Since the arrival of Google Buzz I have been hearing a lot of complaints about the amount of social media we already have. Didn’t our parents survive the arrival of hundreds of tv channels? Then, why so much noise about the number of social media?
Well, first of all because changes that some years ago would have taken a long time, now take only a few weeks. I could be explaining this forever, but this video that I watched thanks to Nicolas Vanderveken will be way more exiciting.
But I’m getting tired of the “I won’t have time for everything” cry, because that is exactly the problem: we haven’t learned yet how to deal with social media. We want to be part of all of them, and that just isn’t possible. However, it’s also impossible to watch every single TV channel, to listen to every radio station or read every newspaper. I think social media will experience the same public fragmentation and specialization of the media. Sooner or later users will only use the social media they need:
- First, there will be social media for personal contacts: friends and family, mainly. Facebook is already the leader in this area for its number of users and options, although in some specific groups (defined by nationality or age) smaller networks such as Orkut and the Spanish Tuenti have a great presence. Users will go where their contacts are, so it will be essential for social media to reach opinion leaders and influential users.
- There will also be social media targeting professional relationships, simply because you cannot use the same tool to share your summer vacation pictures and to close a business deal worth thousands of dollars. Here Linkedin and Xing are currently the most important networks, due to their large number of users, but I wouldn’t be surprised by the success of a social network specialized in one sector, such as journalist or engineers.
- I have no doubt that there is a need for generalized social media, those that may be used for everything. I think Twitter is the main player here, both for the number of users and for it’s structure/philosophy. Buzz probably can play an important role here as well thanks to its integration with Gmail, if it survives its stormy beginning. Facebook’s size, and the fact that it is already being used both personally and professionally, make it another player to consider, at least in the short term.
- But the next big boom will be market specialization. There will be many thematic social media: cooking, travelling, cars, computers… similar to the actual Internet forums but aiming to become communities. Once again it seems Facebook must be taken in consideration here, thanks to its various groups. However, I think that it does not have as much potential in this area because it will be difficult to develop something truly specialized within the structure of Facebook.
- And finally I have to mention the Identity Wars, which Enrique Dans defines as the fight to become the new “white pages”. At some point one of the services will become the “ID network”, similar to a directory of people with a simplified profile of all users. In one hand, it will work to find and reach any person, but it will also work as the common user/password to enter in all websites that require registration. Although Google Profiles, OpenID, and Facebook are currently the biggest players, almost every service has the potential to become just as big. This probably was what Microsoft was thinking when they released WindowsLive through Hotmail.
In conclusion, The social media market still has a long way to walk. Users, companies and media will become more selective, the same way we are today with Television, and the advertising market will find the way to take advantage of the many opportunities in this new game.