James Robertson asks “where’s the social networking value?”

In a good “can you please cut through the Scoble hype” post, James Robertson notes that he heard all the Twitter hype, then all the Jaiku hype, then all the Pownce hype, and now is hearing all the Facebook hype and wants to know what’s in it for him. The A.Connector podcast talks about the same thing and tells you what value he gets out of these things.

OK, let’s turn on the cynical hat for a moment and stop the hype.

First of all, let’s group Twitter/Jaiku/Pownce together. They are quite different from Facebook, even if there’s a component like those inside Facebook (and the Pownce Facebook app is working again).

Now, none of these things has ANY value if you don’t know anyone on them. They only have value if someone you care about interacting with are on them. I assume that James has friends/family/coworkers/etc who he wants to interact with.

On all of these it’s fun to chat with people. Over on Twitter I’ve been talking with a bunch of people. Plus lots of other people who don’t even know I’m listening posted funny videos.

So, what’s the value?

These things bring interesting things into my life.

Why one over the others?

1. More people you know are on one over the others.
2. You like the way one works better than the others (lately people have been saying Pownce is better in that department than the others).
3. You need a feature the others don’t have. Pownce lets you send music files to other members, for instance. Twitter has an API and was earlier, so it has lots of apps built on top of it. Jaiku is a better aggregator (you can bring in messages from the others, along with blogs and other RSS feeds).

Now, about Facebook, well, it has almost instantly replaced my business card collection AND my contacts over on Outlook. Now if I want to talk with someone I go to Facebook and look them up.

But then you add the application platform to Facebook and you have a whole new beast. That brings a LOT of value and an INCREASING set of values. Today, for instance, the Google Reader app was updated again. There’s nothing else like it on the Internet. So if you want to see what the most popular feed readers are, and what the most popular thing that they are reading, you gotta join Facebook. No alternatives.

Well, OK, the most popular thing in the past 12 hours? Read/Write Web’s list of 10 Facebook Apps for work.

My winner? Facebook. If you join only one that’s gotta be the one — you’ll get value out of that even if you don’t have any friends (and, if you read me, you’ll always have me as a friend). Then try out the others and see which one you like and/or if you get any value out of it.

UPDATE: Jim Long has a good post on this topic where he posits that social networks are the new TV.

UPDATE 2: Steve Rubel says we’re like a million monkeys. Is more interested in what people do with technology rather than the latest “shiny object.” Funny, that post is the culmination of a bunch of Twitter posts back and forth. Turns out that Facebook’s email really pisses Steve off. So, what am I going to do? Send him one, of course! 😉

UPDATE 3: Shaine Mata kept notes on this afternoon’s Twitter session between Rubel and me and others.