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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. Pc says:

    Brian, I love how you think and write. I guess I’ll have to admit that I’m your “fan girl” 😉

    Seriously, your insights help keep “us” on the path to a higher level of social media consciousness. I always learn something or am reminded that I am on the right path when those around me may have caused ms to second guess myself.
    Thank you! 🙂

  2. MikeGrace says:

    Completely agree. When I see companies or brands asking me to “like” them on facebook, I often asked myself “why?! How is that going to help me?”.

  3. Joseph Manna says:

    It always comes down to value and being intentional about the purpose of the Like/Follow/Circle. So many of these brands are still chasing numbers, not interactions. Good for them; the free market will teach them when they have 0.001% response rate to their messages. 

    Brands should be valuable and not just out to promote themselves, but instead, discover and lead their community around their industry. I grow tired (and surely, everyone else too) of the same tactics in use by all the brands to get fans, followers. This fatigue is felt by the industry as a whole when we have to claw each other to get the attention of someone.  I can go on for days about this, but I think you said it best, Brian. Hope these brands wake up and realize they much be strategic in order to capitalize on their social media investments and adequately serve their prospects, customers and the industry as a whole. 

  4. Nazamova says:

    Spot on post. I have been involved in Enterprise Social Media for several years and the biggest obstacle I face everyday is how companies are just using FB, their own blog posts and the like as yet another web page.  There is little to no engagement with others.  There really is nothing social about it other than the platform being used. Enterprise keeps talking but they rarely listen or participate in dialogue that is not on their own website.  When you go to a party you usually enter the room, introduce yourself to some guests, listen to the conversation they have going and at the right time you start to add your input and insight to the group topic. ENT SoMe is the guest who comes to the party, sits in the corner alone and just starts talking.  It’s awkward, ugly and no one wants to go over to that guy and join the one-man diatribe.  Sadly, by the time ENT SoMe gets it fully, the next generation will be on to something else.

    • Dave Doolin says:

      “There is little to no engagement with others.  There really is nothing social about it other than the platform being used.”
      This is exactly why I’ve disengaged from all my social media properties  (FB, Twitter) for a while: not enough time in my day to maintain an engaging presence… given my current business model. I’m well aware of what that indicates about my current business model. When it’s obvious nobody is home, who cares about that? Better for me to take a sabbatical, better learn my customers and my marketing, then engage and re-engage. When I’m on fire for it!

    • Ann Swanson says:

      The tough thing about social is:  It’s a lot of work!  Being social means talking and listening.  It is work to pay attention so personally, among so many networks.  If you are going to do social you have to be social.

  5. NEENZ says:

    From my observations, part of the cause of the problems for companies are their hired marketer, agencies, and PR-turned-social-media-marketers. They’re getting bum advice, from people that know how to navigate the social network, but have no idea who it “really works”. My philosophy is build an engaged and sustainable community by providing value, so that when the tools change the community will move with the company.

    • Saidkassem says:

      pigeonhole much?

    • NEENZ says:

      Nope, calling it like it is, sticking to my philosophy, and putting my name next to my words. The “social media marketer” is so common these days it’s like rats infested a park. 🙂 The industry’s early adopters may be maturing, but not everyone, including myself in some areas. For example, replying to anonymous commentors may be viewed as “feeding the trolls” something that’s so >1.0. But anyways, have a good day, do what you do, and above all be true to yourself…there’s no expiration for that. Aloha.

  6. 4byoung says:

    It was inevitable that the limits on time for both consumers and businesses would eventually change the way we are social on the web. Businesses need to give people a reason to interact with them. I would also add the current methods of measuring also lead to sloppy thinking about the types of engagement that are meaningful. Large numbers of whatever type can be hard to resist but, as you noted, it leads to treating social sites as just another broadcast channel that is just as impersonal, limiting and easily ignored as any other channel.

    Smart marketers will want to evolve quickly and act less like traditional agencies and more like consultants who provide their customers with insightful dialogue, time-saving services, and other value.

  7. Jake Thomas says:

    Brian – Can you share any examples of brands that are currently ahead of the curve and doing this already?  Great post.  Thanks.

  8. tnhomestead says:

    It must be me because I dont want a company to be social. I want them to keep information on old products so if I donate to the boy scouts or a poor kid I can get drivers and details!  I want to be able to reach the proper person to answer that oddball question on a product. I want to be able to call and complain and get it fixed like when walmart ripped me off for 200 bucks last year! I dont have time to read all the facebook posts from audi or kmart or proctor & gamble, I dont have time to find the 10 posts I want buried in 300 posts from farmville! And the tweets i would like are buried in 200 tweets about weather and coffee! Instead of social, give me a good product that works!

  9. briansolis says:

    Thanks Dennis, well written post. I agree with you on the IT front. I also really enjoyed this…”Let’s stop talking about ‘social business’ as if it were some sort of change in how organizations behave.”

  10. lance says:

    What a boring business you guys are in.  Blah blah blah. 

  11. It’s funny how marketers are targetted as the bad guys in this “not so social corporate media” issue. I think that marketing is the science of listening to customer in order to offer them what they need and really want. Pushing advertising has never been a marketing activity but an advertising activity which most of the time is driven by non marketer. This is a mega problem with the marketer professsion, everyone claims to be a marketer as soon as they have “marketing” in their title. Social Medias have brought some much possibilities in redefining client relationship. A marketer that ignores it, is really anything but a marketer.

    PS Sorry for my english…I do my best as a french speaking real “marketer”.

  12. Madeline says:

    I completely agree with your post. Businesses forget that these channels are not called ‘social’ networking sites for no reason. You have to remember if you’re just pushing out messages without engaging with your fans or followers it doesn’t reflect well on your company.

  13. Elias Shams says:

    Here is my 2cents on all of them. It’s all about the Pee Pee 🙂

    Twitter:I need to pee pee!
    Facebook:I pee peed!
    Foursquare: I’m pee peeing here
    Quora:Why am I pee peeing?
    Youtube:Watch this pee pee!
    LinkedIn:I pee pee well
    New myspace: let’s dance while pee peeing!
    Google+:Let’s all pee pee in a circle HOW AWESOME DO I PEE PEE on Twitter, FB, Foursquare, Quora, youtube,
    LinkedIn, myspace and Google+

  14. Elias Shams says:

    Here is my 2cents on all of them. It’s all about the Pee Pee 🙂

    Twitter:I need to pee pee!
    Facebook:I pee peed!
    Foursquare: I’m pee peeing here
    Quora:Why am I pee peeing?
    Youtube:Watch this pee pee!
    LinkedIn:I pee pee well
    New myspace: let’s dance while pee peeing!
    Google+:Let’s all pee pee in a circle HOW AWESOME DO I PEE PEE on Twitter, FB, Foursquare, Quora, youtube,
    LinkedIn, myspace and Google+

  15. Anonymous says:

    If I haven’t read until that last sentence, I would have said that this claim is big… But, coming from one of the respected names in social media marketing, I’d say this gives everyone something to think about.  I love your insights here, especially on the part where ‘..Social media becomes an extension of active listening and engagement.’  That being said, I think there’s no harm automating posts so long as you do it responsibly and it must give you more time to engage with your peers instead.  For me, I go for 80/20- as in 80% conversation and 20% automation.  If businesses are failing to turn social media into corporate media, it’s odd how ordinary citizens are turning it into a catalyst of change, like what happened to Egypt and so on… or is it?

  16. jaybaer says:

    Exactly right. We won’t be able to rely upon breakneck growth to sustain social media “wins” much longer. We’ll have to actually sharpen the pencil, get creative, and most of all get RELEVANT to customers and prospects to be successful. The days of showing up to the party and #winning because you were early, or because you had a noteworthy brand are coming to a close. Makes my job as a social strategist harder, but it’s a healthy development for the industry when the wheat gets separated from the chaff. Same thing happened in Web dev. Same thing happened in email. Same thing happened in SEO. We’ve seen this movie before, and we know how it ends: the rich get richer because they invest in sound, contextually appropriate, LONG-TERM programs that make sense. 

    • Jay,

      You make a really excellent point. Establishing an engagement strategy based on listening to consumers requires a long-term commitment.  We’re moving beyond simply monitoring for mentions and measuring likes to one where, as @briansolis:disqus  mentions, that is centered on value. And that value is what is defined by consumer.


    • Bridget says:

      Well said.  We need to go back to the fundamentals of asking ourselves not what’s in it for us, but what’s in it for our potential clients.  Only then can we develop fruitful relationships with them.

  17. Marius Ciortea says:

    Well said. However there are people stuck at companies that are not customer-centric and still being asked to execute Social Media activities. Poor souls.

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