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Lost in Social Media Space

July 07 2011

socialMediaRobotWe got this great post from Matthew Ferrara's blogMatthew Ferrara's blog. Have YOU tried Google+?

Sure, social media marketing is important. But if the best we can do is Google+ and Skype on Facebook, we're in danger, Will Robinson!

There were so many ways this entry could go. On the one hand, I wanted to write about how Google+ will probably turn out to be a dud. Did we really need another social network? Isn't the fact that I'm already redundantly connected to the same people in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare and EmpireAvenue an indicator that mortals have limits to how many nano-updates they can make? Trust me: I love social media. But let's not overdo it, shall we?

Besides, nothing in Google+ is all that innovative. Circles are just lists in Facebook or Twitter; Hangouts are just groups in LinkedIn. Sparks are just "more like this" in any good RSS reader (I like Zite, actually). Oh, wow: I can send group SMS messages with huddle. Yeah, yeah, it will all affect search engine optimization. As if any iPad-toting app-enabled consumer actually searches for websites any more. Really, if this is what passes for innovation at $535 a share, Google is smart to call it a "limited project." Can you say, Wave and Buzz?

On the other hand, today Facebook announced – big, gaping yawn – it was integrating Skype into its chat platform. What chat feature, you ask? Exactly. Hardly anyone uses the text chat now, because a) most people update Facebook from their mobile, which is decidedly not chat friendly and b) the vast majority of mobiles lack video cameras, which is decidedly the most compelling feature of Skype. Oh, sure, it's all planning for the future. And Skype is very cool. But what if the future is dominated by people who a) prefer to text message without a web platform and b) will use video conferencing built into smart devices? Possibly even a Dick Tracey wristwatch? Still, Facebook's goal isn't probably all that clever: what better way to keep users on the site longer, and display more ads, than to position itself as the future video phone directory.

Oh, how clever! Facebook the Video White Pages of the future!

Don't jump to conclusions. Of course social is important. Of course it's a critical conduit for companies trying to build lasting relationships with their customers. Of course it's nice to catch the latest news about Aunt Zelda's psoriasis by pstatus update [sic]. But if we're going to place social media at the center of our marketing strategies, then this week's announcements should be a wake up call. If – and it's admittedly a big if – social networks are reaching some sort of saturation points in either cleverness or human utility, we'd better know now.

The picosecond social network innovations seem stale or we reach our human limits to update another network, the Great Logoff occurs. Something shiny is sure to take our attention somewhere else. It's the way of the Cabbage Patch, padawan.

Then what? Some organizations are barely keeping up with what one social network can do today, let alone multiple ones, with new features released every week. Too few marketing departments have yet to upload their first YouTube commercial. So you can see why a couple of the most boring enhancements since, say, the Palm OS, would lead us to urge caution like an iconic robot:

Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!

All of which is to say: Watch your back. Put the right amount of effort, time, resources into social media, and text marketing, and video online. Keep a finger in multiple outlets (just not electrical sockets). And remember that no technology platform is guaranteed. Note AOL, MySpace, Nokia and Blackberry; Actually, make those footnotes. All were initial leaders whose subsequent innovations elicited yawns rather than gasps. Diversify your social media strategy. Keep it flexible. Don't over-commit to a single channel.

No, this isn't permission to start running newspaper classifieds again.

Yes, it's a warning to be careful not to get lost in social space.