Social is dead, long live social

Times are changing and social networks are changing their emphasis. Are you ready?

The king is deadBack in April 2008 I wrote about the dream of social ubiquity where the ultimate goal was for social media to stop being this thing out on its own and instead become part of our everyday lives; the online social experience would just become part of our workflow.

While social may not be quite there yet the roots have certainly taken hold and we now have brands recognising that they must be social and interact with their customers in ways beyond the hard sell.

Driving adoption

While not ubiquitous, social is most definitely mainstream although many people's idea of "social" lives and dies with Facebook but that's okay as the service is a major driver".

Everyone is on Facebook because everyone is on Facebook" so consequently brands and mainstream media have had to sit up and take notice.

Social is not enough

We are reaching the point where social for social's sake is no longer sufficient - we need more. We need our social networks to provide additional value beyond connecting with our friends and are consequently seeing a shift:

  • Twitter has positioned itself as an information network which we use to discover relevant news and current affairs
  • Facebook is constantly changing but, as Scoble points out, is becoming a media consumption network where its increasing knowledge of our interests and behaviours serves to drive more relevant content
  • despite popular misconception Google+ was never intended as a straight social network but as a means to leverage social to improve our experience in other Google services
  • LinkedIn is interestingly becoming more social over time but still has our professional network as its raison d'être

By the back door

Three and a half years is an eternity on the web and things change rapidly and in ways we don't expect. Rather than business leading social adoption, as I suggested might happen, the networks are achieving it themselves. The proliferation of Like and Tweet buttons across the 'normal web' are reinforcing the existence social networks in our minds all the time.

I said that social adoption would grow via stealth means and that is just what Google is trying to achieve with Plus integration. Instead of having everything go via Plus itself Google will fill the service with information via the "back door" - the social layer which spans across all its services. Potentially, every Google user is a Plus user.

Social is dead

The time when social networks were just for "social" is dying if not already dead and the sooner we, as the end-user, realise this the more value we can get from the services we use.

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Image by jcarlosn

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Colin Walker Colin Walker colin@colinwalker.blog