A couple of weeks ago, I participated in my first ever G+ hang-out. I know I haven’t been the most ardent supporter of Google Plus – some of the rather sexist articles that came out when Google Plus was in beta soured me on the platform a bit. The busy stream and other facets of G+ world never have gotten me too excited. However, the hang-outs are pretty neat. Much like Skype, the hangouts offer you a chance to talk to people face-to-face. Unlike Skype, it’s possible to talk (with ease) to a lot of different people (up to 9 others). No matter where they are or where you are, hanging out is as easy as a click of a button.
I found myself on kind of an endorphin high after my first hang-out experience. In fact, Brian Vickery and I created a new multi-platform show out of the deal. Talking to people with actual voices and faces and mouths that moved was so wonderful. Going back to the 2-D world of Facebook and Twitter seemed like kind of a let-down after that. Everyone was back to looking the way they always look when I see their avatars. There was no laughter, no tonality to anything that was being said.
Kaarina Dillabough and I will be offering deeper thoughts on this in a couple of weeks, but it seems like people are kind of getting restless with social media. In fact, Marcus Sheridan just wrote a post about how valuable social media conferences are because (ironically) they assist in connecting you to people face-to-face, in “real life.”
This all has to do with the personal nature of our lives and our dealings with other people. But I’m also wondering if perhaps we are moving away from the time when social media was a business in and of itself. I’m wondering if social media is evolving into something that is no longer a “thang.” You know what I mean? It’s no longer newsworthy in and of itself. It’s moving to a place where it’s no longer the whole story, it’s just a footnote. What could that mean for you, for me, and for all those people whose careers have been made by the social media thang?
It never should have been a “thang”
You might recall the “Social Media Revolution” videos that have been floating around YouTube for awhile now. It was hard not to get sucked into that mentality even two years ago. Facebook, Twitter, the potential for new kinds of communication – all of this was still new. But from the beginning, there have been voices cautioning against the “social media thang.” Take, for example, this presentation by Olivier Blanchard from 2010 – “Your business isn’t social media” is a point that is reiterated often in the talk. And that was from two years ago. More recently, Mike McGrail wrote a post suggesting that the age of the social media guru is coming to an end. Just today I read an article from AdWeek asking if social media community managers are really marketers. People are no longer buying into the aura of social media as a revolutionary concept. People want accountability. People want to get back to their real businesses.
What does this mean?
I’ve never been one to play the prediction game before, but in this case, I have a few guesses as to what is going to happen in the next few months to a year as a result of these trends.
The game will get uglier: As the value of a “social media guru” subsides, I think competition is going to drive a lot of the communication online to an increasingly ugly place. There will be increased supply versus decreasing demand. As people work to maintain the status they have built over the last five or so years in the online space, they will become more defensive, more prone to making broad generalizations, and more apt to dismiss people who disagree with them. There will be more “call-out” posts to undermine the competition, too.
Streams will quiet down: As people engross themselves in business versus social media, Facebook streams, blog communities, and Twitter feeds will slow to a crawl. I think a lot of us are already seeing this happen. This blog here is a prime example. I’ve barely blogged here for about two months. I just don’t have the time anymore.
Conversations will mature: Sound bites about ROI having to do with your mother will no longer be acceptable, which is the point Mike makes in his post. As social media changes from a “thang” to a tool, people will want more serious advice about how to use social media, how to measure social media efforts, and how to pivot if something either does not work or works better than expected.
The gurus will disappear: Blogs focusing only on social media best practices will die out, and it will seem sudden to those of us who have been in this space for any amount of time. People will no longer want to focus solely on how to get retweets. They’ll want to know how to use Twitter as part of an integrated marketing plan with a goal of increasing sales by 3%.
“Tradition” will make a come-back: There has been a lot of talk in the online world about how this or that thing is dead. Advertising, email, direct mail, the press release – almost anything NOT social media has been consigned to death at least once, right? As the shine evaporates on social media, people will begin to realize that some of those “traditional” marketing tactics weren’t so bad. In fact, we can now revisit those ideas in new and exciting ways that weren’t possible five years ago. Advertising, PR, and other marketing methods can be enriched and made more interactive with social media. They do not need to be replaced by social media. As we all long for handwritten notes and face-to-face connections, so too will companies begin to long for ways to actually market their products versus simply “engaging” with people.
I have seen many signs pointing to these changes. Some subtle, like gentle whispers on a windy night. Some less subtle. But I think we are most decidedly moving in a direction that will take us away from social media as a “thang.”
What do you think?
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/modeltalk/5019679913/ via Creative Commons