The last few weeks have confirmed it for me– social media is about 70% hype, and 30% business . What I mean by that is the majority of conversations surrounding social media center on behavior that creates page views but very little actual value to a brand marketer, and therefore little impact on the business of the Internet.
Lets deconstruct my statement for a bit…
The Facebook IPO confirms the space is slightly overvalued. I’m not saying by any means there’s no value here, because there is, but I’m saying the waters have gotten frothy and we need a few more years of growth and maturity before we can deem a company like Facebook the future of the Internet eco-system. Right now Facebook feels a little like the Lebron James of the industry; lots of strength, plays an amazing game during the first three quarters, but has trouble finishing and closing out the competition when it matters the most (IPO and brand budgets). Facebook needs to garner more consistent ad dollars from large brand marketers for something with impact, and when the dollars going to Facebook come from TV or (just imagine) search, then we can deem them the future.
Pinterest and SocialCam are omnipresent, but they’re not true vehicles for marketing. They both create oodles of page views and they’re growing like weeds, with more and more people testing ways to spend time there, but they’re not yet proving to be sticky platforms that can keep users coming back after the initial glow fades away. I’ve been on Pinterest for well over 2 years, and I stopped visiting regularly after about 3 months. The same goes for SocialCam – I visited them a bunch for 2 weeks, became frustrated by the spammy nature of their interactions with me, and have since leveled off. In both cases my life would still seem very complete if I never visited either one again.
Business models come and go while page views continue to increase. Each week we are treated to another pundit proclaiming the future of the web is social, and while I agree the future of the web does integrate social because of the page views and data created by those interactions, I would maintain the focus should be paid against mobile rather than social. Social is about content, but mobile is a delivery platform. Its possible to say in 3 years the shift for content could go back to some third party publisher who creates unique-to-web , exclusive content and less about person-to-person interaction. The fact remains the content will be delivered increasingly to mobile devices and not just your PC, whatever the content actually is. Social is a gateway in many cases. It’s a gateway to surfacing fun, entertaining or valuable content, so many of the social media impressions being generated simply drive traffic to quality third-party content. Is it possible that some other method of surfacing that content will arise? I think so.
Mobile feels like the Kevin Durant of the business. Its been around a couple of years, its been winning a scoring title on the down low (if we consider the volume of press and acquisitions in the mobile space as “the score” without too much mainstream fanfare) but people still consider it to young to win the title. We all know it’s only a matter of time, but how far away is that time? Mobile may not win the majority of ad dollars for a number of years, but I think its closer than social is (and I think Kevin Durant will win the title this year).
Social is not going away, and I agree the future is tightly interwoven with social media, but right now its about page views and connections that can feed other tools like display and mobile. Social is a tool or a resource that feeds the development and delivery of content online, and if I were Facebook, Pinterest or Socialcam that’s where I would be focusing my efforts. How can my platform fundamentally inform or change the ways that people interact with content from the web.
Just think – you and I may not be friends, but there’s a good chance you found this article through social media. We may not have a personal interaction, but social surfaced this content to you. How can you use that information?