Of social bookmarking, relevance and the needstream.

# Yesterday, Julian Baldwin coined the term "needstream" saying:

Basic needs are "needstream" so mainstream doesn't necessarily need to include everyone

I commented that as everyone doesn't need the same thing then everyone's needstream is going to be different and no one service can encompass everyone.

Alexander says that the future focus will be on smaller, more localised social networks and I think Julians' quote goes a long way to explain why - the larger the audience the less relevant things will become. As I have said before, the global conversation will remain - and even grow - but there will be a bipolar existence on the web where people will "drift between the global and local conversations as needed".

Needs and wants

What do we actually "need" on the web? The answer is very little and many, by not even being connected, demonstrate that in personal terms we need nothing. Our jobs may dictate specific needs but once we clock off the internet fuels our wants rather than our needs.

Everyone wants something different - we are the sum of our life experience so have our own individual likes and tastes. These may intersect with those of others at various points but the differences between us are what makes life interesting.

Social bookmarking

Our wants on the web directly reflect our interests and some turn to social bookmarking services to explore those intersections with the wants of others - choose a table, pull up a chair and shout hit me! With only around 20% of the world actually connected and a mere fraction of those using a social bookmarking service the number of available intersections is going to be severely limited.

Social bookmarking is certainly not for the benefit of the content producer. It is designed to assist the consumer in their discovery process but I would argue that it fails. Is this due to incorrect categorisation or tagging, or simply because the social population simply isn't large enough?

Take yesterday's post about MooMag for example which was submitted to StumbleUpon. It's always nice when someone feels a post is worth sharing and it may drive some traffic your way but I have always maintained that this traffic is of incredibly poor quality - those people who hit your site but realise, once they get there, that it's not really of interest to them. They may not read the full post, will likely not follow any internal links, will not subscribe to your RSS feed and in all probability will never return unless they hit the Stumble button and are sent back at random.


The aim of any blogger is to convert the casual visitor to a repeat reader, subscriber or even evangelist but in the context of this post the true measure of conversion would be the number of click-throughs to the MooMag site.

Fortunately, I had been looking at the incoming and outgoing stats recorded by MyBlogLog so knew how many visitors had clicked on the outgoing link to MooMag prior to the post being Stumbled. In the period after there was only one click-through and there is no guarantee that this was from a StumbleUpon user. If we assume that this click was a StumbleUpon user then the conversion rate was only 1.2% - there were 83 visits from the stumbled share.

To me this illustrates that the already limited intersections we share with others are incredibly vague meaning that the percentage of truly useful intersections is going to be minute. We may share broad interests but they don't bear much fruit when we get down to specifics and makes we question the role of social bookmarking. If the conversion rates are so low when we have a reasonably limited set of people using these services what are they going to drop to once the adoption rates increase?

Your thoughts

What do you gain from social bookmarking services either as a content producer or as a consumer?

  1. I think that there is not much to be gained through Social Bookmarking services apart from "cloud bookmarking". If most average users are like myself, they share their bookmarks because they use the service as replacement to the browser book marker. It simply doesn't take any more effort on my part to share these bookmarks to the rest of the world. Primarily though, these bookmarks are for me first and "you" second.

    Services like Friendfeed are blurring this line though, I find it more difficult to differentiate between the social bookmarking and content posts of others.

    It's all blurring into one stream.
  2. chris says: #
    The first part of this post is good and I totally agree with:

    "future focus will be on smaller, more localised social networks"

    And indeed dangerous too, small focussed groups can readily turn into extreme pots of shared interest, and manifest ideological amplification, everyone thinking the same thing, and rubbing shoulders with each other, like minded attracted to like minded.. same as any religious cult. If you are in your are in, if you not you are out.. we don't like your views.. dangerous.. very.

    The trouble is that the internet may become less diverse, and actually more extreme and not the utopia of democracy so many think... possibly? Research has proven groups will self-segment themselves time and time again...
  3. Mark Dykeman says: #
    I'm not sure that I've gained a whole lot from the use of social bookmarking as a content producer other than some page views, but it's an extremely high bounce rate. I've gotten more and better results from a link from a blog, at least in terms of increasing my subscriber count. As a user, occasionally I do find something interesting but typically I don't spend a lot of time on one of those sites, either.
  4. [...] Colin Walker » Of social bookmarking, relevance and the needstream. Interesting thought about the term “needstream” that should be one of the groundswell items of social media. (tags: socialmedia fastfwdinnovation) [...]

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