As I mentioned in my About section on this site, I am going to use my newly adapted website to write about things that interest me. Some will be about Project Management, and some like this will be about industry trends, specifically as it deals with the web. Two areas in which I feel at home.
I read an interesting article/debate the other day regarding the post social media era. Titled the “7 Signs of the Post Social Media Era” (what a random number) the main thrust of the opinion is that contrary to the popular outlook , social media is not what is “driving the internet”. Rather, social media (sm) exists only to serve larger media like contextual media and marketing.
I agree with some points of this article. Many current startup companies and those investing in new technology are not using social media as the end product of their innovation. I think that is safe to say (despite Facebook stock finally turning a corner) that to invest in a social media platform as your only new idea is really rough on a startup today. Unless your idea is so new in the sm sphere, and you can have your platform bought by the bigger fish in the pond, I can certainly see new technologies and companies investing in apps and platforms that are much broader, and some would argue, more useful than a new sm platform alone.
The author actually gives several strong points (hence the arbitrary 7) of the waning of sm. The three that I think are strong in support of his hypothesis are that 1) the media changed 2) the IPOs are waning and 3) the rise of dark social. I think the first and third ones are the strongest arguments he makes in support of his theory. The internet is of course, more mobile and more data centric than ever before. Big data is going to rule in this new brave era and the ideas and products that can capture this and harness that information (for good or ill) will be the real players and those with the longest lasting impact.
The second argument about the IPOs being disappointing is also true. How hard is it go back and take a free product that found rabid fan bases and then have to modify the very thing that made you popular so you could make money for your shareholders? The two are often at very opposite ends of the spectrum. Twitter has/had such huge potential because of so little interference. Now with talk of doing a “Facebook timeline” on Twitter has so many who used it for so long groaning. Of course, if moves like this are made to appease stockholders and to try to make more money off the product, those “cutting edge” and slightly fringe parties that made the platform so popular will leave. A dangerous proposition for sm startup companies that go public -how to make money and not lose those who sit outside the mainstream that led to your popularity in the first place. What a delicate balance.
The third, the rise of the dark social, is a bit more ambiguous. But, it deserves to be examined as its popularity is no doubt on the rise. Dark social are conversations that are no longer public. SnapChat is a perfect example (in theory at least) as technically anything can become public once published. But the idea that people are no longer willing to bear their true thoughts so publicly (even if they are better left off of the public sphere) for fear of the repercussions is a very real thing.
Look at how many recent actors have had to appear on late night TV offering lame excuses to something they posted on Twitter. A whole debate could be made about posting items in the public market that you are willing to defend, but it also is very easy in a world where nobody is actually “real” to take umbrage about something you said and to attempt to rake you over the coals with it. That kind of power, and mob mentality can be dangerous as well, but the idea that if your opinion rubs someone the wrong way and you could potentially be damaged by it…that gives one reason to pause. Once it goes digital, it never goes away. A powerful, yet somewhat dangerous tool when you think of it that way.
As I said, while I can agree and see merit in the points above, the proposition that we are now entering a post social era is a bit extreme I think. Rather, I see an interesting blend of social and big data in the upcoming few years. How that will be used remains to be seen, but that is not exclusive of social alone.
The harvesting of data and what is done with that can be used for either very good purposes and gains or very bad ones. However, social, like any other platform continues to mine and use data. I can’t see that trend losing steam in the next few years. However, it can be argued to put all your eggs in a social basket is not in a companies best interest either. There can be a point of social exhaustion.
But, for the average everyday user, who isn’t immersed in social trends or trying to figure out the next big social thing, it is a tool to be used like any other. Twitter is now a source of news for many. Instagram is the way people connect. You can’t deny that these and other vehicles are still going strongly.
Evolving yes, but the web continues to evolve, apps continue to evolve. The tech industry evolves by the day. So, while I think you can make the point to put all your eggs into say, social marketing for example, may not be the wisest course of action, to imply that we are now at a post social age, or that social is in radical decline, doesn’t take into account the evolution of how we are using this ever changing field. No one is suggesting that automobiles are going to end with the evolution of electric cars, or cars that drive themselves. Why should the same not be true in regard to the way social media is changing? Innovation in social media may even be finding its way in this brave new world, but to suggest that we are in a post social media era is, in my opinion, a far reach. However, to read discussions about where the next thing will be is always interesting. I just think most people will still be discussing it on social media.