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September 12, 2013

Introvert Media - What "Private" Social Networks Tell Us About the Future of Online Sharing

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by Ron Daly

It used to be that social media was all anyone talked about in business. "How do you use it? How can you grow an audience? Who should we hire to make it happen?"

With social media came a slew of new issues: people sharing photographs of their credit cards on Twitter (that account still exists, but the heck if I'M going to link to it); people sharing account information of every kind with newly-formed social phishing accounts; employees "over-sharing" or, in some cases, taking pictures of members' feet. And then, there's the marketing component. If there's a new medium out there, there must be some way to work in ads and direct sales/customer support, right? 

I don't know if that's true with the offspring of social media - introvert media.

Now, I know - there are nuances to what makes an introvert and an extrovert. I've been around a Myers-Briggs test before - I got a B+ (that's a joke, for any uptight psychologists reading this). But if social media is a more ideal environment for extroverts (lots of sharing, big crowds a must, plenty of feedback) then this new wave of private, shut-off social networks has got to be a big blessing for introverts (small crowds, not a lot of hubbub, not "open").

Take Snapchat, for instance. If you've never come across Snapchat before, ask your local teenager about it - they're likely to have it on their smartphone and use it to send pictures of God-knows-what to their friends. The idea behind Snapchat is pretty simple - take a picture, share with a friend, and a few seconds after they open it, the picture is deleted from their phone and from yours. Snapchat's programmers swear they can't see the pictures and that any attempt to screen-grab shared pictures alerts the photographer that the recipient tried to save the image. The entire point of Snapchat, according to their website, is to "share a moment". Users take pictures, send them to other users, and the pictures vanish. All that remains - at least according to Snapchat's privacy policy - is the memory.

Celly, a service that sends out mass text messages to registered users and is entirely closed off to advertisers and outsiders, is a favorite of plenty of people who are looking to stay in touch...from school systems to small businesses to protest groups. Similar functionality, but built for very small groups with phone access. The app now processes 550 million texts every month to members in 20,000 different groups. It's got nothing on Twitter's size...but it's not supposed to.

Want a better way to talk to your neighbors without having to...you know, actually talk to them? Nextdoor is Facebook for your block association. Users have to register their home addresses and verify they actually live in the community. It's a social network that's only a few "yards" wide.

I went poking around, trying to find an introvert network for people who want to better manage their finances. But let's face it, if you're managing your household's finances, you only want a few people involved in the discussion. Where does it start? What does a network that facilitates private, productive discussions about money look like? Who gets an invite? 

We've wrestled with this a lot in the creation and further development of My Virtual StrongBox. Forget about storage services that sit on your desktop and gobble up your many files and documents for sharing. My Virtual StrongBox is just for you and keeps your information safe and sound behind your online banking. Sure, you can share things with people (with a link that expires after a certain time/number of clicks), and they can send documents to your box if you need them to. But it's not meant to be a catchall - it's meant to be a private place. With all the movement toward introvert media, we see a growing need (as does Barclays, by the way) to present options that keep communications - and communicators - private.

In a world that's getting used to sharing everything, the real show-stoppers will be those that can keep a secret.

Are you getting into "Introvert Media"? Tell us about it in the comments.

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