Social networking can be described as a set of online activities in which a group of people network with each other, thus providing a fun and relaxing way of meeting people, establishing contacts and building relationships.
A typical example is Facebook - a social utility that connects you with the people around you. Now, if that's what a social networking site should be, what has Nigeria produced?
It seems to me that the Nigerian webspace is saturated with 'social netquacks' instead of social networks, thus causing a 'social netquake'. Most of the so-called social networking sites in Nigeria are either using the same features of another social site or adopting the same strategy or design of another.
What should be the idea behind a social network? Should social networks operate with the same concept, strategy and design of another social network? Or should they come with their own creativity and innovation?
Let me analyse some of the features of these 'social networking sites' that I find annoying.
Name - When I'm about to review a site here on startupsnigeria, I'm always impressed with site names that are unique. But I get discouraged when I'm about to review a social networking site in Nigeria. Why? Becasue of their names. Just because the colloquial name for 'Nigeria' is 'Naija' or '9ja' doesn't mean that social sites should have 'naija this' or 'naija that' as their business/site names. Please!!!!!!!!
Concept - The idea behind a social site should make it stand out from the crowd. That's why Facebook stands out from Hi5 or Myspace. Sometimes, I can't tell the difference betwen a Nigerian dating site and a social site. If you have a Nigerian social network that doesn't have a unique concept or identity or what you're known for or stand for, you'll start loosing traffic in no time and may just fizzle out of existence!
Design - Some 'social sites' in Nigeria would pass for a news site providing junk advertisement. I wonder if their webmasters visit other global social networking sites. Just because your site has gained 'junk traffic' doesn't mean that you have done a good job. Well at least you launched a site, but hey, put some creativity and innovation in your work. And give me a break!
Products - Even though Facebook has been criticized for some of its products that tend to expose its users identity, the social network has developed other interesting, user-friendly applications that have added to the uniqueness of the Facebook idea. I'm yet to find unique products from some social sites in Nigeria. If you've used one, give me a buzz so I can test it.
Applications - Just look at South African social networks, for instance and you'll notice that they are built on their own web platforms (e.g Blueworld.co.za). But a look at Nigerian social networks, you'll find that most of them are not built on any web apps, rather the webmasters simply tweak the interfaces, design and layout of other social networks.
But hey! Let's give them some credit. It is true that they appear on Digg, Muti, Sturvs and around the web. It is true that some of them have been reviewed here on StartupsNigeria. It is true that they get good traffic from the US, UK and elsewhere. It is true that they make money. Oh do they? Maybe not.
All these doesn't mean that they have a global reach like Facebook, Myspace or Hi5. In fact, I think that if a site doesn't have the most traffic from the country its business is focused, then that site may not be serving the interests of its country of origin or its target audience. For example, Facebook gets the most traffic from the US, according to web analysis by Alexa, because that's where the idea started and was popularised before it became global.
In my opinion, if social sites in Nigeria can not find their place on the webspace, perhaps they should regroup, rebrand and restart. Or perhaps they should merge with other social networking sites to provide a unique taste of social networking in Nigeria.
For those about to start one, ask yourself: What is the idea of my social network? What unique product will I offer my audience?
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