seeking to capture is a “conversation” with these people to get that “weak link association” working for you.

    The social networking site that becomes the lingua franca of social networking sites will really have capture that value proposition IF and ONLY IF it encourages conversations. Then we can stop “churning” and start (to misquote an old I Luv Lucy episode) “conversating”.

    imho

    p.s., Speaking of delusions, we can add to the list of jumbo shrimp, Military Intelligence, honest lawyer and my all time favorite “a politician who wants change” to that list. Delusions are just memes that are wrong. Unfortunately government is one meme that can kill and impoverish us. Where my pitchfork and torch! Get the tar and feathers. The tax and spend folks of BOTH parties have escaped the asylum! We need to put them back in the nut house; not vote them into political office!

  • Joe Reis

    You’re very spot on. Like fashionistas, I notice plenty of social media addicts scrambling for the latest and greatest widget, site, or app. Why? No other reason than it’s new and trendy.

    I’m in the process of simplifying my life and creating more time for things like work and thinking. This new perspective makes social media all the more hilarious, as people seem to jump around to whatever’s cool at the moment. At the same time, they don’t really consider if any of this is adding value to their lives. And isn’t the purpose of social media and web 2.0 to add value to users’ lives?

  • John Whiteside

    I think you’re making a good observation about how the social networking world works, but I don’t think the analogy is apt.

    The difference? Fashion requires things to become obsolete. Otherwise the industry becomes obsolete.

    Social networking may be showing fashion-like tendencies, but I believe that’s because it’s stuck in an early adopter phase. Twitter, Plurk, and Pownce are NOT the “places to be” for most people – just for a very small group of early adopters. Facebook is the place to be, but it hasn’t yet gotten sticky enough to be sure that this will be the case a year from now.

    I think we’ll see less of this once social media become mainstream – when lots of people are using social media that are integrated into their other activities, and probably not even thinking “hey, I’m using social media!” Those users will behave very differently that today’s Twitteri and Plurkophiles. We’re not there yet. And at that point, social networking will look less like the fashion industry and more like webmail, or search engines.

  • Robin

    Hi Daniel, your thoughts on Fashion Industry is quite honest. I use to work at premium multinational apparel industry for years, and in the end i believe i found the same cycle twice, then it become boring (or maybe i’m just getting older and unfashioned) so i quit. Before that, it was music and lately i feel the same with Social Networks.

    However, i believe there’s always demand so it will never stop. But i guess like my view on fashion and music, i will stay to ‘important’ ones and move forward.

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