The Social Media pendulum starts to swing back

by Justin Souter on July 13, 2009

I was reading the Groundswell blog post below, and it got me thinking about my own use of Social Media, and how I haven’t been using Twitter quite so much recently – which is probably a *good* thing! ;-D

So, I thought it might be useful to reflect a bit and also relay a couple of interesting multimedia riffs on this theme:

  • Social Media as a lifestyle?
  • Gartner hype cycle
  • Twitter posters from Flickr
  • Spoof Social Media expert video

Social Media as a lifestyle?

Key quote from Groundswell blog post: Social technology: a way of life . . . or just a damn hobby?:

“As I see people immersing themselves in social technology I am reminded of this argument. Are you twittering all the time? Blogging every thought? Keeping up with every discussion about your topic? If this is your full-time job, you’re like the fans who landed the jobs in publishing — good for you. If not, your boss, your coworkers, and maybe your customers are wondering why you’re not fully there, even when you’re with them. If you’re working at Facebook maybe social is a way of life (SIAWOL?). Not sure if that applies if you’re at Best Buy or Accenture.

I’m not arguing you should give up social media. Staying connected is terrific. I’m blogging, twittering, facebooking and emailing (yes, that too) frequently. But it’s not a way of life, it’s a useful communications tool. (Would you ever say “email is a way of life?”) I love to connect in these social worlds. I also like to take a moment to step back and think once in a while, instead of being caught up in the whirlpool at every moment. And whether it’s a client engagement, a briefing, an event, or just a discussion in the hallway, I try to be fully present. People seem to appreciate it, and I learn things from those other interactions, just as I learn them within the groundswell.

Do you have trouble with this balance? How do you sort it out? I’m avidly interested in your answers.”

Gartner hype cycle

When I worked at Fujitsu Services, I had access to reports from Gartner and Forrester, amongst others [mmm, analyst report…].

Gartner had a great analytical tool, called the Hype Cycle:

Interpreting Technology Hype
When new technologies make bold promises, how do you discern the hype from what’s commercially viable? And when will such claims pay off, if at all? Gartner Hype Cycles provide a graphic representation of the maturity and adoption of technologies and applications, and how they are potentially relevant to solving real business problems and exploiting new opportunities. Gartner Hype Cycle methodology gives you a view of how a technology or application will evolve over time, providing a sound source of insight to manage its deployment within the context of your specific business goals.

This “Understanding hype cycles” page is a great explainer, as is this diagram:

Bottom line is that I’m wondering whether we’re at the Peak of Inflated Expectations for the whole concept of Social Media, but maybe just for mainstream businesses? Let me know what you think!

Think Dot com bust re Trough of Disillusionment – i.e. people asking “Emperor’s New Clothes”-type questions…

Check out this sneaky re-publish of one of their reports for an example.

Twitter posters from Flickr – style of WWII propaganda

Umm, I probably just wanted to publish these, as they’re rather good. But also worthwhile pondering the downside of too much opening of the kimono!

Hat tip to Al Smith

Spoof Social Media expert video

I think those of us who put ourselves forward as having experience / expertise in the Social Media arena need to have a) a sense of humour, and b) a sense of our own credibility issues. This clip is painfully perceptive!

Hat tip to Neville Hobson

So, a bit of an omnibus post with added multimedia, but sparked by Josh Bernoff’s musings. Thought-provoking IMO.

  • Nice post justin, i'd quite agree there is very much a hype cycle for this kind of social media development and popularity, but i think its far more complicated.

    The inovator such as your good self, will see a new technology, see its potential, get really excited about it and write all sorts of great stuff about it, the press will pick up on eventually, but by the time it hits the masses, you will have become bored and moved onto the next big thing. That is not to say that the masses arn't by this stage as excited as you once were, and that it won't get really big before eventually dying.

    There is also the lure of the new, in some ways social networks are a little addictive, people often want to have more friends than their friends, and be one of the cool kids using the latest social gadget, but eventually people get bored and move on to the next big thing, just look at the shift from friend reunited to myspace to facebook and possibly on to twitter. These sites are often, but not always more about the bells and whistles and less about the content.

    Having said that there are other social media sites that are just great at what they do and that are much more likely to be in it for the long term, where they are not so trend based, flickr, youtube or delicious are all pretty good examples. They do one thing, they do it simply, they allow you to share the contend with other social sites.

    I have to admit i am probably a serial offender in that i sign up for every new technology that comes along, some of which i really big up, before getting bored of and ultimately abandoning.

    What will be interesting to see is how long companies that started building facebook, myspace and twitter communities continue to support them or whether they can implement graceful exit stratergies or whether they'll face a consumer backlash.

  • David – as always, many thanks for your insightful commentary. :-D

    I agree that I am a 'serial offender' but my thoughts are:
    – If something is useful, then we'll carry on using it (think e-mail, blogging)
    – If other people are using it, then that's where we'll keep going (think how many people are using Facebook)
    – If the tool provides something that addresses an unmet need, people will use it
    – If it is an open platform or has an API so that others can use it to innovate, it'll likely be popular

    I think Social Media is here to stay, but it will develop based on constructive feedback and solid use cases.

    See you soon


  • As always you make a good point. I have to agree social media is hear to stay, but it is still very young as a medium and as a society we are still finding our way around it, and i'm guessing we will see wave after wave on new social sites as each generation make it their own.

    The key to the future of social media is ensuring that as new sites and services develop that we find ways to migrate with our networks from one to the other, and find ways to manage having multiple accounts on multiple networks, effective use of api's and services like that allow you to send status updates across mulple networks all help.

    Another thing that is currently changing in social media is who we connect with. With sites like facebook, you probably knew all your friends on facebook in the real world before friending them on facebook, however with the rise of services like twitter all that changes and while you will have met some of your followers in the real world, many of them will be people you have never met before, so you've switched from managing your social network to growing it.

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