It took a minute, but, at last, most of us have mastered the art of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and maybe even Google+ if you really care. The next step then is to supervise these various platforms and put them to good uses (other than poking people and crafting snarky captions on photos). There are many ways of exploiting networks, and predictions over the coming year suggest that management marks the latest stage in the evolution of social media. If cleverly employed, it looks like we, the great wide public, are the Internet’s contemporary innovators. 

So Many Friends, So Little Time

It used to be that developers aimed their arrows at crafting the savviest, most expansive platforms to connect us with our friends and associates. Now, of course, the target has been hit spot on, and so new trends are mounting to put us networkers into the driver’s seat. As Information Week points out, “the next big social network is you.”

To accommodate for the public’s growing fluency in networking, third party platforms have arisen to help everyone consolidate their tweets, tags and text messages in one location. Additionally, we can concoct our own websites; trim down our vast audiences of followers; and even handle self-promotions if we feel so inclined. From enterprise software to personalized forums, techies are not only developing apps of their own, they’re making it possible for us to do so as well.

Furthermore, while social media platforms would prefer you to keep your sole attention in their direction, even they are acknowledging the changing outlook. Take Google, for example, a company who would certainly prefer to be the end all, be all, yet recognizes the need for one united platform. Recently, they took notice of how businesses commonly use social media management companies to leverage presence across multiple social networks, and accordingly offered endorsement to Buddy Media, Context Optional, Hearsay Social, HootSuite, Involver and Vitrue to incorporate Google+ into their management tools. In this way, they relinquish a bit of power, but maintain an upper hand.

There are also software programs like Nimble and (still in beta), which link to all of an individual’s social profiles, consolidating contacts, and servicing messages, tasks, and other various moves across every platform at once. Similarly, at the end of last year, HootSuite created an app directory for YouTube, Flickr, Tumblr and Get Satisfaction, along with a Constant Contact newsletter campaign app.

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It is what Altimeter research group is calling the “Social Media Management Systems” market, defining our five primary uses to be: intense engagement, social broadcasting, platform campaign marketing, distributed brand presence and tailored customizations. Assuredly, the effort relies as much on the information coming in, as what’s going out, and with an abundance of items to absorb in both arenas, the trick appears to be herding your cattle and making sense of it.

Capitalizing On Your Assets

So you have a thousand friends? So what? Most of us have long since lost interest in those elementary school classmates we dug up two years ago, and have hidden them from our newsfeeds along with deleting random Tweeters we followed due to the excitement of signing on board.

After whittling away at your contact base, however, there are giant opportunities to be had by utilizing this refined network to your advantage. LinkedIn, for example, now provides career updates on business associates, sends notifications on job opportunities, and enables you to define a path to track down someone of interest. Maintaining a solid newsfeed on Facebook keeps you focused on breaking news and events, which could impact your work and social life. Thus, the power is placed in your hands.

Lastly, it's obvious that knowing a lot of people doesn’t mean you actually know them, so the strength of your personal prerogative depends on your ability to nurture real relationships. Those most successful at networking don’t merely get the contacts, they send follow-ups. The smartest schmoozer pitches a lunch meeting and stays attuned to updates in the lives of his target list. By focusing your social platforms on those most relevant to your own life, you can identify key sources and form solid connections. This may be the most significant component in the evolution of the social network.

What was once was about building, now shifts to tailoring. The structure in place, it’s time to live in it.