Most of us sign up for social networks because someone whom we trust invites us or we learn about it through reading. However, most of us do not take the time to do any due diligence about the ownership of the social network. Conducting “due diligence” on the ownership still will not ensure that we make a wise decision regarding joining and investing time.

Who owns a social network should concern you. You should be fairly comfortable that if you were to invest time and energy inviting people to join, contributing content, and developing a following, that the social network would have a reasonable chance of surviving and gaining ground. Over the last few years, we have seen networks close or be reconfigured, such as Soflow or SuccessBC. Pownce is bouncing away on December 15, 2008—its employees were hired, but the entire basis for its existence, us, is left in the dust. We have over a hundred Yahoo groups being closed by an owner of the groups, and its participants asked to join or included in larger groups owned by that same individual—not necessarily the niche that the individuals initially desired. Many times, the social networks are closed for lack of participation, and sometimes they are closed just because they get to be too much work for the originator of the network.

Many of us watch the financing of the large networks such as LinkedIn™ and want to be certain that they continue to live. We assume they will because of the infusion of capital by well-respected investment entities. Other networks seem to depend successfully upon their own revenue streams. Others are losing money but still have high value in the investment market place, while others appear to have no source of revenue.

As consumers, we have little protection. We do not have any severance clause.  We are “at will” social network participants. Most privately-owned social network platforms have no succession plan and no plan for an orderly migration or merger into another platform down the road, even if it is clear to the owner that he or she cannot keep it going indefinitely.  We invest the time and energy in participating, and yet we have no stake in determining whether the platforms live, die, or merge.  We help create the value, but have little say in the future of a network.  Yet, we continue to join multiple networks at a rapid rate without regard for the future.

Perhaps it is the proliferation of networks that is our safety. Perhaps, we assume that if one shuts down it won’t make a difference to us. That itself is a commentary worth considering when we look at yet another new network invitation. Maybe we suffer from the so what syndrome—so what if a network disappears –which is certainly understandable.  We just need to join our networks with clarity about what we will do if the network disappears and if the ownership of it makes a difference to us.

What is your buzz about?