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The End of Social Media 1.0

The debut of a series introducing The End of Business as Usual

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I would like to talk about an inflection point in social media that requires pause. I am not suggesting that there will be a social media 2.0 or 3.0 for that matter. Nor do I see the term social media departing our vocabulary any time soon. After all, it was recently added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.  Instead, what I would like to discuss is the end of an era of social media that will force the industry to mature. It won’t happen on its own however. Evolution will occur because consumers demand it and also because you’re willing to stake your job on it.

From Social Network Fatigue to Deals Fatigue to Follow Fatigue, businesses are facing a crossroads at the intersection of social and media. Following the path of media continues a long tradition of what Tom Foremski refers to as “Social Media as Corporate Media.” Following the path of social is a journey towards relevance.

As Foremski states, “Social media is not corporate media…if corporations try to turn social media into a corporate sales or marketing channel then they risk losing the naked conversations, and the insight into customer behaviors.”

His point is that there’s more to social media than clever campaigns and rudimentary conversations. Talking isn’t the only thing that makes social media social. Just like adding Facebook, Twitter and other sharing buttons will not magically transform static content into shareable experiences. Listening, learning and adapting is where the real value of social media will show its true colors.  Listening leads to a more informed business. Engagement unlocks empathy and innovation. But it is action and adaptation that leads to relevance. And, it never ends.

Indeed, there really are more examples of media than there are that of social media in many of the celebrated examples out there today. Even though distributing corporate media in social channels sets the stage for dialogue, there really isn’t much that’s social about it. In fact, study of many social media initiatives have led me to believe that much of what we benchmark against is actually anti-social in its approach.

The future of social media comes down to one word, “value.” Without it, businesses will find it much more difficult to earn and retain friends, fans and followers (3F’s). As adoption of social networks soared in previous years, growth is now plateauing.  eMarketer estimates that Facebook growth will hit only 13.4% this year after experiencing 38.6% acceleration in 2010 and a staggering 90.3% ascension the year before. Facebook isn’t alone in its sobriety either. The  rate of Twitter user adoption fell from 293.1% growth in 2009 to 26.3% this year.

Don’t get me wrong, people are still embracing social networks. However, the severity of competition for consumer attention is now unmistakable. Once liberal with their likes, Retweets, and follows, consumers are becoming much more guarded and realistic. Therefore brands will now have to more effectively listen to markets to make more informed decisions about how social media impacts the enterprise and in turn customer experiences.

The GlobalWebIndex “Wave 5 Trends” report delivers insight into how consumers are using social networks and technology in general.  According to the report, growth in social network usage among 16- to 24-year-olds in the US is stalling. And, in a few countries usage within this group is declining. In fact, one of the key insights shared in the report is subduing, “Facebook is no longer the one stop shop for the total internet experience.”

However, the report is not a harbinger of social networking’s demise. It is merely a lens into how behavior is changing. This is important for any business to realize that business as usual in social networks is in fact anything but.

Between June 2009 and June 2011, the following changes were noted in Facebook activity:

– Uploading videos is experiencing a modest increase around the world up 5% in the U.S. and 7.6% worldwide.

– Installing apps is on the decline, down 10.4% in the U.S. and 3.1% worldwide.

– Sending virtual gifts may not be gifts worth giving after all, with numbers declining 12.9% in the U.S. and 7.5% around the world.

Twitter on the other hand is a rich exchange for  information commerce, where links become a form of digital currency. For example, 45% share an opinion about a product or brand more than once per day. Another 34% of Twitter users also share a link about a product or brand more than once per day.

When asked what consumers want from brands, knowledge and entertainment soared to the top of the list. Additionally, The GlobalWebIndex Wave 5 Trends report tells us that online consumers want brands to provide services that fit with their lifestyle. They also want brands to listen to them.

What can we learn of this?

1) Businesses must first realize that there’s more to social media than just managing an active presence, driven by an active editorial calendar. Listening is key and within each conversation lies a clue to earn relevance and ultimately establish leadership.

2) Consumers want to be heard. Social media will have to break free form the grips of marketing in order to truly socialize the enterprise to listen, engage, learn, and adapt. You can’t create a social business if the business is not designed to be customer-centric from the outside-in and the inside-out.

3) Social media becomes an extension of active listening and engagement. Strategies, programs, and content are derivative of insights, catalysts for innovation, and messengers of value. More importantly, social media becomes a platform for the brand and the functions that consumers deem mandatory. From marketing to HR to service to R&D, brands will expand the role they play in social networking to make the acts of following and sharing an investment in a more meaningful relationship.

The end of Social Media 1.0 is the beginning of a new era of business, consumer engagement, and relevance.


The End of Business as Usual will be available in the coming weeks. You can pre-order now at Amazon | Barnes and Noble | 800CEOREAD.

Part 1 – Digital Darwinism, Who’s Next
Part 2 – Social Media’s Impending Flood of Customer Unlikes and Unfollows
Part 3 – Social Media Customer Service is a Failure

129 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “The End of Social Media 1.0”

  1. Beth Kanter says:

    Yes, spot on and for non-profit, social causes too.  It isn’t about flashy or cute campaigns, it’s about showing how the integrated use of social media really impacts on the ground social change …. it means that on the nonprofit side that Facebook likes are no longer a victory – but the question is what’s the change that we are seeing as result?  What are our key results and outcomes?  And that requires ninja skills in measurement and learning.  I’m not talking about counting noses or beans or in the nonprofit sector – heads and beds.  I’m talking about being intentional about results, picking real indicators that show you’ve been successful or not – and reflecting, improving, and adapting.      

    Working with nonprofits – we look at the a “Theory of Change” – a series of if/then statements that takes us from the big impactful social change results to what we’re doing to measure and make that change happen.

    • Beth Kanter says:

      PS thanks for a thought provoking post and have just ordered the book

    • briansolis says:

      Beth, first of all…you are one of the wisest voices in the industry. You and I both know that evolution is for the benefit of consumers and organizations. The “Theory of Change” is indeed the manifesto most businesses should operate against. BTW, if you’re still in P.A., please send an email as I would love to catch up with you about an idea I have.

    • Nick Martin says:

      I completely agree with everything you said here. The issue I repeatedly run into is that when you get down to putting a process in place to measure the things you should be impacting you find that the most valuable things are hard to track. For instance, influencer engagement (depending on the type of influencer mind you) may result in conversions. Even if the conversions come as a direct result of the engagement (I convert the influencer and they go on to convert a customer) there isn’t a clear way to mark that as a win. At least, not with any tools that I have at my disposal. Maybe a robust SCRM solution would help, but that’s not feasible on a startup budget.

  2. TonyZambito says:

    Hello Brian,

    Very thought provoking article.  I agree with the premises you make and believe that businesses today must address how they design their organizational structure to support a social business strategy.  A big issue today is that businesses are still organized in the conventional push model and are not set up for listening and engaging.  Thus, you have a silo like Marketing who will hang on to social media to own for dear life – for in the old structure of push – owning is power and agenda building.  So unless organizations adapt and restructure to be listening and engaging, the relevancy of social media will be stuck at 1.0.  Nicely done Brian!

    Tony Zambito

    • Couldn’t agree more Tony. Good news from my world as a contact center that supports many major CPG and Pharma companies is that I have seen some evidence recently that marketing is starting to understand the need to share the Social Pie. We find ourselves partnering with marketing, their agencies and consumer affairs where we work together on listening and engagement strategies. However with that said I think your point is right on and what some companies have done is defined their social business strategy without giving enough consideration to what their organizational structure should look like and what support is needed. So  as a consumer I am faced with marketing messaging that is content push focused and an inconsistent engagement strategy where when you post (as opposed to what you post) may end up being the indicator as to whether you get a response or not. This shot in the dark or randomness to engagement is opportunity lost and certainly does not leave a positive impression for the slighted consumer (even if they had liked the page).

  3. Perhaps that means the next generation of social monitoring software will provide something more sophisticated than Boolean search.

  4. Interesting thought…

  5. Ken Troupe says:

    I really enjoyed your article and it was dead on. I have
    always thought that using social media well is listening and organically
    growing long lasting relationships between the consumer and the brand.

  6. Ann Swanson says:

    Brian, thanks for an astute post.  I think the issue of too many choices is a theme for consideration during any new media experience.  Limiting choices – or rather finding the sweet spot for choices – has big payoffs in every aspect of business (and child rearing for that matter).  How do we help our customers choose efficiently?  We have to give the best number of the best choices. 

  7. Grant Leboff says:

    “The future of social media comes down to one word, value”. Brian, I couldn’t agree more. In my book Sticky Marketing I highlight this point. Traditional outbound marketing ‘worked’ because in a world where information was relatively scarce, consumers found receiving the information ‘valuable’. Of course, today, traditional outbound marketing has lost much of this value as we all have information which can be accessed 24/7, at our time of choosing. What many companies are struggling to understand is how they can engage and provide value within a social context. In answer to this we introduced a matrix called Problem Maps which allows companies to understand the value around their core offering. This in turn provides them with insights into how they can provide value and engage with their potential customer in the social media environment.

  8. Darren Moore says:

    You hit the nail on the head Brian!  Businesses to listen to the consumer and take action.  Also what is the added value to the customer/client? Take off the blinders – pay attention – then take action.

  9. This is just another demonstration of why it’s so important to truly care what your customers are saying and why, instead of just paying them lip service.

    Thanks for the great post! I can always count on you for an interesting, well thought out and relevant article.

  10. Social media is in the end of growth stage of life cycle. Then comes maturity stage and then comes the decline. Mny websites like myspace and orkut by google is in decline stage. New enhancements with new features would prolong maturity stage. Here is an interesting article

  11. Lace Llanora says:

    Thought-provoking post indeed. I’ve been conversing about this situation with fellow bloggers, when the audience is saturated with likes and follows, brands on the other hand will realize they’ve got to put a halt in putting up prizes on Facebook. Some may have neglected developing and innovating on their own web properties (i.e. their websites and blogs) in exchange of these micro-sharing platforms. But to offer more value to your audience, that web property is important where you have the liberty to publish relevant valuable content, more than 140 characters.

    I agree with @jasonbaer:disqus and probably the lesson here is the old adage, don’t put all your eggs in one basket – and continue to innovate.

  12. very cool post! thanks a lot for sharing!

  13. David G H Phillips says:

    Perhaps we are so far in the pocket of marketing that we are missing the whole point.
    Conventional marketing listens to the market place to enhance the product. It works. It brought us TQM, CRM and a host of other acronyms but is that what makes great companies great.
    Did ‘listening’ produce the iPhone or the iPad?
    Was “listening” to driver Usenet?
    Who was so brave as to make the company with the largest number of patents get most of its income from open source – at IBM.
    The list of ground breaking developments that broke the mould and led the way is long.
    Sure, after the iPad, listen to see if a copycat product can gain a slice of the market but what of the original idea?
    Like you, I am not claiming that this is the end of the world as we know it. 
    I do believe that the world is ready for the next big thing. 
    I also believe that it will be very different to our present experience.
    It will need to be able to stand on recent developments as Facebook did on web technologies.
    It will depend on creativity to really have an impact and it will be a naked conversation.

  14. richa says:

    Brian, It’s really a very nice post. Thanks for sharing!!!

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  16. Beth Neibert says:

    Brian, I love it! You’re validating what I’ve been saying for a long time; social media is about being social, in other words, having relevant conversations that are engaging, add value, promotes others and requires listening and adaption to stay in tune with your audience, many of whom are prospects or clients.

    I’ll also add that I’ve noticed an alarming increase of tweets that have nothing more than a list of IDs and it’s expanded beyond #FollowFriday (#FF) into the rest of the week. This is a poor example of “adding value.” Providing a comment as to why you recommend the people be followed (e.g. funny, leader, or interesting tweeter), would be helpful. I realize you don’t speak to this specifically, but I welcome your thoughts and those of your readers.

    Thanks, again, Brian for another great read. Here’s to your continued success!
    ~ Beth

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