Commentary

Is It Just Me, Or Is Social Media Innovation Heating Up?

I spent part of yesterday morning doing the obvious: watching the "latest results" on Google for the search "Tiger Woods." I'm pleased to report that there were no mothers-in-law being taken to the hospital, but  today's a new day. If following every iteration of the Tiger Woods scandal is your thing, you will be the first to know, if you do what I did.

 

Of course, much of what I've seen streaming by is social content, and while most of it isn't valuable, it is, at least a beginning. I have a growing sense -- which many of you probably share -- that we are at another inflection point in the rise of social, and even if what's going on now isn't perfect, if we could get a crystal ball and look out a year or two from now, we would be flat-out amazed at where this has all gone.

Here are several developments pointing to this accelerating pace over just the last few days:

1. The reason I could be so up-to-the-millisecond on Tiger is because Google unveiled its real-time search function earlier this week, which adds a nifty, constantly updating window of results to any static Google results page. It's still not quite doing it for me on the relevance scale, despite Google's promises, but it has potential -- and you know that, as we speak, Google is figuring out more precisely what that potential is. (I'm already thinking the next thing Google should do with real-time search is unleash a setting that allows me to just see status updates on Google -- as opposed to other places -- from people I'm connected to in my social nets, rather than data dumps repeating over and over that Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen had a baby boy. Uh, congrats I guess.)

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2. Speaking of data dumps, Twitter is now opening up its so-called "firehose" of data to any and all developers, as opposed to just the big fry, like Google and Bing. As I'm no technologist, I don't exactly know what I'd do with a firehose of data, but this also provides a revenue stream for Twitter, per Mashable. The decision to open up the data stream further, announced by Google at the "LeWeb" conference in Paris yesterday ("Le Web" - funny!), calls for Twitter to share revenue with its developer partners, which seem to be growing in numbers every day.

3. Then there's Facebook's unveiling of new privacy settings which it did today. Of course, since this now could mean that you inadvertently overshare, maybe that's not a good thing, but the massive data dump will change things, just as the above will. The biggest remaining question is how.

Maybe one reason I'm feeling this sense of accelerating speed is that I'm increasingly aware that those of us in social media (and mobile, and search, but not Internet display advertising and/or the newspaper business) are currently residing in a wonderful, expanding parallel universe that's so at odds with the way things generally are. In the last week or so, I've encountered close friends who have either just dodged a layoff bullet, or have been pondering whether to take a buyout, or are wondering if their business can survive. Then, I look at my social feeds and see hundreds of people taking part every day in a true innovation economy, the kind that those in other industries can only dream about.

That said, it does seem like we're on the brink of some mind-blowing innovation. Social data is becoming more open, our devices keep getting better, and the sense of general amazement in this industry is palpable.

There are plenty of people who would read this column and mutter under their breath, "Wow, talk about drinking the Kool-Aid." To an extent, you'd be right. On the other hand, I'm not necessarily talking about technology here. The coolest thing is really the inherent optimism that has always been part of the technology business, but  is now focused acutely on the areas I've mentioned above. It's fun to be a part of a parallel universe whose residents almost have to look up the definition for "pessimism" on Wikipedia because their overriding belief is that all problems are solvable.

Now we just need an app that would make the innovation I'm seeing right now in social media infectiousness. OK, everyone, have at it.

11 comments about "Is It Just Me, Or Is Social Media Innovation Heating Up?".
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  1. Matthew Smyers from RedShift, December 10, 2009 at 2:10 p.m.

    It's hard not to drink the Kool Aid isn't it? With all that lies just around the corner it's a very exciting time. One thing seems to be certain, the way we communicate with each other and get our information has changed forever. There's no going back now! Interesting read on some of the cool concepts being kicked around: http://www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/ptech/12/10/internet.future/index.html

  2. Howie Goldfarb from Blue Star Strategic Marketing, December 10, 2009 at 2:30 p.m.

    I am very VERY upset with Facebook. They are the most UNTRUSTWORTHY media site on the internet. I immediately announced to my 400 'friends' to go into the new section and reset the settings to private. As I will state again and again, social networks are incredible technology for peer to peer communication and should be sold as such to the public vs. the Ad Supported formula that will fail. If Facebook charged just $2 per month they would have $7 billion in revenues and they can focus on improving the technology vs selling people's data and trying for ads and fan pages down people gullet. No wonder why the 18-24 are leaving the site and why new developments like Google Wave threaten it's very existence.

  3. Jeanette Okwu from eblizz, inc., December 10, 2009 at 2:33 p.m.

    ok. i will give it a shot.... Now i don't know if we are the next big thing but we are excited about our project.
    my partner and i are at the tail end of a two year developing/coding/tossing/back-to-the-roots bonanza with our interactive platform about to be released next month. we basically came up with a drag& drop technology that enables web sites to instantly and effectively communicate, market and monetize dynamic multimedia content anywhere on the web onto the social networks of their users. you can check it out at www.eblizz.com
    eblizz comes with a social-analytics platform that gives you a detailed snapshot of contextual data relevant to a website's content and its audience’s social activities. All key information for a good WOM strategy.
    oh yes, and please, feel free to give us feedback. we need it :-)

  4. Karen Talavera, December 10, 2009 at 2:35 p.m.

    It's about time there's more emphasis on the silver lining than the cloud, and I'm glad to see you exploring that here. Since the downward economic slide began in '08, my business (email and social media marketing strategy & training) has boomed. Not everyone is losing their jobs or being downsized. While many are, and as tragic as that can be on a personal level, we have to begin to see it as a sign of the quantum shifts happening in business in general.

    Old systems are breaking down or morphing to make way for the new. Social media is part of the new - it's an innovation to support the new ways we'll work and communicate in general. It's also one of the necessary tools in the toolbox supporting the rise of info-preneurs and the entrepreneurial rennaisance that is resulting from this global re-tuning of capitalism.

    People would be wise to remember these kernels of wisdom right now: 1) the only thing constant is change and 2) what you resist persists. It's time we embrace change. I don't consider myself a Kool Aid drinker because I'm NOT working for someone else wishfully thinking this is true. I'm living the change in my own business and witnessing it all around me. By accident or synchronicity, I'm swimming in the current of it and it's not just refreshing, it's damn exhilarating!

  5. Swag Valance from Trash, Inc., December 10, 2009 at 3:16 p.m.

    IMO, it is not heating up any more than it has over the past few years.

    For example, Google may be making the latest chess move into the much-lauded real-time search holy grail, but I still point back to the fact that Technorati was doing this with blogs years ago. Data APIs have been exposed for many years now -- from Amazon to Facebook to eBay to flickr. And Facebook's new privacy data sounds more like a strategic move to plan for an IPO at some point.

    In other words: meet the new innovation, same as the old innovation.

  6. Ambrose L. from -, December 10, 2009 at 3:16 p.m.

    Totally agreed with Howie, though setting everything to private probably won't even do enough.

    The jury is out: Two researchers have examined what the new "privacy" settings actually do, and both of them give damning verdicts: http://bit.ly/7kR1hc (Paul Fenwick) and http://bit.ly/56PGli (EFF).

    Aside from the obvious breach of trust in the first place, calling this giving people "more control" over their privacy settings is completely deceptive.

    I'm going to see how we can convert our still-new fan page into a group. This should at least tell people that we are not after their personal information.

  7. Jay Deragon from Social Media Directions, December 10, 2009 at 3:32 p.m.

    IMHO social media is simply fueling conversations about anything and everything. The innovation is coming from within the conversations as people learn and share what they've discovered while the "crowd" takes this new knowledge and creates new things.

    Google trends shows a 600+% increase in searches for the term social media. Adotpion curves a blowing through the rook. New technology is entering the market daily and the combined activity accelerates others to engage in dialog and discovery.

    What we see today is nothing to what is on the horizon and each "new shift and discovery" only fuels innovation further. The economy is in the tank, old media is in the tank and the market of conversations is the only real recovery to those able to rethink and create.

    Again, just my humble opinion :)

  8. Katie Smillie from SocialMedia.com, December 10, 2009 at 5:29 p.m.

    I think social media innovation is catching up more than it's heating up. But that's the thing about social media, it's the masses who have more power, right?

    Instead of companies offering the innovative products that change consumer behavior and demand (Apple iPod, Tivo, Netflix), it's consumer behavior that is starting to innovate and companies are trying to offer products that can meet high consumer demand and lofty expectations. For example many of Twitter's features have been added after users created ad hoc forms of the functionality they desired.

  9. Jared stivers, December 10, 2009 at 5:48 p.m.

    It appears as if social media is getting even more social. I think the facebook announcement is really the icing on the cake. The real challenge going forward for social media marketers is how do we accurately synthesize and analyze the data that's now available to us. Aiming the "firehose" of data has never really worked in the past and will be increasingly less useful as the amount of data increases exponentially. One big part of the social future has lie in the interpretation, what insights can be found in the changing pattern of data and what that means for your company.

  10. Donna DeClemente from DDC Marketing Group, December 10, 2009 at 9:49 p.m.

    Yes I believe I've been drinking the Kook Aid as well. I wrote this post on my blog for the Thanksgiving holiday and said similar things to what you Catharine have said here...I'm Thankful for Social Media on this Thanksgiving Eve http://bit.ly/5ncivd.

    I wrote, "I am thankful to be engaged with some of the people that I consider to be at the forefront of this changing media landscape and am excited to be part of the "revolution"." I do consider you, Catharine, to be one of those at the forefront as well as other MediaPost columnists such as David Berkowitz.

    It is an exciting time and I am thankful to be part of the revolution! Looking forward to 2010!

  11. Aaron Clopton, December 15, 2009 at 12:53 a.m.

    I know we believe, and you can see the evolving role on our site at www.newstwit.com . An aggregator of Twitter news feeds in many different channels (national/state/local to topics like sports, technology, venture capitalism, home schooling, etc.) - all of which are managed by professionals - the site is designed to give you the quickest, cleanest, yet most thorough snapshot of real-time news feeds. Check it out and let us know what you think?

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