We’re essentially a decade into the rise of social media as we know it today. The first, most popular, of social media apps was blogging and the first big social network, MySpace. The first fizzling out was also MySpace followed by Bebo. Blogging is alive and well, if somewhat changed. For example, in 2008 when I first started researching social media usage, the average blog post was 800 words. Today it is 200 words and the use of images and video is critical to a successful blog. So, now what?
Why Social Media Isn’t A Fad
I suspect few today see social media as a fad. Though some still do. That is the ever shrinking minority. Social media has been around since the dawn of homo sapiens. The first instance was cave drawings. They were social because these drawings were designed to communicate to a society. The media was the cave wall. But caves aren’t easy to carry around so the audience wasn’t a marketers dream and there were few conferences on how to make better cave drawings. As far as we know.
As humans, communicating is a very fundamental part of our behaviour. It’s how we survive, because we are social creatures. Current social media tools enable us to communicate faster, at almost zero cost, with minimal friction and across time and space in a way we’ve never been able to do before. So naturally, we took to it like a bear to honey.
So What’s Next?
Many social media tools we use today will be gone in a decade or so. Probably Twitter as they struggle to make money. The biggest challenge for most social media apps today will be their ability to stay relevant to their audience. SnapChat was adopted by tweens and teens; can they stay relevant as that audience ages? Facebook lost youth when their parents came on, but Facebook managed that transition well and is making money.
There is an inherent tension with all social media apps and services. People want the service for free, but they don’t want to be bombarded by ads and pitches. The creator and provider of these apps and services need the eyeballs to raise capital but must then make money off those eyeballs.
It’s impossible to predict the next big thing in the social media space, but it is not going away. Some channels will become mainstays, like Facebook and perhaps Twitter. YouTube is changing, Google+ likely fading away. But any organisation who relies on communicating with an audience to get a message across or sell a product, must be engaged. The way and degree of engagement will always differ, but engagement is a necessary part of any organisation that needs to communicate. And there are few organisations today that don't have to communicate with some form of audience. Social media is staying, how we use it and what we use (i.e. a smartphone) is what will change.