Path Redefines Influency: It's The UNSocial Network

Four years ago, maybe even before anyone else had said this, I told you that social networking was a fairly unsocial thing. In fact, social networking actually causes isolation and depression. Being merely an amateur psychologist, I’m not sure why that is, but looking at Facebook as ‘the’ example of social networking most people tell me that they feel lost there; when social networks facilitate more noise than real interaction they become unsocial.

Three years ago, I took a look at Path. Conceived by an ex-Facebooker as a visual alternate to Facebook, Path struck me at the time as having even less reason to exist, and I removed it pretty much immediately after installing it on my Smartphone, in part because Path wanted to do a land-grab that felt like exactly the opposite of what I was looking for.

A bit more time passed. We created a social networking alternative called The Facelift, I had an opportunity to speak about doing Reputation Management and Search Engine Optimization for and with Doximity, a network for medical doctors. I found myself analyzing the idea of what social networks are for in a whole new way.

I still use Facebook. I hate it a bit more every day.

Last week, Path crossed my path again. Having failed to gain nearly the traction they need, Path is going after the less-social-networking-is-more-social-networking part of the market. Path will now let you define an ‘inner circle’, whereby your social networking updates go to not your entire circle of connections but only that small handful of people you really feel matter.

Influency* in a narrow sphere is a magnificent idea. But it’s too late for this influency shift to matter for Path.

There’s something really hard about a change like this. I think of Path as a failure because after three years its managed to attract ‘only’ about ten million users. Without comment as to what the word ‘user’ means at a social network, if you compare Path’s ten million to the 1.1 billion users of Facebook or couple of hundred million at LinkedIn you realize that Path simply hasn’t made it. But while most of use might envy the figure, the ten million users Path has accrued actually makes pivoting to a different social networking model harder than starting from scratch; once a critical mass of people think they know who you are, well, that’s who you are. It’s the ‘second chance to make a first impression’ dilemma.

And then Path’s problem gets even worse.

Unlike Doximity, nothing about Path except their new statement saying it’s so says ‘we’re here to narrow down your reach’. OK, so maybe that doesn’t matter; maybe Path can get you to aggregate a lot of contacts and narrow/categorize them simultaneously. It sounds like a great idea! Good thing Google+ doesn’t already do exactly that, huh? Oh, wait.

Social Networking, Influency, Marketing, Big-Picture Negotiation … call it what you will and examine the matter from whatever angle makes sense; you use every (viable) tool at your disposal. Nobody really cares what you say on social networks anyway, so narrowing the field makes sense. If Path seems like a useful option to you, go forth and Path-icize. Or stay broad but pay attention. Remember this story about frenimies? At least you expect some of your business contacts to be folks you don’t actually like.

This Influency stuff talk a lot of attention to things you probably don’t have time for. That’s why we’re here.

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