As a self-proclaimed social media expert (hey, cuz I have a MASTERS DEGREE in Social Science!), I like to think I understand what is driving the latest wave of online enthusiasm. But I’m increasingly convinced nobody understands it. Rather, like evolution, we work away from failure and wind up with applications and websites that have *survived* and adapted far more than were “brilliantly planned and executed” according to some online success formula.
Of course predicting Google’s success was easy – they’d cracked the nut of “really good search” and even as others caught up to their quality they’d established our habit of “googling” when we needed good info fast and have reaped the enormous advertising revenue rewards from that early success. I had more trouble understanding why Facebook was so appealing yet it has thrived as the key friend and family connector in an increasingly social media world.
I remain skeptical that Facebook can drive advertising revenue to the extent needed to ever compete against Google for online dominance, but we’re still *very* early in the big online game and clearly Facebook is rocking in terms of online influence.
As for many, Twitter didn’t impress me initially but after following a lot of people and capturing a lot of followers I started to understand how important Twitter would be to the online social experience. This was borne out very strongly at CES Las Vegas watching how quickly businesses – even including non-tech businesses like the hotels and attractions in Las Vegas – were using Twitter as a key news, customer contact, and customer relations tool. As mom and pop businesses and “regular folks” begin to understand how active engagement with Twitter can revolutionize the way we do business communication I think we’ll see a second explosion in use and Twitter will rival Facebook in terms of importance.
The latest in the pantheon of very popular “social media” applications is called “FourSquare”. The idea is to know the location of your friends and share your location as well as offer tips about everything from dining to attractions. The basic idea is appealing and intuitive and the service appears to be exploding in popularity, though I’m finding it hard to use I think in part because I’m a rural dweller and things like this are more useful in urban centers where there are a lot more participants. Still, it seems to me this only enhances Twitter somewhat, and is not really a major improvement over what we’d expect from more active use of Twitter, which I see as playing (eventually) the a role as an application that manages how people are relating to other people on an hour by hour basis. Although it’s mostly early adopters who use Twitter in this way now, the fact that tweets are easier than a phone call means to me that eventually we’ll shift from calling to some form of text messaging, the most powerful of which is …. tweeting!
In summary I’m thinking that Google search will continue to thrive and dominate with Facebook and Twitter becoming the key tools for social interaction – Facebook more between friends and family and Twitter between businesses and celebrities and customers / fans. That doesn’t leave much room for Foursquare to become huge, but the online social space has become so large that even a supporting role can be an auspicious one.