A review of Social Media in 2008
Social media is the use of electronic and Internet tools for the purpose of sharing and discussing information and experiences with other human beings. The term most often refers to activities that integrate technology, social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio.
Social media consists of social networks (myspace, facebook, linkedin), social network aggregation (friendfeed), user generated content (youtube, flickr, wikipedia), social bookmarking (delicious, sumbleupon), social news (digg, dzone, reddit), virtual worlds (second life), online gaming (world of warcraft), livecasting (justin.tv) blogs (wordpress, blogger, many others), microblogs (twitter, pownce) …
Virtual World / Second Life hype
Second Life has 13.1 million global residents, amazing number, but did you know only 877,000 (6%) log on at least monthly (comScore says even less: 414,000). Only 4 to 7% of US firms and marketers have efforts in virtual worlds. Most locations in second life attract less than 500 weekly visitors. Why the heck everyone is so excited about this?
Social networks attract millions upon millions of users. Facebook surpassed MySpace in April 2008 with 115 million visits a month to become the largest Social Network in the world.
Forrester predicts U.S. spending on social networks will reach $6.9 billion by 2012. However, on a social network, don’t think of running ads, but rather ways you can join the conversation. Users in social networks are less interested in common advertising, but don’t mind brand placement, helpful games or applications, or brands who join a set of comments and provide truthful and transparent information.
I keep getting requests from clients to build social networks, but why would you want to do that? Doesn’t it sound better to leverage someone else’s users and not to reinvent the wheel? Don’t build your own social network, what’s the point? But if you’re going to build one, don’t center it around your product but rather something relevant to a particular consumer group.
Future of Social Networks
Social networks will evolve from a destination (website) into decentralized collaboration (widgets). Nowadays, all social services expose their services to third parties through an API, and websites consume a selection of elements and create what’s called a mash. Thus it does make total sense to add social elements to your business site, allow people to comment, interact, share; just don’t start your own network unless you really know what you’re doing.
Now, social networks meet e-commerce, e-commerce, meet social networks. All e-commerce sites will include social elements for users to comment or share anything using their existing social network ID and see what their friends have to say about it. People trust people, comments, reviews, rating. 43% of online shoppers say that consumer reviews have helped confirm an original purchase intention. 80%+ online shoppers trust consumer reviews and ratings. Now just imagine what these numbers would be if the comments they’re reading come from their friends or friends’ close network.
Mobile Social Networks
Social networking is already expanding to mobile, and will continue to do so in with an exponential growth. Myspace, facebook, twitter, flickr, youtube, digg, and most giants have mobile versions. Mobile devices extend the interaction to use their built-in GPS, ability to take photos and shoot video, and stay in touch 24/7. Your twitter friends now know the exact location of your tweet, your facebook friends know the exact location of the photo or video you uploaded, advertisers can create real-world ARGs (augmented/alternate reality games) that include elements such as snapping a specific picture, or scanning a bi-dimensional barcode.
Soon all media will be combined. For example, take Twitter, perhaps not media or content all the time, but could be used to extend existing channels and add/allow interactions. Imagine watching a T.V. show and getting a twitter feed that explains actions, talks about other characters not in the current scene, or even allows character communication in between episodes. The show ‘Mad men’ is already doing this by the way.
Let me end with a couple of inspiring quotes to remind you that trying ideas online is so inexpensive that it just doesn’t make sense not to.
“A lot of this stuff (blogs, online video, etc) you just have to try” – Michael Metz, Cisco
“Do it wrong, quickly, and then fix it” – Mike Moran, IBM