Jul 02 Mid-Year 2009 Predictions for the Future of Social Media
Periodically, I try to lay out my predictions on the future of social media, particularly as it relates to social media marketing. Half-way through calendar year 2009 seems like a good time to talk about the latest, particularly as two recent moves by major web properties haven’t gotten the mainstream attention they will soon deserve. So while I only have two predictions today, they are significant.
- Facebook’s recent adjustment to their privacy settings spell the beginning of the end for Twitter; and
- Google Wave will turn social media into a true two-way conversation for the first time (if it’s widely adopted).
Facebook is About to Kill Twitter
For a while there, it seemed that Twitter’s explosive growth rate meant it was a serious threat to Facebook. It is certainly the media darling right now for all that is shiny about social media. With Facebook soon to allow status updates to be shared with everyone, they are yet another step closer to Twitter’s public lifestreaming capabilities. But they do better than Twitter in that area, in that you can share photos, videos or articles more descriptively on Facebook than you can on Twitter.
Plus, Facebook has made several moves to supporting APIs. It’s always been the open API abilities of Twitter that facilitated the dialogue on that site. (Let’s face it, it’s certainly not the below average Twitter web interface.) Put it all together and Facebook will soon be offering:
- Status updates that are more interesting (i.e., embedded photos, videos, articles) than Twitter’s link-only structure;
- APIs that allow TweetDeck like interfaces for Facebook updates;
- A significantly larger user base (200m+ for Facebook, roughly 10m+ for Twitter);
- Brand new Facebook usernames that now make it easier to know who is who.
[UPDATE (8/11/09): Yesterday, Facebook bought FriendFeed. Today, they began rolling out global search of wall posts. These are steps 5 and 6 on their quest to making Twitter superfluous…]
Looking it in that context, Facebook’s string of recent announcements make a lot of sense. What might come next? I’m guessing it’s the ability to “follow” only the public status updates from a person, but not be “friends” with that person.
Under that sort of construct, Twitter suddenly becomes superfluous. And Facebook gets one step closer to their ultimate goal of being THE default social profile for the web. A great plan. All they have to do now is figure out how to monetize it, as just managing the site today reportedly costs a couple hundred million per year.
Google Wave is the Next Big Thing
People ask me all the time, “Twitter’s hot now. But what’s next?” That was a tough question to answer until I discovered Google Wave. Google Wave can do a lot of things (you can watch their 1:20:00 minute video embedded at the end of the post if you want the full details), but the real value to me is it’s ability to manage conversations (“waves”) across multiple platforms (email, SMS, social network, blogs).
To date, the promise of Web 2.0 is the ability to have conversations. And you can. But tracking and managing many conversations is incredibly difficult. How many times have you left a comment on a blog and then gone back to check others response to your comments? Not often. Who can keep up with all that?
Plus, with no real dialogue, commenting on a blog can often feel like a thankless activity, which is why it seems to me that over the last 6 months, leaving a comment on a blog has dramatically decreased. It’ s much more common today in our space at least to Tweet a good post than to comment on it.
Google Wave can change all that. Picture that you have a new inbox. But instead of a dumb email inbox that ignores threads of conversations, all responses to your note show up in one place. It’s a lot like what Gmail does now. But now imagine that a comment you leave on a blog post is from your Google Wave account. When someone else leaves a comment, it shows up in a thread in your inbox. If you respond to that, it automatically posts back to the blog, without you even having to go back to the original post.
Or imagine having a conversation (wave) with your friend. She sends you pictures from your ski trip. In a click of a button, you push those into their own new Wave, give them a subject line, and some descriptive text and then hit “publish”. Your wave is now a blog post. You can also email it to friends, and perhaps even text it to your brother. All the responses come back into your Wave.
Now we’re having a conversation. This becomes your default conversation manager.
Will it take off? Google kicked if off nicely at their recent developers conference (to much applause), and it’s open source, which should encourage more creative integration. If it catches on, we all may need to have a Google Wave account (Google’s end game), and having one may simplify things for us a great deal.
The Coming Battle Between Facebook and Google
The one problem with these predictions is that they put Google and Facebook on a collision course. The end goal of both efforts is to become our default social profile. Unless someone does a clever mash up of Google Wave’s functionality with Facebook’s social profile (hey, there’s an idea for someone!), it will be difficult for them to both reach the natural end game they each desire. But that’s my last prediction: get ready to watch an epic battle.