As we wrap up a culturally significant decade full of new trends, tools and techniques, social media as we know it has ended. And with it, so does my Brand Dialogue consultancy—and this blog
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON, USA – December 30th, 2009 – It’s nearly the end of the “Aughts”—the decade when the web went from being informational to social—and as it wraps up I’m thinking social media in its current overinflated state — overhyped, over-examined, and as shiny object — has also come to an end.
Now before you enthusiasts freak out and color me crazy, let’s look at a few things that have happened over the last year that lead me to this conclusion.
- The traditional press have lost their interest in social media as a primary topic. This is clear by browsing the subject matter expert requests on ProfNet and HARO. In the spring and summer of 2009, Twitter, Facebook and anything related to social media were all journos seemed to want to write about. These requests have dropped to nearly zero and the only thing that piques their interest these days are fear-centric articles around privacy, hackers, or bizarre uses of social media. Hype bubble: gone.
- Thousands are falsely proclaiming themselves as experts. It took them long enough but it seems everyone is writing about social media. Marketers everywhere are putting out their takes on it, albeit for many it’s a bit late. I started noticing this trend in the first part of 2009. Between May 2009 and December 29th, 2009, over 11,000 people joined Twitter proclaiming themselves to be some kind of social media expert. (See B.L. Ochman’s great post here) Are you kidding me?!? I was also amazed to see an old-school PR person who’d joined Twitter after Oprah get a local speaking gig on the subject of Twitter. WTF? I’m sorry, but if you’ve joined Twitter after April 2009, it takes some serious cajones to claim you’re a frickin’ expert.
- Corporations have found their social media “voice.” After several years of watching and waiting, 2009 marked the year when the majority of the US Fortune 500 got off their butts and got out onto the Social Media Dance Floor. There are plenty of smaller firms (and strangely, many Canadian firms) who are still unsure about this <sarcasm>crazy new trend</sarcasm> but primarily because their budgets are tight and their marketing teams are absolutely maxed out.
- The free ride for consumers to say whatever they want is over. Corporations are starting to fight back. Witness the mom blogger who claimed the TSA had violated her rights and snatched her child from her—and then found out the TSA had their own blog as well as footage showing her claims were exaggerated at best. TSA is also going after bloggers who’ve leaked sensitive information. 2010 will be the year that organizations move from silence to defense to offense. Also witness the New Zealand blogger thrown in jail for violating a supression order.
- Social media has become the CB Radio of the 21st Century. With all the noise, searching for any seriously valuable content on social marketing programs is hugely challenging now, because of how much crap is out there. Marketers still looking to get a start will find themselves perplexed by their search results and when they try to track down experienced help, they’ll encounter the self-proclaimed social media “ninjas” referenced above. Google isn’t pulling great results for this topic right now and it’s only going to get worse.
- Many of the early adopters will begin to drop out. At least, the ones whose income doesn’t depend on social media will. Just as the original artisans of the Web moved into other areas, just as many podcasters exploded onto the web in 2004 and then went silent in 2006, I predict so too will the Robert Scobles, Steve Rubels, Chris Heuers, Jeremiah Owyangs, etc. It’s just too much effort to publish 24/7 unless you’re being funded to do it. Pundits need to make a living too, and the speaking engagements will wane as the public curiosity moves onto other subjects. I share this early adopter exhaustion and am taking steps to put out more valuable, less frequent content in fewer places.
2010 will bring some good things, too
The Internet of the “Aughts” was initially focused on brochureware and e-commerce, then moved to connecting in 2004 with the advent of Ryze, Tribe, Friendster and MySpace. In 2006, Delicious and StumbleUpon made sharing easy, 2007 saw the explosion of YouTube, and in 2007-2008, Twitter and Facebook made sharing effortless.
There are plenty of good things heading our way in 2010. I’m in agreement with several others that augmented reality and smartphone-based information will explode. Closed social networks of trusted friends (who can say what they want without fear of career or reputational implications) will expand. For example, I use Plurk to communicate/vent/overshare with my Flickr friends sans clients, acquaintance or neighbors. It’s hugely satisfying after self-policing every one of my Facebook posts and tweets. Video will continue to grow as attention starvation continues to grow—video being a fast way to assimilate information. And of course meetups will continue to grow as people crave face-to-face aspects of networking.
The “Teens” (2011-2019) will likely center around data filtering (closed networks, place-based data), data privacy, login/profile centralization and real-time Web. No more waiting for Google to cache your site. No more needing to sift through volumes of information to find what you want. Fewer acquaintances and closer friends as free time continues to shrink.
Brand Dialogue LLC and this blog have also come to an end
My consultancy officially ceased to be in February 2008 when I joined Edelman PR. And I think it’s time to set aside this blog as well. It will go fully offline in February once I get redirects in place.
Since I’m pretty much fully committed on client marketing initiatives at work, I do most of my freely-shared thinking in short bursts on Facebook, Twitter and Delicious these days. And that’s really about all the time I have to share anything. My free time has become so much more valuable as it’s dried up.
To that end, I’m consolidating my social media footprint. This blog has officially moved to EricWeaver.com—one site where I’m sharing both personal and professional content.
Besides, it’s really not about “brand dialogue” anymore, but about engagement. That’s a much more accurate description of a marketing goal. I can “talk” to anyone. But getting them to engage in brand participation is much more fun.
See you elsewhere!
It’s been fun sharing my thinking with you. I’ll continue to do so but over here instead.
Here’s hoping you have a fulfilling, prosperous and equally interesting 2010.
- Eric Weaver