As we all know Social Media was the buzz word of 2008.
The question is where are the real opportunities and what is going to be the Next Big Thing in Social Media.
I think everyone gets the concept of Social Media, but it seems that everyone’s definition is different and at the same time partly right.
How can that be?
This is the question I spent most of my Christmas vacation looking into, because we are building a “social media” application in 2009.
The best definition i found was in a post by Elias Bizannes (one of my new favorite bloggers). He wrote “Thank you 2008, you finally gave New Media a name”. He quoted Stowe Boyd’s analysis of Social Media and I agree it is the best description I have found.
Stowe defined Social media as:
- Social Media Is Not A Broadcast Medium: unlike traditional publishing — either online or off — social media are not organized around a one-to-many communications model.
- Social Media Is Many-To-Many: All social media experiments worthy of the name are conversational, and involve an open-ended discussion between author(s) and other participants, who may range from very active to relatively passive in their involvement. However, the sense of a discussion among a group of interested participants is quite distinct from the broadcast feel of the New York Times, CNN, or a corporate website circa 1995. Likewise, the cross linking that happens in the blogosphere is quite unlike what happens in conventional media.
- Social Media Is Open: The barriers to becoming a web publisher are amazingly low, and therefore anyone can become a publisher. And if you have something worth listening to, you can attract a large community of likeminded people who will join in the conversation you are having. [Although it is just as interesting in principle to converse with a small group of likeminded people. Social media doesn't need to scale up to large communities to be viable or productive. The long tail is at work here.]
- Social Media Is Disruptive: The-people-formerly-known-as-the-audience (thank you, Jay Rosen!) are rapidly migrating away from the old-school mainstream media, away from the centrally controlled and managed model of broadcast media. They are crafting new connections between themselves, out at the edge, and are increasingly ignoring the metered and manipulated messages that centroid organizations — large media companies, multi-national organizations, national governments — are pushing at them. We, the edglings, are having a conversation amongst ourselves, now; and if CNN, CEOs, or the presidential candidates want to participate they will have to put down the megaphone and sit down at the cracker barrel to have a chat. Now that millions are gathering their principal intelligence about the world and their place in it from the web, everything is going to change. And for the better.
The definition really started me thinking about what Social Media really means. I then started to research what has happened the last couple years so that I could make some predictions to help us have a breakout year in 2009. So I did three things.
First, I started with what i consider “Macro-Social Media”, Facebook, and then drilled down into what I consider “Micro-Social Media” , widgets and sharing applications like Share This. I researched their backgrounds, evolution, and why they have broken out from competitors.
Third, I emailed alot of friends and asked them what their thoughts on social media opportunites from a personal level and a professional perspective meaning what are their employers talking about. My main questions on the professional front were: “How is your company using social media?” and “If they aren’t, what are their hesitations?”
From what I call shotgun research, I actually came up with what I wanted and have developed a theory for 2009. My philiosophy on business is that every idea is a theory and every plan is a science project. My reasoning is that no matter how right you are it is almost impossible to be 100% right and if you are 100% right then your ideas or plans weren’t big enough or bold enough.
Here are my conclusions:
- I believe the consumer social media goldmines (Facebook, Myspace, Linkedin) have been played out or will be extremely rare with much lower valuations. At the same time, I believe these are the highways to riches in the future. Today an idea can spread like wildfire, an application can go viral, or a website can have a million visitors in days. Facebook applications. So the key is not to build another big community, but find ways to leverage this communities. With that said I think the big opportunity is in B2B applications and building effective social media campaigns for large companies and brands. Consumers are coming to expect most technology to be free, but companies are willing to pay alot to reach these consumers.
- The reason why companies are willing to pay alot for effective social media campaigns is they have two big questions they want answered: “How can we control our brand image or message?” and “What is the ROI?”. With the first question “control” is the big issue. Social media is great because it can spread rapidly, but that doesn’t mean a positive message is always spread. A lot of companies are worried about having a campaign turn out like GM’s Tahoe video campaign although some see it as a success. ROI is a close second. Companies don’t just want eyeballs they want dollars. The problem is consumers are ignoring ads so online advertising is down. I believe companies don’t have less money, but they are being smarter with their money. They are not spending money on everything anymore, but they are seeing what works and putting the money into those mediums.
In conclusion, I think the big opportunities in 2009 are building social media applications and campaigns for companies that control their brand but also provide measurable ROI. The companies that do this will not only be successful but also have a very lucrative revenue model on their hands.
Please add your thoughts in the comments as I am still honing this theory and I’m using it as a guideline for our 2009 plan.
Lastly, here are a couple good articles that I ran across while researching this post.