Monday, October 27, 2008

Sharing is NOT Social Networking

An article in today's Boston Globe caught my eye: Barnes & Noble announced they would launch a site for customers to track their interests and favorite authors, and "share information with Facebook and other social networks." The headline of said article? "Barnes & Noble goes social networking."

Intrigued, as the article was picked up by a few retail-centric newsletters I read, I signed up. The results were disappointing, to say the least: it's not much more than a "build my library" feature. The "social networking?" It consists of a "Share" button that allows you to post an article to Digg or Facebook. You're kidding, right? That's not social networking; that's ShareThis, the same type of widget I put on the end of my posts to allow you to share my thoughts with others.

To be fair, I don't put the blame on this embarrassment on B&N; I put this squarely at the feet of the AP reporter, who's lead in the article started with "Barnes & Noble is playing the social network game." That's just poor reporting; my guess is the reporter simply read the press release, and rather than check out the site and report on it, they simply went with a hot lead. Of course, I could be completely wrong: the "social networking" features of My BN may be so hard to find that they were not apparent to me after 10 minutes, in which case they deserve the blame.

In any case, someone deserves to be called out for this, so consider yourself called out. Don't dress an elephant in pink chiffon and call it a ballerina; many retailers are using social networking in an interesting and creative way. This is hardly worthy of the title.

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