And it is a mess. It can give me a headache just thinking about it. Tom Cunniff developed this illustration which I think paints a pretty accurate picture of what is going on in the world of social media. The Internet is no longer a thing one does; it is a thing one is. It’s developed into a virtual cacophony of messages all vying simultaneously for attention. The time consuming effort it takes to sort through all of the unfiltered information we receive from the innumerable sources proliferating daily on the internet can leave you, well…speechless.
Despite the astronomical growth of some of the largest (and still growing) sites — at the time of this writing Facebook has somewhere around 640 million active, registered users – all is not as perfect as it would seem.
When the A.C.S.I (American Customer Satisfaction Index) published its last Annual E-Business Report, it reported that some of the most popular social network sites like Facebook and YouTube scored some of their lowest scores overall. On a 0-100 point scale, MySpace scored 63 points, Facebook scored only one point higher, YouTube scored 73 points, and Wikipedia scored 77 points. This might not have been so bad except that only 10 out of all 223 companies scored below a 65; which translates to meaning that consumers regarded social networking sites as lowly as they regarded cable providers, airlines and the I.R.S.
But there are other factors as well. Facebook is likely to go public in 2012, but even for all its promise there are those who say that this will be as good as it gets for Facebook, and that this will be the start of the beginning of its end. And I believe that to some degree, believe it or not, because it is not essential. When the next best thing comes along, Facebook could become tomorrow’s next MySpace. I use Facebook as an example, but it can apply to any SNS out there. Though the reigning champion’s stats keep soaring, there are scores of other highly competitive social sites that are waning (by the time you finish looking up the SNS’s in this illustration, a third will be gone) indicating the precariousness of the whole social networking experience. Social networking growth as a whole may be leveling off. The fast and furious pace of the whole social networking infiltration may be finally hitting the wall. At least in the way that it’s currently structured. My point here is that the particular platform isn’t as important as the concept. Social websites will come and go, but I think we all know that the idea of social media is here to stay.
Social Media as an enabler of change is still just beginning. It may take different forms and engage different value chains but overall it will continue to bring new ways we interact as businesses, as communities and as individuals. Social media will continue to enable the malleability of information; and the ability of all to shape it. This creates new possibilities for human activity. But the many new activities made possible by the new technology are so different from the previous ways of doing things that we need a new set of rules of the game. If we want it to look any better than it does right now and allow it to achieve its potential we need to take a role in defining its continuum.
When the wheels finally do come down what will we be left with? What do you think will take its place? What do you want it to look like?