May 26, 2010

The devolution of social media

A few disparate news items in recent weeks suggest that a new mood has swept through social media recently.

The very things that made social media so engaging in the early days are now working against it. It's easy to do, anyone can be involved and the reach is incredible.

So now everyone finds it easy, we're all involved and we're all connected.

But that's not really what we wanted, is it?

The notable investment in a small project called Diaspora*, the unpalatable privacy issues around Facebook and MySpace and the many people deleting their social profiles suggests a strong appetite for a different model.

If digital natives are looking to close their circle and focus on the people that really matter to them, what does it mean for brands looking to engage people in this space?

Well for one thing, it spells the end of @BobatCocaCola and @earncashfast etc...

I imagine once social circles start closing only real people and real entities will be welcome. In a people-oriented space many organisations will stand out like...

Many commercial forays into social media will simply fall over and organisations will find themselves having to reassess the landscape once again. "How do I continue the dialogue with the people who have moved on?" will be a big question.

The most obvious answer is, let your people continue to tell the story.

Often the best way to tell your brand story is through the people who believe in it and live it every day.

Your staff, customers and suppliers will be part of these closed networks so encourage them to be involved in social media and, when it's right, to talk about what they love about your new product or service.

This is not new thinking but it will become crucial to the survival of many brands if the terrain shifts in the next year or two.

I now think back to some early theory on how social media was taking shape:

"Even at its worst, our newfound conversation is more interesting than most trade shows, more entertaining than any TV sitcom, and certainly more true-to-life than the corporate web sites we've been seeing."

"Our allegiance is to ourselves—our friends, our new allies and acquaintances, even our sparring partners. Compan
ies that have no part in this world, also have no future."

That was 1999.

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