The begining of the end of the bubble
One day in the near future we will reach some sort of a tipping point with everything social. The new-platform frenzy of the last 5-8 years where almost every year we saw the explosion or a new social platform sometimes at the expense of an old one will slowly fade out. I might be wrong but apart from increasing mobile penetration, location aware and integration of social with eCommerce we are not going to see any significant innovation in social publishing and I don’t see any facebook or twitter killers coming soon.
The revolution of the social web is nearly completed.
From a brand and marketing comms perspective, soon enough a presence on social platforms (predominantly a facebook page, considering the fact that facebook is about to become dominant in social as much as google is the single player in search) will become hygiene in a similar way that every brand now has a website.
And then what?
Then we’ll see a magnificent display of Sturgeon’s law (oh wait we’re seeing it already!). The novelty of social, humanised brands will fade out and people will get pretty bored with the whole chattiness thing. I wholeheartedly believe that the vast majority of people don’t want any ‘extra’ layer of relationship with the vast majority of brands (“I had a bad commute after an average weekend thanks you very f**ing much”). And in as much as personal profile pages fast becoming irrelevant so do branded social spaces.
The legendary Ted of innocent wrote earlier this week that
when, and if, social media reaches tipping point there could quite easily be a divide in those that got in early and have (reach/ market share/ and lessons under their belts), and those that didn’t and have-not”. It’s a very interesting observation from someone who got there early, done some great stuff and keep learning.
My prediction is that similarly to the evolution of the (personal) blogosphere brands and social spaces will go in three possible directions:
1. The big Haves
These are the very few brands that both have what you can call “the social mojo” and who got there early and reached a scale (whatever scale means for them) and some understanding of what is the value for their audience as well as for the brand (read ROI). These are the Starbucks of the world who not only reached a scale but cleverly integrated/adapted their business and culture to the social mode.
2. The small, sophisticated Haves
Sometimes scale is not the main thing and some brands will realise / learn that getting closer to your core few is much better than talking to uninterested masses. These brands will find the value in doing great stuff to a small but valuable group of people and maintain a healthy, sustainable relationships with them. These are the brands that will find their voice, purpose and value proposition whether that means doing real-time customer service, brand’s storytelling or open-innovation.
For both types of Haves it will be (it already is) much more about the other stuff that happens outside the owned social spaces that will drive growth of audiences and interaction. It’s the great products, services and marketing that will keep people’s interest and love and get them back to the social space. Put differently, it’s only your business, brand and marketing strategies that will increase your social mojo.
3. The have-not’s
This is going to be the fate of most brands on facebook (or Twitter). Look around you and you can already see thousands of branded pages or twitter acounts that are so lame, screaming lack of purpose, so me-too without minimum understanding of the space and a strategic direction. Unsurprisingly these brands fiddling around with few hundreds or few thousands of Likes/Followers. Soon enough they will get bored and frustrated from the no return and will simply ditch their spaces (or facebook will become a massive graveyard for deserted branded pages). Unlike your website which is absolute hygiene and can be fairly static a branded social space needs constant TLC and that means time and money. The days that brands will pay someone external to sit and do that chit chat banter on their behalf without proving real value are numbered.