emptyIt’s fun to scoff at haters who don’t get the power of social media or flaunt the wisdom of the crowd. But what do you do when the crowd turns on itself?

The idea that users will someday get sick of social networks and tune out entirely is hardly new. The first person to try to convince me to quit Facebook did so in 2006 — and we’re both still active users. Still, I’ve seen the idea bandied about more often recently. Even SmartBrief on Social Media say they get sick of reading about it sometimes. But the topic is usually approached from a user’s perspective. No one ever talks about the role that businesses and marketers play in the rise and fall of networks.

Users come to networks for content. That can mean an interesting link or an update on a friend or a funny video. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that users value the content, not the network — even though the network is what makes the content possible. Many businesses seem to think it’s okay to have a social presence that doesn’t add any value for the user. In most mediums, those would just be examples of bad advertising and they’d be easy to ignore. But because of the nature of social networks, its harder to avoid these flat, flavorless ads. They give a network an oppressive, corporate vibe that makes even dedicated fans occasionally feel like logging out forever.

Social media has demonstrated enormous value to businesses. But not all businesses have demonstrated any value to the network. No one is going to log onto a network just because it’s there. You need to give the crowd a reason to keep coming back.

Is social media headed for a crash? Can disaffected users be lured back? How will your business respond if Facebook suddenly becomes passe?

PS: When I say “crash,” think stock market, not airplane. When the market goes down, it doesn’t disintegrate. It loses a lot of value, sure, but that value can still come back at a later point. I’m not asking if all social platforms will disappear tomorrow — just wondering if we’re headed for a kind of social media market correction.

Image credit, GeorgeClerk, via iStock

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27 Responses to “Is social media headed for a crash?”

  1. Arnold Remtema says:

    Yes, it is content but also connectedness and context.

  2. Talking about a social media backlash seems to me like talking about an Internet backlash. The problem is not with the medium but rather the content. Could there be a mass exodus from Facebook? Sure, it happened to MySpace after all. But social networking is not going to go away. There are a lot of buzzwords marketing types love to use when talking social but the most important by far is engagement. This concept implies two-way conversation with value for all parties involved. Businesses need to realize that what they need first and foremost is an engagement strategy, after that social media is a breeze.

    Jurgen Castro
    Social Media Intern
    Carton Donofrio Partners

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by SmartBrief on SocMed, Meltonian. Meltonian said: RT @SBoSM: Is social media headed for a crash? http://ow.ly/SCOg […]

  4. Joe Gruchacz says:

    I’m of the belief that social media, in some form, is here to stay. From both the user and the marketer’s perspective, it is becoming increasingly integrated in lives and campaigns. It may not always be Facebook and Twitter. I’m sure those will run their course but something else will pick up any slack that forms. At the very least I think we will continue to see growth in the number of social networks and, just like many other media, the landscape will become fragmented and more niche. I know quite a few people who have left social networks but they always seem to come back in some capacity. It’s just a matter of figuring out how it works for you.

  5. agreed. people have always been social and this is just a new way to achieve the goal of interacting with others. there will be evolution and revolution. people have always compiled information to share with others and sought information and entertainment through various media from cave painting to the clouds we’re creating now. what’s the difference? the shape and form, not the objective or needs. study the needs, the medium will follow. myspace didn’t evolve with needs and when kids became grown-ups they went to the grown-up space: facebook. the other phenomenon is what Palahnuik called “single serving friends” in his epic book Fight Club. social media spawns the single serving phenom. how satisfying this is in the long run remains to be seen, but the less satisfied we are as social media users the more cracks occur in the market for revolution. stay tuned. it’s gonna be fun.

  6. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by sbosm: Is social media headed for a crash? http://ow.ly/SCOg

  7. Rob Graham says:

    Any media, social media included, needs to serve a greater purpose of some kind outside of just connecting people with content. The natural phase of any technology is to grow rapidly based on what people perceive its value to be and then to eventually fall back on what its personal value actually is.

    Realistically, social media’s value is in the eye of the beholder. Having a Twitter account allows me to connect to other people efficiently but has nothing to do with personal value of the tweets I receive. The responsibility to follow only those people whose posts I value is up to me and understandably takes some time to optimize.

    Finally, to be effective, social media doesn’t require 24/7 interaction. Most people have other obligations in their lives and will balance priorities. I imagine that at some point in history when the wind-up clock was first invented it became in instant marketing hit. However, to be effective, the clock doesn’t require constant attention but can be used incrementally. I think that most social media can be as well. To have TweetDeck notify me of incoming content every few seconds isn’t necessary. Instead, I can turn it on and off as time allows and still get the same level of value and interactivity.

  8. Craig says:

    A crash? Probably not. A backlash? I think so. I think the virtual suicide machines are the canaries in the social media coal mine. I blogged about exactly this issue this morning: http://www.lohad.com/?p=5053 … Happy New Year, everyone!

  9. Natalie says:

    I believe that social media is here to stay and I’m glad. It’s been useful for the business I work for and fun for me outside of work. I just hope the usage slows down a little. I think a lot of people, myself included, are getting burned out on feeling like we have to be connected to every site at all times.

  10. Jesse Stanchak says:

    Joe/Molly/Jurgen — I agree that people probably won’t stop socializing online anytime soon. What worries me is that I think some companies are starting to take social networks for granted. I think lazy social marketing is pushing people away from social networks. I think the best way to make use of your network is to act like you need to earn it all over again every day.

  11. Jesse – I totally agree with you. Companies need to get on board with the fact that bland, one-way broadcasting will not cut it on Twitter or Facebook. Two companies have made me into a big fan by providing good, useful content on Twitter: @HTC and @amazondeals. Customer service and special offers for loyal consumers are two great ways to generate engagement and keep customers excited about your company. Don’t just fill my timeline with press releases, give me a reason to care. This is what consumers are looking for.

  12. GeorgeB says:

    YES – the limited benefit of threaded conversations (casual chat) is unraveling. What can and will replace it is “Collaboration On Purpose” – where I can find what I need and You can become my supplier of that information, service, or product.

    Now all we need is an INTEROPERABILITY approach by which we can all enjoy our equitable representation in that global online community (U-Netted Nations?), and equitable remuneration in that innovation economy. Perhaps it can be online and operable before our current debt-based economy fully collapses, at least that’s what I hope – and want to help create.

  13. The point that jumped out at me relates to the value of content. If the content being posted on Facebook or Twitter is not valuable then there may be a backlash. Value, of course, is determined by the consumer of that content. That consumer can be an individual or a business. Their interest in the content may be for personal or business reasons. If that the content is not interesting, informative, entertaining or educational that content decreases in value. How do we measure the value of content? Media companies had determined the value for their content, but even that model is turned upside down in today’s world. But, to your point, if the value is not their then their will be a backlash of some sort, which may simply push new features, new capabilities, new platforms and more.

  14. Headed for a crash, maybe….but in my opinion I don’t think it will be a huge crash like the movement from print media to online. I think people are starting to get a little fed up with how ‘plugged in’ they are. Overtime I can see how this would affect time spent online and the activities done online, but not a complete exodus from social media. Online networks will be required to streamline the process for the end user to find what they were initially looking for. It will become harder and harder for marketers, like myself, to get to the end user. There is so much content out there as it is, companies will need to utilize more and more viralization techniques to garner the attention of those that are starting to tune out. Is there a huge crash in site, maybe…but not to the magnitude that we all might imagine.

  15. From a business perspective: agreed on importance of engagement strategy, but I also think quality content is equally as important. If your content is valuable, people will go to where ever to read it. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn are just ways to get there. There will be others. I think for 2010 everyone (company or individual) needs to ask themselves: What true value can I deliver to people? (Content that will help them with their day to day realities.) Next: How do I reach these individuals with this content? That’s when the social media tools come in. The two questions above should always come in this order.

    Talk about Twitter, FB and other tools “dying” should never be a concern. Just a POV from a B2B integrated marketing communications gal in the trenches.

  16. Yes, I think there will be a market correction. There have been clear success stories in social media marketing, sales and customer service in 2009: Dell, Intel, Comcast, and the user number growth for Twitter and Facebook. And hundreds of local success stories exist too, like the food carts in my home town of Portland, Oregon.

    But there just about has to be a backlash. For one thing, large enterprises cannot allow just anybody to interact with just anybody else on the Internet without some controls. Intel calls these “guidelines”, but the fact remains that you can and will get fired or sued for some forms of behavior regardless of where you work.

    There are other factors – stability of the Twitter and Facebook platforms, capacity of the underlying IT infrastructure, especially in the mobile arena, no clear standards for portable application development driving costs up, privacy and security issues, and so forth. I think we have reached the peak of the “hype cycle” and are about to descend into a market shakeout.

  17. Sandy says:

    I come at the topic from a nonprofit perspective….working at a large international NP (which is doing a poor job of SoMe) and a small one I run (built entirely through SoMe).

    You’re spot on about content being primary – if every post has a link to buy buy buy or give give give, people are tuning out. But when content that’s HELPFUL to readers is mixed with ads, they’re more likely to pay attention to all of it – since they never know if they get a freebie today or not. They’re a heck of a lot more likely to give (in my case at a NP) when they feel they’ve received.

  18. Grant says:

    Social media is not Facebook and Twitter. It is bulletin boards (from the dark ages of Internet and still around big time), local pages, E-MAIL for goodness sake! Commmenting on articles on this site. Texting on my phone. Sharing pics on Snapfish. It is huge and an integral part of our lives because we are social and have always used networks of one kind or another. I bet people wondered in 1590 if we were printing too many books and fliers. Ha.

  19. Sandy C. says:

    Social media has become a daily part of peoples lives, so I doubt that it’s going to go anywhere…… as long as the various social media sites keep improving the users ability to filter out what they (users) don’t want to see.

    I don’t think they will crash…I do think sites will continue to evolve and tweak their offerings and uses.

  20. Jesse I don’t think it’s headed for an end, it’s just difficult to show the client how to “see” their return on investment.

    – Anthony

  21. Doug Pruden says:

    Look at how many people commented on this topic. Then count how many of those comments you think actually added anything new to the discussion. That’s why Social Media is indeed here to stay, but also why it is headed for a correction.

  22. Bryan says:

    Crash? No. Reinvention? Probably. Evolution? Definitely! Social networking continues to change and evolve. From the stumblings of Bulletin Board forums to the shell of MySpace to the new epoch of Facebook – they are here to stay.

  23. Vicky Czarniecki says:

    The more we head towards being dependent on mobile devices, the more, I think, we will see connectivity in the virtual world increase. I don’t see a crash in SM happening at all.

  24. Phil Bowyer says:

    The target audience for this site would have a majority responses be positive towards social media. I think the question tho is.. even tho WE all love it, do the PEOPLE we’re networking with love it too?

    Someone mentioned the exodus from MySpace. I would argue that was due to a series of bad decisions by the company and a poor working site (the dreaded “unexpected error” that was actually expected), not the socialness (is that a word?) of the site.

    I think the tools will change, but the mentality behind it will continue.

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  26. […] diesem Hintergrund die Frage, ob sich alles ins Gegenteil umkehren wird und Social Media vor einem Crash steht. Er glaubt, dass viele Unternehmen die Social Media Präsenz missverstehen. Indem sie keine […]

  27. […] Is social media headed for a crash? Published: January 4, 2010 Source: SmartBlog On Social Media It’s fun to scoff at haters who don’t get the power of social media or flaunt the wisdom of the crowd. But what do you do when the crowd turns on itself? The idea that users will someday get sick of social… […]