The Pros and Cons of Using New Social Networks

Picture of Aliza ShermanAliza Sherman is a web pioneer, author, and international speaker. Sherman is the author of 8 books about the Internet including The Everything Blogging Book, Streetwise Ecommerce, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Crowdsourcing and Social Media Engagement for Dummies.

The Pros and Cons of Using New Social Networks

New tools and networks pop up on the web, or in your smartphone app store, regularly. Some of these new apps get a lot of press, attention from venture capitalists, and a great deal of buzz from the public – typically as animated conversations on other social networks.

Two new social networks that are getting a lot of notice are Clubhouse and HiHo. Both initially launched for iOS devices only, free to download from the Apple app store.

Think of Clubhouse as an audio-based social networking platform with “Rooms” and “Clubs” to gather around specific topics and interests such as marketing, wellness, sports, entertainment and technology. Conversations on Clubhouse can be intimate, with only a few people, or larger events with an interactive panel of speakers, a moderator, and an audience. Clubhouse is entirely audio-focused so, in a way, it is reminiscent of a telephone party line or a conference call but with the visual cues on your mobile device screen that look like what you’d see on a typical social network – profile picture, bio, followers, and following.

HiHo is a video-based community that encourages conversations between people. The video conversations appear as threaded messages, one video response attached to another, organized by topic and into Channels. Channels include Parenting, Cooking, Gaming, Mindfulness, Wellness, and even ones hosted by high profile individuals such as the Happier Channel with author Gretchen Rubin. Companies are starting to leverage HiHo to hold conversations with, and ask questions of, the platforms users.

Which one is better for your business? Before we talk about criteria you can use to determine which new social network is worth your time, let’s talk about the wisdom – and folly – of adopting new social networks.

Cons of Adopting a New Social Network

Let’s start with why you shouldn’t rush into adopting a new social network to serve your current customers or reach out to new ones.

1. New social networks lack a track record

Chances are when you adopt a new social network, there will be fewer metrics established to help you measure the success of using the app. Often, “success” comes in small, incremental pieces so using a new app requires patience as it builds.

2. New social networks can be buggy

All apps and social networks can be unstable, but newer ones may crash more or have bugs that can make using them frustrating until the next version is released. Stability issues are especially true – but to be expected – if you get into the app early during an alpha or beta stage.

3. New social networks have a smaller reach

If you’re looking to reach a large number of people right out of the gate, new social networks may not have hit a critical mass that can provide you with a healthy response to your marketing efforts. They may also lack an advertising model where you can pay to get in front of more users. You may need to be satisfied with small – which could serve you well or could be a lot of effort for little return.

4. You lack time and resources

Adopting a new social network takes time to set up your presence properly and figure out how it works. Depending on how early you’ve logged in, you may see major app feature overhauls happen just as you figured out the older version, adding more time to the process of turning a new app into a useful digital marketing tool. If you’ve struggled with keeping up with the social networks you already use, adopting a new one can be overwhelming.

Pros of Adopting a New Social Network

Now let’s look at the upside of adopting a new social network, and how it might enhance your social media marketing efforts and benefit your business.

1. You can reach an entirely new audience

If you’ve been using the same social networks for the last few years, adopting a new social network could lead you to a new demographic of consumers. Often, new social networks are created by people who aren’t finding the tools – and the community – they’re seeking. You could find a new audience which could open up new opportunities.

2. You can communicate in an entirely fresh way

While the popular social networks continually add new features to their established platform to stay relevant and keep your interest, new social networks are far more nimble and able to improve on what is already available – or rethink communications tools entirely. Clubhouse, the audio-based community and conversations tool, removes the need to type out your posts – you participate by speaking. HiHo instantly creates connections and provides a feeling of familiarity by using video to engage in conversations and strengthen the sense of community.

3. New social networks can get a lot of media attention

If you’re looking for a little PR, adopting a new social network that is getting a lot of press could translate into some press coverage for you and your business. Reporters often seek out early adopters of new social networks for quotes about their experiences. If you’re looking for press, there’s a window of time when adopting a new app opens up PR opportunities for you.

4. You may influence the app’s direction

If you’re an early adopter of a new social network, chances are you will have a front-row seat to witness – and even influence - the app’s development. You might even enjoy direct contact with the app’s founders or startup team, getting unprecedented attention and customer service. Keep in mind as the social network grows in popularity, customer service could suffer if the company is not ready to scale, but the early months or year of a new social network can be an exciting time where you can be part of improving the app.

Clubhouse or HiHo or…?

Back to Clubhouse and HiHo as examples of new social networking tools. Which one should you try? As with adopting any new app or platform, go back to your business goals, determine what audience you have the potential of reaching, assess if you have the resources to try something new, and make sure the way the app works plays to your strengths.

If you like listening instead of reading or watching, and if you have a gift for speaking and leading a conversation purely with your voice, Clubhouse could be worth trying. Who could be comfortable on Clubhouse? Podcasters, public speakers, and people who like to talk on the phone. Note that Clubhouse is about live conversations, not archived content but about “audio events.”

If you favor video platforms and are looking to get direct feedback and responses from people, HiHo is a great place to start. Who might thrive on HiHo? People who are comfortable on camera, TV and video personalities, companies who are used to communicating through video, or anyone who doesn’t mind turning their smartphone camera on themselves and talking. Seeing who is speaking really does increase the feeling of being connected.

Don’t run out and download the latest app just because everyone else is doing it. Take some time to determine if that app is right for you and for your business. Adopting a shiny new app doesn’t always translate into success, but with the right amount of assessment and planning, it could brighten up and reinvigorate your current social media marketing efforts.