The last few weeks have confirmed it for me: Social media is about 70% hype, and 30% business. I mean that 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.
Let’s deconstruct my statement for a bit, because I know many of you will immediately jump to skewer me for this.
The Facebook IPO confirms the space is slightly overvalued. I’m not saying there’s no value here, because there is. 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 ecosystem.
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. When the dollars going to Facebook come from TV -- or, even more key, from search -- then we can deem it the future, and more important than Google. For now, Google and search win.
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 around two years, and I stopped visiting regularly after about three months. The same goes for SocialCam: I visited it a bunch for two weeks, became frustrated by the spammy nature of its interactions with me, and have since leveled off (meaning I never visit it anymore). In both cases my life would still seem very complete if I never visited either platform again.
Business models come and go, while page views continue to increase and social media feels most like a tool for increasing page views. Each week we’re treated to another pundit proclaiming the future of the Web is social. While I agree the future of the Web does integrate social because of the page views and data created by those interactions, I maintain the focus should be paid against mobile, rather than social. Social is about content, but mobile is a delivery platform.
It’s possible that in three years the pendulum for content could swing back to some third-party publisher who creates unique-to-Web, exclusive content and less about person-to-person interaction. The fact remains, content will be delivered increasingly to mobile devices and not just your PC, whatever the content actually is.
Social is a gateway for sharing content in many cases. It’s a gateway to surfacing fun, entertaining or valuable content. Many (if not most) 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. It’s been around a couple of years, it’s been winning a scoring title on the down low, but people still consider it too young to win the title. We all know it’s only a matter of time, but when? Mobile may not win the majority of ad dollars for a number of years, but I think it’s closer than social is (and I think Kevin Durant will win the title this year).
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? How can I surface and guide the user to where they want to be, even though they don’t yet know it?
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?