The Power of Three in Social Networking

The number three is incredibly significant, showing up time and again in our mythologies, our fables, our stories, and our lives. Three is the smallest number of elements required to make a pattern. Mind, body, and spirit represent our human existence. Even most jokes go by the so-called rule of three- setup, anticipation and then the punchline.

Examining all of the important correlations of the number three is beyond the scope if this article (doing so would probably take hundreds of pages), so let’s switch gears and focus on why the number three matters to us, right now. It is sometimes like a Rubik’s cube to figure out what people want in a social network.

Does a link to the number three exist in one of the hottest topics in the modern world: social media? There are plenty of social networks out there – far more than three – but among all of them there’s an obvious trend. Whether talking about Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, or dozens of the others, they’ve all evolved along one of three lines:

  •  Social interaction – Focusing on keeping in touch with family and friends by text, images or video. Or, consuming media as a diversion or form of entertainment
  • Business and News – Mainly for professional networking, development and learning
  • Recreation – Great for killing time or by providing a fun outlet to compete or be social

Obviously, some social networks overlap between several of these three realms, and some networks serve a different purpose for different people. Still, the point remains the same, there is far more overlap between the first two realms, often leaving the third point – recreation – out of balance. In fact, most of the “fun” that people have from social media comes from the first point – chatting, posting, gossiping, watching, and consuming information.

This observation led to the question, how will this change in the future?  If we look to model real life behavior, which is a long-standing practice in social media, then people will want social interaction in real life situations. People sit down together and chat, argue or discuss. When people want to network or learn about current events, they attend a conference or turn on a news broadcast.

And when people want recreation, a very large portion of them participate in or watch sports. 

For these people, playing the game or attending sporting events is a thoroughly engrossing part of their lives. They wear team colors when they go to the store, they sit down to eat at sports bars, and they listen to play-by-plays while they’re driving home from work. For them, sports are more than a diversion – it makes up a significant part of their lifestyle and who they are. “I am a huge football fan or I am a soccer player.” People tend to self-identify with a sport or a few sports.

This is why the internet is long overdue for a social network that’s tied directly to a specific sport.

Let’s go with a specific example: soccer (football if you’re outside of the US). It’s a sport with billions of passionate fans. Not only do they watch the games in person and on TV, but they play in local leagues and practice at playgrounds or open fields. Many coaches and parents teach children how to compete in the game in hopes of raising the next World Cup star. Maybe, they want to just develop a soccer player/fan for life.

When these raving fans of the sport want to discuss the afternoon’s match, brag about their recent pick-up game or discuss a roster change, do they pick up their phone and start a conference call? Probably not. It’s more likely that these folks will bring their enthusiasm to social media, a proposition that currently works… but could work a lot better.

Think about it. Social networks like Facebook are wildly popular with certain age demographics. What sports fan wants to swim through pages and pages of cat photos, ads, videos and political rants just to talk about the game? And what about two of the fastest-growing social networks of 2016, Pinterest and Instagram? Well, unless you were at the game taking pictures, a sports fan probably won’t be able to strike up a discussion since they’re not really made for that. Tap a photo or video to like the result of a game or find a cool infographic about your sport. The experience is limited.

Now, what if these fans had a dedicated, purpose-built social networking option that’s all about their favorite sport? This changes the situation considerably. Such a network would be instantly more engaging, more compelling, and more sought after by fans. It would be a place for like-minded people, which is where social media often fails by mixing every user together into a big, unfiltered soup. It is “the everything for everyone” model.

Technology is always changing at lightning speed. Whenever something “doesn’t have to be this way,” it usually isn’t for very long. It is only a matter of time before a solution like this arrives and sports fans around the world will flock to enjoy it.

Everyone can leverage the power of three if they try. A three-legged stool can work, but only if the legs are all exactly the same. It’s about finding balance, which often means finding the “short leg”, identifying how it’s lacking, and then providing a solution.

Albert Einstein laid out three rules to define his work process:

  1. Out of clutter, find simplicity.
  2. From discord, find harmony.
  3. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.

It’s probably safe to say that Einstein’s rules can apply to most of our lives. We all face some form of clutter and disorganization. We all certainly face difficulty from time to time. Coming out the better for it is a matter of finding the silver lining in the cloud. When it comes to business and new ideas, these “problems” are actually the best source of brilliance. How many successful ideas came about from someone saying, “everything is fine just the way it is”, after all? Problems create innovation.

While the lack of a dedicated social network for sports fans isn’t really a problem in the grand scheme of things, it’s surely an opportunity. It’s a chance to connect the triangle of social, business and recreation. The result will be more meaningful and fulfilling relationship between people and modern day communication. In short, it’s time to connect the game.

About the Author

David Garside is a Chicago native working on a startup company calledSportsFyle. Sport Specific Social Networks has the potential to be the next big thing in Social Media, and David, as a contributing author to The Branded Community, has written articles that identify the opportunities in the Social Media ecosystem.



business-and-brands 2

You’re already familiar with brands, whether you know it or not. As a denizen of the Information Age, you’re bombarded by them every day, and there’s little chance of avoiding them. (Even if you’re hiding in a shack in the mountains, you’re still on the internet, so you’re not exempt!) We are exposed to thousands of advertisements daily.

A brand is a combination of names, terms, symbols, and design aspects that are used to identify a company, product, or service. The term brand identity is very apt, as a company’s brand is like their face, handshake, and bio all rolled into a singular set of images and text. And the purpose of brand fits right into that metaphor; a company uses branding to become the consumer’s “friend.” The business or product’s goal is to be easily recognized, understood, and related to by their target market.

This is why branding is far more complex than just business cards and letterheads. Brands are a way for something “lifeless” like an organization or product to take on a personality. Brands have values and ideals, likes and dislikes. Those qualities are generally what the public identify with brand – and that association can be very rewarding for the company that pulls it off. Just look at what Steve Jobs did for Apple by rebranding their image (hint: he pulled them off the brink of going belly-up) and you’ll see the limitless power of brand identity.

Along with Apple, companies like Amazon.com and Coca-Cola boast immediate brand recognition. Companies such as these have spent millions of dollars creating and developing their brand identities, and their immense success shows the fruits of that labor. Brands help a company to stand out for their unique qualities, and this gives them an advantage.

Even individuals have begun to see the benefits of branding. In many industries, simple resumes have given way to branded websites with value statements and character. Talented people are marketing themselves as a brand, not just a person, and they’re leveraging it to great advantage. Brands have followings – often very loyal followings – and they generally make their thoughts and beliefs fairly public. There are even paid gurus that will help people build their personal brand in hopes of standing out from the crowd and securing more fans or a better job.

And what about individuals who aren’t out to sell themselves? By and large, the average consumer is every bit as involved in the branding revolution. People have a tendency to affiliate themselves with groups, organizations, clubs or other entities that share similar beliefs or values with their own. People join communities centered around a beloved product, a favorite hobby or a charity that they support – and in doing so, they become part of branded communities.

Let’s consider hockey fans as an example. The hockey community is strong, and many of the players, fans, and supporters will be involved for life. But where do such people communicate and share their love of the sport when they’re not at the rink? You’d likely find them congregating on popular social media networks like Facebook, but that’s probably going to change.

You see, social media networks are pretty unorganized. They’re built as one-size-fits-all communities that serve as many people as possible. In other words, networks like Facebook are about quantity, not quality, of social interactions and user experiences.

What happens next will be more organized, more specific, and more fulfilling for the user. We’re on the verge of a branded community movement, and it will change much of how people interact both online and in the outside world. This isn’t just speculation; branded communities which cater to a specific type of user are already on the rise.

These online branded communities can generally be found on retailer websites (think Harley Davidson) or sports franchise websites (look at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ new RED Women’s Movement page) and bring together users with common interests and values. The result is a community that has more cohesion, more purpose, and greater loyalty than any Facebook group can boast.

What branded communities would you like to see and would you be more engaged in a community with shared interests?