The Future of Social Networks as Interpreted by 21 Social Media Practitioners

The 5th year of our social network analysis brought to light some interesting trends regarding Social Networking. Instead of pointing out specifics from our findings, we thought it might be interesting to ask several other social media practioners what they thought about the future of Social Networks. We asked the following 21 individuals these 3 questions:

1. Do you think social networking has hit a saturation point and peaked in user interest?

2. Compared to what happened to MySpace, what do you think is the future of Facebook?

3. For businesses and brands that are just starting to ramp up in 2012, what new social networking trends do you see going forward?

Responses to the Future of Social Networks:

Geoff Livingston

1. Well, it’s more that social networking – or the ability to comment and interact with peers – has become an accepted, even an expected functionality on the web. So, it’s not special anymore, just like power windows are an expected feature for most new cars. Where social networking happens will wax and wane as it always has with communities historically (e.g. Prodigy, AOL, MySpace, etc.).

2. I feel pretty safe in saying we’re looking at an AOL-esque decline for Facebook. And like AOL, because so many stakeholders are vested in Facebook’s success (Wall Street, corporate America and those who simply love the social network), the decline will be slow, but steady like sand falling through an hour glass. Also like AOL and Yahoo!, Facebook will always exist (unless it is acquired) but it will become diminished.

3. Clearly the photography revolution has taken hold, and brands absolutely have to respond by building or curating visual assets for almost every story they offer. The other big trend that’s happened is the mobile revolution, and frankly, businesses have missed this boat, too. There’s no excuse for a web site that doesn’t offer mobile functionality.

Rachel Karl

1. No. I think, just like humans, it’s organic and ever-shifting and evolving. The problem is that many businesses are missing the whole “social” aspect with social networking and are using social networking sites in a way that’s not congruent with how their audience (a.k.a. people) is using this medium.

2. I believe Facebook has peaked and is on a slow, painful decent. They have abused people’s trust too often and have also not been able to keep up with the way the Internet and the user experience is evolving. My prediction is that 5 years from now, Facebook will be a ghost of its current self.

3. VISUAL and MOBILE. I’ve been so intrigued by my 11-year-old every time she gets on my phone. She gravitates toward anything that is visually based. All she wants to do is take photos of things and post them on my Instagram account. Not surprising is that I’ve also noticed that anyone I’m connected with on Facebook who is in the 14-25 year old age group has almost entirely ditched Facebook and is using Instagram as their preferred method of communicating with their friends.

Why mobile? Mobile phones are outselling laptops and more and more people are using their mobile devices for everything. Everything. Pinterest is awesome, but they haven’t figured out how to make that mobile crossover. Google+ is a great mobile-based social networking site that businesses should shift over to – tons of room for visual communication there as well.

Any business that makes the shift over to an image-based platform that has almost 100% mobile ease of use will have a huge advantage over their competitors a year from now. Mark my words.

Ching Ya

1. Although reports are showing the stagnant growth of a few well known social media sites, personally I think there is still room for them to grow if they are willing to be more user-oriented and educate users on how to maximize the platform for the user’s advantages, not solely for their own benefit. It’s great to think out of the box and be revolutionary, but not without involving the users first.

2. Facebook still has massive potential with its large user base and people are not going anywhere yet. In order to compete for mobile dominance, expect to see more Facebook apps with richer interfaces, special incentives offered heavily by the brands to attract real-time activities and social recommendations from users on the platform. Social commerce will be, and has already begun to be, a huge part of our Facebook-ing lives. But despite the need to grow and maintain their #1 social networking site, Facebook needs to listen. There have been signs showing that they are more responsive and taking users’ opinions into consideration, but it’s an ongoing effort. Social networks that provide proper security and privacy control and listen to users’ needs will be the ones to look out for. I really hope Facebook will continue in this effort.

3. It’s amazing to see Pinterest and Slideshare coming up strong this year – an indication that visual, dynamic, and user-generated content are here to stay! Content strategies are emphasized to attract followers and the relationship between brands and their supporters is closer than ever. No more one-way broadcasting. It’s time to build advocates and super-fans instead of numbers alone. In fact, brands are welcoming fan participation in campaigns and product launches – a good sign that consumer behaviors are affecting brands’ decisions while brands are starting to be more educative and user-oriented.

Brent Csutoras

1. I definitely think we are far from a peaked interest in social networking. Since as far back as we can remember, social gatherings have been the core of our existence. They have been something we look forward to and help us cope with many of the struggles in life.

What I have seen over the last few years has been a significant transfer of traditional social gatherings going online. The web is the new coffee shop, the new mall, and even when you go to the coffee shops or malls, half the people are socializing online with laptops or smart phones.

I think coupled with the adoption of technology and the willingness to share more personal information than ever before, we have really seen a revolutionary shift that will not only change the way we use the Internet, but also how we live our lives. Social is definitely here to stay and will continue to expand and grow.

2. I really think that the major factor that lead to Facebook’s success and MySpace’s decline was mostly timing. The only audience really ready for social networking at the time MySpace was most popular was the younger audience and those industries that most catered to that younger audience. Years later, as computers became more and more affordable, smart phones began to really take off, and more people had Internet access at work, we saw a massive change in the average person’s time spent online.

At the time of that growth, Facebook was cleaner, easier to use, and structured better for that new and older audience, so they were able to grow fast and their ability to get family members of all ages to sign up really helped them succeed. Facebook’s real problem right now is not from a user acquisition or retention point of view, but rather from the business side.

“We don’t build services to make money; we make money to build better services.” – Mark Zuckerberg in July 2012

Facebook has said many times that their focus is not to make money, and if you look at the work that has been done to the site and its features versus the time spent improving its ads system, that is very evident. What companies can really learn from Facebook is that start-ups have to consider where their revenue comes from, and spend enough time to making sure that revenue stream is both secure and improving.

3. I think early on people felt niche social sites would never succeed, and you had to make a section for your niche within the social powerhouses.

However, in general, people have always wanted to be a part of their own group. There has always been a pull to be unique or different than what everyone else is doing. We are not that far off from hearing people start saying they don’t want to use Facebook because everyone else uses it, especially their mom.

I think you will see that niche social sites have a real chance to succeed going forward, as Pinterest, The Fancy, and other up-and-coming social sites are showing us.

Justin Flitter

1. Social Networking is growing like texting did. Texting is now a normal form of communication around the world. However, only 8% of all U.S. Internet users are active on Twitter every day. A recent report released by Pew discovered that 20% of smartphone owners are active on Twitter with 13% using the service on a typical day. While that ratio will certainly increase, so will the penetration of smartphones. 18-24 are not only the fastest growing group of Twitter users over the last year, they also represent the largest increase in smartphone usage of any age group over the same period. Within 3 to 5 years, I believe social networking will be as common as texting is today.

2. MySpace got overshadowed by a more confident, more competent and more popular brother, but without the likes of Bebo and MySpace and the other social networks before would Facebook by so successful today?

Facebook is a giant, lumbering along, trying to find the right path to take. But there are two major issues that I think will shape it’s progress over the next five years: mobile and China. Facebook is already ingrained in almost one billion people’s lives, that mere fact alone suggests to me that Facebook will take an awful lot of beating.

3. Businesses and brands want to be talked about on social networks. Some create content, competitions, games, memes, videos, etc. This year I think we’re starting to see more than ever before businesses and brands thinking about what they do offline first. We know that offline brand experiences are the single biggest generator of online social conversations so brands are focusing on customer service and real life brand experiences that make people go “wow.”

Ari Herzog

1. Jeff Hurt said it best in a blog post last year, “When people like a page on Facebook, answer something on Quora, recommend someone on LinkedIn or tweet something on Twitter, they do those things not because of community but because of their identity. ‘I love ____________ (insert brand name here),’ says something about us. It establishes our identity. We say we love something because it ultimately says something about our self. We don’t do it just to say something about the company. It is about us.”

The term “social networking” has definitely reached a saturation point. It is ambiguous today. Is it about following people and brands? Is it about asking questions or testimonials? Is it about sharing photos? Is it all of the above? I think if you accept that Facebook is a social identity platform – that enables networking but is not a social networking site explicitly – then everything else makes sense. Every time you update, like, share, or comment on Facebook you are choosing to tell your friends and networks something about yourself. When and if they react and interact with you is when they network.

2. I joined Facebook on April 30, 2005 and have witnessed many changes in its evolution over the years. I remember when the wall was born, when groups and pages were started, and when newer features such as the Timeline and the ticker were launched. But I also recognize that Facebook is not my first social networking site. I used MySpace for many years, and both Friendster and before that. Despite an impressive 901 million users around the world, Facebook is not going to be here forever and anyone who thinks that is crazy.

At a recent content marketing summit in Boston, I projected Facebook would be dead in two years. To be fair, I should have said it will begin to die. We’ve already witnessed Fortune 500 companies pulling out of Facebook advertising, and need I mention the abysmal public stock initial valuation and subsequent earnings? The official mobile apps leave a lot to be desired compared to the desktop experience. Facebook privacy continues to be the subject of hirings, firings, and court cases. And Generation Y is starting to look at other networking platforms, for many of its population don’t want to be “seen” on the same site as their parents. Facebook is headed down a spiral without much room to survive. Maybe it needs new leadership? Maybe it needs a new vision? Maybe it shouldn’t try to develop similar applications as other social networking platforms but be unique and innovative?

3. The majority of my friends and neighbors, of all ages, tote mobile devices with them. Smartphones, tablets, netbooks. The desktop experience is evolving. People aren’t visiting websites. Companies that aren’t offering mobile-friendly websites are failing. My friends also aren’t reading the news as much. Here in my community of 17,000 people, there is a daily newspaper but I know scores of Baby Boomers who don’t read it, neither the printed edition nor online. They get their news via word of mouth, word of text, word of tweet, or word of Facebook friend. I know some full-time freelancers and independent contractors who don’t have websites. They don’t need them. They get new business from existing clients and word of mouth. They might tweet once in a bluemoon, they might have an email newsletter to keep clients abreast on activities, but that website experience is obliterated. By contrast, marketing agencies are spending oodles of money to develop Flash-optimized sites that I can’t read on my Android browser. If I can’t see it, my friends and networks won’t know about whatever they want to promote there. Mobile is big. It’s been big for the past year and it’s only going to get bigger.

Richard Millington

1. Perhaps, at least in developed countries. It’s hard to see how we could be spending much more time on social networking sites. But I think these tools are probably here to stay. I don’t see a decline happening anytime soon. Though social networking as destination sites might be replaced by a more integrated element across all platforms.

2. It’s really impossible to say. MySpace got hit by the double whammy of crippling their own platform with ads and the rise of FB. I don’t see a new platform toppling FB anytime as a social network anytime soon. They have the resources to either acquire or shadow any rapidly rising competitor. My guess is it depends heavily on the next billion internet users. There is both huge opportunity and huge dangers there. It allows a competitor to sneak in (from China too), but it also allows them to establish a real foothold. I think the popularity of FB will decline slightly in the next few years in the West and rise rapidly in developing countries. I see FB as more of an early Yahoo! than MySpace.

3. I suspect most people will say mobile here, and they might be right. I suspect the next billion internet users will be more important. There is potential right now to skip the highly competitive western market and target people entering the world of the Internet for the first time. These people are going to need so many products/services that they don’t know about yet. Most are skipping generations of Internet technology straight to cloud services. It’s such an exciting time. Better yet, they’re getting richer every day.

B.L. Ochman

1. I think we’re in the infancy of social media. What’s hit a saturation point is talking about it. It’s just media now, and all media is social. No company can afford to ignore social media if it wants customers.

2. Facebook isn’t going anywhere any time soon. But I find it mostly annoying and busy. My money for brands is on Twitter. I think advertising will soon be incorporated into Twitter in a smoother way than it has been in Facebook. There’s little point in breaking news on Facebook. Twitter’s a far better place for news and events.

3. People are lazy, so social networks are getting more about curating other people’s content. I see that as something that will pass when we all get bored and start looking for fresh, original content. Brands; however, need to note the visual trends and participate with photos, videos, and other types of images. We are all so saturated with content that something’s got to give. I think brands need to learn short-form content and they still need to understand that social media is not a broadcast medium.

Sean Clark

1. Working with social media on a daily basis, it’s very easy to see it as old hat and start looking for the next big thing. What we must have in mind is that there are thousands of companies that are still trying to use social media as part of their marketing mix. There’s no doubt it is harder to get your voice heard compared with a couple of years ago, but on the other hand there are far more users.

As for end users, social networking is a fundamental of life, it just happens that the latest implementation of it is online. For many users, platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are now part of daily life. They check in with these platforms just as easily as they use their mobile phones. The end user is continually discovering new ways in which social networking can assist in their day-to-day tasks. As long as it makes things easier and is time effective, there will always be an interest.

What has changed for both businesses and end users is that platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are now everyday brands and part of daily life.

2. MySpace was an early application of social networking. It never fully matured. With users having too much control over presentation, each account looked very different and the brand proposition never came through. Facebook has managed to control the experience, dictating look and feel and allowing for a consistent placement of revenue generating space. Whatever you may think of Facebook from a business perspective, it’s massive user base means that it will always be attractive to advertisers.

For me it’s not so much about whether Facebook will survive. It’s more about how it will change and adapt. Before going public, much of Facebook’s development has been based on what Facebook wanted to do. For it to remain of value to business, it’s now going to need to listen to its customer to ensure it provides its shareholders a return.

3. Social mobile and location marketing, SoLoMo as it is known, is definitely the growth sector. More end users than ever are connecting to the Internet via mobile devices, tablets and phones. They are becoming adept at checking prices, downloading vouchers and discovering new places on the go. With the availability of free WiFi being a deciding factor where consumers eat and drink in many cases.

Offline business has a big opportunity to bite back at the revenue that has drifted online over the last few years. By leveraging the power of social and mobile, they can connect and influence in ways that were not possible just a few years ago. By providing consumers with free access to the Internet, they can make their outlet a destination choice. With incentives redeemable via mobile and mobile payments, their business becomes the easy place to transact.

Roy Morejon

1. 1. I believe social networks in the United States have plateaued but are still growing globally as a whole. The attention on niche networks will continue to grow, as we look for social networks to share our similarities and experiences with. Our attention is pulled in more directions than ever before, so we will begin to see more integration with other niche networks into a global dashboard of sorts.

2. The future of Facebook is still unknown at this point. With their stock continuing to underperform, it will be interesting if they make changes based on the feedback of its shareholders, advertisers or user base. Facebook will continue to grow in international markets, but attracting new US subscribers will remain flat. For Facebook to continue to grow we will need to see more integration of third party applications into their system to attract a new user base.

3. Social networks that are currently attracting more users have a significant focus for being visually appealing. Networks like Pinterest and The Fancy will continue to grow a significant user base in the United States. Our attention online will continue to focus on niche networks that are visually focused, and deliver content efficiently through videos and images. Integration of these smaller social networks will continue to rise until we have a global dashboard curating content from all of our networks.

Tom Martin

1. In some cases, yes. Social networking has hit a saturation point but not because of lack of interest. In any medium (e.g. technology) you’re going to have a percentage of folks that simply will never adopt. When you consider that dynamic and then look at Facebook users as a percentage of all US Internet users and you start to see that pretty much everyone who can/will adopt has done so already.

2. I certainly don’t see Facebook going the way of MySpace. It’s almost too big to fail but I do think now that they are a public company, you’re going to see increasing revenue pressures. That trend, combined with continued growth in mobile access of Facebook, is going to force them to get a lot more creative in constructing revenue streams outside of just “the ad.”

3. I’m starting to see, and I hope we all continue to see, businesses adopting a “less is more” strategy towards social networks. There seems to be less focus on and greater understanding of the fact that pure size of following isn’t the most important success factor. I’m seeing brands much more interested in engagement numbers and beginning to question the ROI of follower growth stunts like Facebook contests, etc. I think it’s great and a sign of maturation of the social channel.

Linas Simonis

1. In developed countries, social networking is nearing its peak development. A little more significant growth can be achieved in the rest of the world, but there are issues with Internet coverage. The other possible areas will not be the general social networks, but small niche communities by interest, specialization, etc. LinkedIn is already doing this job, but I expect a rise of a few new projects who will do it in a much better way. This year? Next year? Who knows, but it will happen.

2. It’s only a matter of time when all social networks, including Facebook, will start to decline. I am not expecting this to happen in the next year or so, but anything is possible in ten or even five years. One of the problems of Facebook is an increase in complexity. For the newbies, it can be too complicated. For experienced Facebook users, too cluttered. After an unsuccessful IPO, the pressure to better monetize Facebook will lead to even more clutter. So, I’m not expecting any decrease of complexity. And, like in Yahoo!’s case, it can be the start of the end of the empire.

3. In business, social networks for advertising like we see it now are overrated. Monetization is the biggest issue in social networks, so we can expect changes because of that. Direct selling messages may be the next big thing (we can call it “social commerce”), but we should learn how to do it properly. It would be possibly a much better use of peer recommendations to buy something via Facebook. It’s time to have more integration between social networks and CRM, especially in automated data obtainment from social networks that trigger actions in CRM.

Also, there will be some attempts to deal with the content overload. The problem is that there is a huge pile of content, but it can’t be found by the average person. The interest for tools or apps that help make sharing more meaningful and less-cluttered content will rise. Is it a chance for the old media to become more relevant on the Internet? Maybe. Businesses will need to find a sustainable model for creating quality content. This may include more outsourcing, possibly resulting in more jobs for freelancers.

Carla Dewing

1. I believe as long as social networking continues to evolve, we won’t ever reach a saturation point. Right now there are two things that are happening to social networks. First of all, they’re becoming easier, faster and more personalized. We’ve seen this with the rapid rise of Pinterest. But we’re also seeing a leap into new technology, mobile in particular, which is making social networking more relevant in the real world.

Now we just need the next ‘big social network’ to combine these two trends for social to evolve. Imagine seeing a piece of artwork you like in the real world, and adding your opinion to it in real time. Imagine any object in the real world… that can be consumed, altered and enjoyed by a global network of people. Suddenly, the Internet doesn’t exist in a computer anymore. It’s all around us. That’s where it’s all going. Saturation implies that there is no more room for growth and we’ve hardly scratched the surface here.

2. Facebook is constantly being analyzed by new companies, old companies – anyone who wants to achieve the same level of success. MySpace experienced something similar at the very beginning of social media. Unlike Myspace however, Facebook continues to change, and expand into new markets. They know that there is no set formula for social success, so they spend their days and nights innovating, evolving and finding ways to attract new users to their brand, while keeping their old users engaged.

While the rest of the world’s eyes are on Facebook, Facebook’s eyes are on the future. They’re an exceptional team of idea hunters – you only have to look at the past year to validate that statement. As long as they’re moving forward, they won’t be left behind.

3. Honestly, Pinterest is taking off, with local businesses discovering the traffic and community potential of their pinboards. Trend wise, we’ll see a move from text-based promotion to image and video based promotion, which already started at the end of 2011.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record here, I have to say mobile. Businesses that invest now in sites and e-commerce that are mobile focused will reap the benefits at the end of 2012, and in 2013. I don’t think the world really understands how crucial mobile will be in our daily lives, 5 years from now.

I predict that over 80% of all new social media sites that make it big will function effortlessly on mobile smartphones. There’s a reason for that – social is going mobile. It’s people anywhere, anytime, adding information to the social cloud through a smart device. Just look at what’s coming up – augmented reality, 3D imaging, and using your phone to interact with the world around you. Real world interaction is on the rise.

Rachel Melia

1. Yes, I believe social networking is close to a saturation point. Most everyone that wants to be social is. There will still be some growth in the older demographics and hold outs.

2. That’s funny you asked. I am updating a book that was written in 2008. It says “Of course MySpace has the biggest user base, with over 200 million people registered. At the time of this writing Facebook only has 70 million users.” Wow, how things change in four years. I believe Facebook will be around for a long time. While MySpace only caught on with the younger crowd, Facebook appeals to everyone, and checking Facebook has become as regular as checking email to many.

3. Of course Pinterest is the current darling. I believe it will become more popular, and continue to have a mostly female audience. Images have become more important on properties like Facebook and Pinterest, and I believe brands will invest more time creating and sharing great images.

Mark Schaefer

1. Oh no. We’re just getting started. The amount of time people are spending on social networks continues to climb. It is becoming our personal center for connecting, sharing, collaborating, learning, gathering news and entertaining ourselves. We are merely on the cusp of this revolution.

2. The thing that many people miss is that Facebook is not a website. It’s not a social media platform. It’s a lifestyle. For millions of people, Facebook is the Internet. Making a choice to move away from Facebook is a lot different than changing your brand of breakfast cereal. The emotional switching costs are enormous. In fact, I could make an argument that it would be easier to change your house than change your social network. There are two things that could kill Facebook: privacy and if it loses its “cool factor” with teenagers.

3. I actually think this is the year of Instagram. It’s not getting as much press as Pinterest, but it is taking off with teens. Although Twitter has been around awhile, it is also hitting a whole new level of popularity, especially internationally. Augmented reality is just around the corner. Soon the social web will surround us like the air that we breathe. Interesting times ahead indeed.

Peter Trapasso

1. Not yet. I find that about 1 in 3 people I come across in the US are not yet active socially. Many of them are interested but not sure how to get started or concerned about security and privacy issues mostly. I think as localized, mobile platform versions of social networks continue to roll out and improve, user interest will increase.

2. Facebook is the largest and most popular social network by far. I think there are plenty of folks in the US that still need to open accounts. By an informal accounting of friends and family, I would say at least 1/3 of them do not yet have Facebook accounts. Even more so would be the growth potential in the rest of the world. A key driver of this adoption will be the further development of Facebook’s mobile platform and even more localization.

MySpace was too focused on the youth market and musicians. Plus it was always kind of clunky and unattractive from a web design standpoint. It seems like Facebook makes continuous improvements and tweaks that the users either enjoy or adapt to quickly. Also, Facebook has a large user base outside the US. In addition Facebook has more adult users and is being taken seriously by businesses.

3. Facebook continues to be dominant and almost ubiquitous. Businesses and brands need to focus on Facebook first when it comes to their social media efforts and spend. Other networks to pay attention to include Pinterest. Although it has waned a bit since peaking in February of this year, they just received substantial funding and will likely use it to fuel their network growth and user acquisition strategy. TechCrunch mentioned recently in July that Pinterest has grown to 20 million users according to their third party sources.

Phil Gerbyshak

1. I think users will start to find the networks that work for them and stop moving on to shiny and new. People are still not all that comfortable with social networking, but much of that is because the press makes every privacy policy change scary to normal people. Soon, users will understand if they’re not paying for a service that their private data is what is being sold. Sure, many have heard this, but I think most will finally understand it and recognize this is the price they must pay for using a free product or service.

2. I think Facebook will always have a place to share details of your life with family and friends, so it will continue to grow – as long as they allow businesses to target ads to people who might actually be interested in them, instead of just broadcasting to everyone who likes their page. Beyond that, I think Facebook can do well to be a hub where things grow out from. It will be interesting to see if Facebook finally creates URLs and has some real searching so folks can really use this as a wayback machine or if it will continue to be a most recent 10 items and that’s about it.

3. I think the days of one social network fitting everyone’s needs is over. Users want more that’s of interest to them, and they don’t want to wade through all the other crap that’s out there to get there. I think we’ll see more niche networks around something in common, be they locations or interests.

I also think we’ll see more social video happening. Spreecast is already doing a darn good job of this, UStream is pretty good at it, and I expect others will as well.

Lastly, I believe we’ll see a shift in the way people talk about social media, and they’ll just come to expect that there will be a way to share, comment, and offer their insights into anything a business has to say – and if your business doesn’t, you will lose even more market share.

Colin Walker

1. Social networking has been taking another upturn recently with more mainstream media uses coming to light. TV news channels using Google+ hangouts, more brands including references to Facebook pages in their offline advertisements and huge adoption of Twitter for ease of thought gathering are all seeing an uptick in consumer interest, which I can only see increasing over the next 12 months.

Social is also starting to combine with our offline lives so that where we are, who we are with, what we are doing, etc., will all have new context and, perhaps, influence our behaviour. Products like Google Now in Android Jelly Bean are at the forefront of the next wave in social.

2. While MySpace wasn’t the first social network, it was the service that first saw widespread adoption and recognition but the Internet and technology as a whole was not in a position to match its potential. Social was still in its infancy and was isolated from the rest of our lives. Facebook has the advantage of existing in a social age where our lives are so closely tied to the Internet. Facebook may have to change and adjust but it is in a much stronger position where it can react to market pressures and stay relevant.

3. Social adoption is virtually ubiquitous but the next challenge is social discovery. A simple feed or stream is no longer enough and users are requiring something more advanced. They are looking to actually discover useful information, interesting people and more via social. We are already seeing a shift away from the social graph and towards the interest graph and this will continue as users are more interested in using social as a source of news and information.

Phyllis Khare

1. No, I do not think we have hit a saturation point. Most of the people I teach haven’t jumped onboard many of the social sites, yet. For example, most small business owners haven’t opened a business page on Facebook. They plan to in the future, but have held off for many reasons. These same people are pretty much clueless about how to use Twitter for marketing and their LinkedIn accounts are bare and under-utilized. They don’t realize the tremendous power of YouTube and if you mention Google+, they give you a confused look. I think the early adopters are looking for their next fix, but the main stream business people are still opening up brand new social accounts.

2. I think Facebook is so big that it will not go the way of MySpace (at least not for the next 5 years). It is an international social site that is too heavy to move. Have you tried to move your friends to G+? They resist. They resist because the demographic is getting older and they don’t like to change. They will continue to complain… about the site, but still check it five times a day.

I think the advertising will get to be so stealth that most people will not realize they are reading promotional posts. When someone can pay $5 to place what is essentially a news feed ad (Promotions) or create Offers that also show up in the news feed, the formatting to have ads to the right (which can be blocked) is going to go away.

3. There is a trend toward personal private sites like and private circles on G+. But as far as brands go, there is a stronger personalization of the types of posts and voicing of the marketing so that eventually you equate a brand with an image. The era of a tagline is moving into the era of image. With the popularity of Pinterest and other related sites, the visual collection presented by a brand will do more than the text-based tweets and posts.

Justin Parks

1. I think we have to be careful in what this question actually means. The immediate response is to shout “YES! OF COURSE! Can’t you see it yourself?!” When actually, I believe what has become saturated is the rush to develop new social media tools or platforms. That race has been run and to the victors go the spoils. Also, I have noticed a major downturn in the amount of new applications or tools that use data from Twitter, the open graph, etc., due to changes in attitude and policy in those companies. So, has social networking hit saturation point? I say emphatically, No. Has user interest peaked? Again I say, no. I think it is only the beginning.

2. I hate comparing MySpace and Facebook. Probably because I never actually bothered with MySpace at all and so cannot really compare or contrast them fairly, but I am familiar with the MySpace tale. MySpace made the mistake of not developing. I think Facebook has already passed that hurdle and is moving on, indeed is streets ahead of the point that MySpace reached. Looking to the future, I think it’s largely uncharted but I see major issues ahead with privacy. That pot is on a slow boil and will continue to heat unless they can find a simple method of teaching the users how not to be so… stupid. Also, I really think they need a “don’t like” button. Without it, it’s only half of an opinion and as such, only half an open graph. 😉

3. Mobile, mobile, mobile. That is where the battle is gearing up to be fought. All the networks seem to be very aware of this, a good sign. Even Google is playing serious hardball to put its stamp on the mobile market and establish a claim. Eventually they might “get” social. We’ll have to wait and see. I think there is room in the geo-location/mobile market for a range of new applications and networks, which I believe will be highly focused on specific activities and interests. It’s already happening actually if you watch closely enough. Any business that can take advantage of this and put its best foot forward could easily find a whole new market segment it could never have reached before, ready and waiting.

Stephanie Sammons

1. I think social networking is just beginning to forever change and impact the way we communicate. Social networks may come and go, but I do believe the dominant players will have staying power. In some ways we are limited in our communications capabilities through social networks due to devices and tools needing to catch up, and also due to bandwidth (or lack thereof). Certainly human interest will be variable and dispersed, but fundamentally the way we communicate and interact has forever changed with social networking.

2. It’s hard to imagine a network with close to one billion members is going to go by the wayside. I think Facebook is so ingrained across the social web that they are here to stay. The people will go where the activity is, and if Facebook is everywhere, we will all be a part of the experience no matter where we are on the web. I do believe there will be competitor networks, and in particular those with niche offerings. Niche social networks will be extremely powerful in the future.

3. Businesses are going to have to become competent in creating and/or curating content in order to stay relevant and drive customer interest. It’s not going to be volume of content as much as it is quality and social media distribution strategy. The businesses that become the most proficient at leveraging digital tools to build online influence will have the greatest competitive advantage. If a business doesn’t have the time or the inclination to learn the tools and implement a strategy, they are going to need to make an investment in help, or risk losing market share to competitors.

Ignite Social Media