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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.