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Update: Are we in a social media bubble?

April 24, 2008

Originally written in April, 2008, I want to revisit the bubble notion. Today, one of the partners at my company e-mailed me an article about Social Networking that other people got as well.

This is the money shot from the article:

“Synovate also asked adult consumers if they were losing interest in online social networking. Overall, 36% of social network users said yes, led by those in Japan (55%), Slovakia (48%), Canada (47%), Poland and the US (45% each). Social networkers in Indonesia and France were the least likely to be losing interest, at only 18% and 21%, respectively.”

Think about social networking as a product. You can be talked into getting into a social network like Facebook by friends, and if you do, the tool itself will get you back. If the product delivers an expected (or above expected) performance, they will visit it again. If it really exceeds expectations, people might even go out of their way to tell people all over about it.

Now, think about the first Internet bubble. A person who visits a brand (or product) website for the first time isn’t a fan of that site. They were driven there somehow, and the interaction with the site will be the thing that drives them back. We all know this intuitively. In the Web 1.0 bubble, we threw up websites because it was new to go to them, so people did it.

Right now, it’s new to engage in Facebook, or a get a feed from Twitter. But critical mass is upon us. I have 106 people I follow on Twitter and I can’t keep up. Add my Facebook friends, fantasy football, and my Dunbar number is through the roof.

Think about it again in terms of Facebook: that first point when people reconnect is cool. But then,most of the friends are silent. Does it matter that Bill, the locker partner from grade 7 just went on Vacation? Is that really relevant? And the lack of relevance in the tool makes the tool suffer.

And this is the point, the newness of them are getting people to them and do an action that seems new and neat. In the first bubble, people looked at Coke’s website because they could.

Social media is seeing some good numbers based on the fact that it’s neat. And we know that the engagement, conversation, interaction — whatever you want to call it — is the thing that will bring them back.

Photograph taken by Googie ManImage via Wikipedia

We’ve been down this road before. Have we learned? The real test is this. If a client says lets do a Facebook page, and you ask them why, they have an answer. If they don’t (or you don’t), then your bubble might burst.

As Yogi Berra said: it’s deja vu all over again.

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