Is 2011 the End of Social?

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This topic contains 20 replies, has 13 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of Elliot Volkman Elliot Volkman 2 years, 10 months ago.

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  • #147057
    Profile photo of Bill Brantley
    Bill Brantley

    Back in January, I argued that the increasing number of social networks will cause engagement fatigue. Well, it wasn’t the number of social networks but the number of ways Facebook found for users to share almost every aspect of their lives that will has led to a deluge of sharing.

    “So, what we’re seeing isn’t the expansion of our social network; it’s the shrinking of what and who we care about. My Facebook feed is full of what friends are listening to, what friends are reading, etc. And frankly, I don’t give a damn. I would care if they told me personally; I’d even care if they used a medium as semi-personal as Twitter. The effort required to tweet tells me that someone thought it was important. And I do care about that. I will care much less if Spotify and Rdio integrate with Twitter. I already don’t care about the blizzard of automated tweets from FourSquare.”

    Writes Mike Loukides in a recent O’Reilly blog posting. The crux of his argument is:

    “If we rely on computational systems for a trust framework, we actually lose our instincts and capacity for personal trust; even more, we cease to care about it. And there’s a big difference between trusting someone and relying on a system that says they’re trustworthy.”

    Do you think this is true? What impact does this have on agencies and their social networking efforts?

  • #147097
    Profile photo of Elliot Volkman
    Elliot Volkman

    If fatigue is setting in, or people fear that trust can be lost due to the use of computer-mediated communication then they may be over using it. I’ve burnt out once, and after a weekend of being unplugged I was back to the same surfing, commenting, and sharing. Frankly CMC tools should just be used as another source to communicate, not as a single outlet. Variety is always beneficial, but it would be problematic to rely on one single source or method.

  • #147095
    Profile photo of Mark Hammer
    Mark Hammer

    When I first stumbled onto a page at the Dilbert site in 1994, where people could post pictures of their sock puppets, I coined what I like to call “Hammer’s Law” (though perhaps someone else had the same idea many years before and gave it a different name).

    In brief, it states that “the cheaper and easier it is to disseminate information, the less discriminating people become about what they consider to BE information“. You can bet your sweet bippy that when one had to hire a scribe to commit to parchment by hand, people were not busy telling anyone in writing what they had for lunch or who they had a crush on. When long-distance phone calls were cost-prohibitive enough that one felt compelled to use surface mail, pay the postage and wait, and either write things out in long-hand, or type away, and wait for the white-out to dry before re-typing over an error, communication was much less flippant, impulsive, and superficial.

    I can’t imagine its the same threshold for everyone, but there does eventually come a point when one yearns for the substantive and concise.

  • #147093
    Profile photo of Robert Bacal
    Robert Bacal

    Not 2011. End of 2012. I’ve been talking about the socialmediabust for the last two years, because it’s never (I repeat, NEVER) offered the value most people have pushed. And, as I’ve posted, how people ACTUALLY USE social media isn’t near how all the social media experts and advisors WANT them to use it.

    There’s tons more of my articles on social media, particularly as it relates to business and organizations, here, but thumbnail is that social media has always been based on what I call hype and hope, rather than data and reality. 2012 will bring that home on many levels as growth stops, and people get tired of the platforms.

    The bottom line is social media will be with us for a long time, but not in “the image” of the what the social media idealists have been preaching. It will still be used along with its original intent — connecting people who already know each other, but as a means for creating real community, real dialogue, and indepth discussion, it never happened on a mass scale, and people have voted with their keyboards.

    If you look at data and good research, and you just look at things from a farther distance, you see that while many try to start discussions, discussions aren’t happening, overall. Govloop is a good example of how users vote with their absence of engagement, despite the wonderful efforts of the govloop staff. It’s a microcosm of the social media world.

    So, 2012, the shine wears off, and VC speculators are going to pull out, and companies are going to fold, be absorbed and disappear.

    (I agree with Mark’s comments, BTW, in terms of content issues, but I’ll go further. Tweets and status updates are not even being read, let alone remembered, by even the most ardent social media-ists. It’s throwaway content, and that, masked in the illusion of social interaction isn’t sustainable indefinitely. People aren’t reading. If they read, they aren’t replying or engaging, so what you have is a situation where people post with good intentions, and eventually realize that even if there’s 1 billion people on social media out there, hardly a one is interested, because most of them are doing the same thing.

  • #147091
    Profile photo of Bill Brantley
    Bill Brantley

    Given the great replies so far, can we fix social media so that is more engaging and has more of an impact?

  • #147089
    Profile photo of Robert Bacal
    Robert Bacal

    Bill, I think the answer is largely NO. (But see below) There’s nothing to “fix” with social media, because the general lack of dialogue has to do with how real people use social media. If you put aside all the hype and poor research, and look at user behavior, it becomes clearer.

    Involvement in social media is largely passive. I know that’s counter-intuitive but if you look at the platforms and blogs, the overwhelming majority generate little interaction between people. There’s tons of retweets and “sharing” — that’s a click on a button activity that people do. There’s little interaction with each other. You can’t easily change that kind of user preferences and behavior. It’s like educational television. More people “ought” to view it for learning, but in fact, most people choose to watch reality shows and sitcoms.

    A lot of the volume of “sharing” is done by marketers, social media proponents, and that doesn’t help since so much “participation” is not about sharing at all, but about marketing.

    It’s a complex issue, though. Social media has always been based on people, rather than topics or content, which I think militates against discussion of issues. The major platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) all attempted to provide content areas (groups, discussions) but they were afterthoughts, and they haven’t worked all that well.

    So, people interact with people they already know, try to make connections with strangers, and, don’t even seem to be reading what is in front of them. They don’t WANT to have long conversations about issues, with relative strangers. They surf, literally, from wave to wave, skimming, and not even absorbing the content.

    If there is a next big thing in social media, it will be attempts to go back to content, issues, and structuring social media from scratch to move away from the pseudo-people connections to content. Maybe.

    Right now, social media is used as a way to unwind, and have superficial kinds of discussions and connections. Users have shown, through their behavior, what they want. And it’s not interaction on issues. So what’s left?

    (I’m working off of what I see OVERALL. There’s clearly tons of exceptions, but overall, that’s what I’ve seen over the last two years.)

  • #147087
    Profile photo of Elliot Volkman
    Elliot Volkman

    Well that depends who “we” are. If you mean can people utilize these tools to be more engaging? Of course, but that is all determined by the person’s motivation and what they want to get from using the tools. If the tools are also built so well that they greatly encourage a better type of engagement that would be idea, but there is not a lot that can be done to change free will.

  • #147085
    Profile photo of Kevin Lanahan
    Kevin Lanahan

    I remember when my agency started its Facebook page. We were just going to use it as another outlet for our news releases and blogs. Hah!

    The public started us asking questions, and now our FB page is more an extension of our ombudsman efforts than a news outlet, and it takes the equivalent of an FTE to monitor and reply to the beast.

    I’m waiting for Google+ to grow up a little, and for some tools to appear that will make it easier to manage multiple social media tools. I think Circles would let users self-select the kind of info they want and ward off social media fatigue a little longer.

  • #147083
    Profile photo of Robert Bacal
    Robert Bacal

    Kevin, I’m glad it appears to have worked out for you, but is it efficient? What value have you added?

    I question whether using multiple social media platforms makes ANY sense whatsoever. But that’s another topic.

  • #147081
    Profile photo of Robert Bacal
    Robert Bacal

    I suspect the “we” part is whether the people who run their social media areas can improve them to encourage users to participate more actively.

    SocialMediaBust for more on the problems and issues with social media.

  • #147079
    Profile photo of Bill Brantley
    Bill Brantley

    @Elliot and Robert: Thanks for the thoughtful follow-ups! So, should agencies shift their focus from trying to be on a number of social networking sites to being better providers of information with some feedback? In other words, go back to informing the public rather than engaging the public?

  • #147077

    There are lots of great ideas that turn out not to provide much return on investment. Waste occurs when these ideas become calcified “business as usual” without evaluation. If the goal is engaging the public in value-added processes, then, after a time of experimentation, that can be measured and the benefits weighed against costs.

    When an agencies request public comment in the Federal Register, does this proceedure add value? I’ll admit, I have no data, but I suspect social media is a better way to get feedback.

    If the goal is to get some fraction of the public to like your agency more, hrm…is that how I want my tax dollars spent?

  • #147075
    Profile photo of Christopher Hicks
    Christopher Hicks

    This is an interesting topic, especially since Facebook is looking at going IPO this year. The real question is what is the market value of social networking. Quantify that to real dollars and cents and you will have an answer. Look at the recent Groupon debacle for proof. Overspeculated market, negative growth and market saturation have spelled lost millions for investors longterm. It is the social media equivelant of ENRON, and it will start when FaceBook goes IPO. Other sites will follow and the frenzy will start.

    What the underlying question is: What is the positive contribution Social Medium gives to daily productivity and ultimately contribution to Gross National Product? There are countless studies that show Social Medium are contributing to a breakdown of communication skills and the ability of our youth to properly spell words, this is fact. In 10 years, managers will not be able to find workers that can compete at the level we are competing at today, internationally. And let’s face it, we are already losing the educational battle today. China is laughing at us as we send more and more cargo vessels to pick up lead laden children’s toys. We return Google servers, made in China, and Facebook Offices. We have lost the production battle and are starting to lose the services battle. Guess what folks, there isn’t anything left except our gold, land and yes our people after that. This will ultimately negatively affect our society and Gross National Product. The question remains: Does Social medium positively contribute to our society?

    Now I know there is an army of Social marketers who actually get paid to Tweet and post on Facebook, but the reality is that not a single dollar can be traced through a social network connection. Having said that, Facebook certainly can show you revenue from advertising, but I mean real tangible value of actually closing a sale or completing a project through a social network is very difficult to quantify if we are being completely honest. I have arranged meetings, discussed programs and colaborated through social medium to be sure.

    I can host a server at my house for free with terabytes of storage for my photos and give secured web address to my friends to see my photos. Security versus convenience has to be considered. In Government, social networks are quickly being scrutinized, whilst some companies are using facebook instead of email.

    Ultimately we will see companies like Facebook, and GOVLOOP :-), go public and ultimately be regulated heavily with legislation such as SOPA. Look it up, it is an important discussion happening right now in Congress and affects social media directly.

    Is Social Media at an end? No, but social media will change dramatically over the next 2-3 years. We will see heavy regulation and even taxes on usage. Facebook will start charging annual fees of under 10 dollars, at first, to pay for the taxes. Personal Information will be regulated much like HIPA regulation.

  • #147073
    Profile photo of Deb Green
    Deb Green

    Like in the Intelligence world, often times people do not value information that comes too cheaply, nor too easily. Social media delivers information (and noise passing as information, as others have pointed out in this string) and it may be picked up by elements that are interested in listening. But unless that garden is tended to, the weeds/noise can grow unwieldy and kill any fruitful harvest.

    It’s important too, to note the differences between a work related social network and a friends and family social network. Each has their place. Engagement fatigue is, in my experience, more related to personal social media elements (“Sheesh you go to Starbucks an awful lot!”) than work related social media forums.

  • #147071
    Profile photo of Kevin Lanahan
    Kevin Lanahan

    Efficient? For us or for the public?

    It is efficient for us because we can answer a question that previously would have been phone or mailed in and provide an answer that the public can see. It reaches a different demographic than we reach with our magazine and news releases. We don’t have to spend as much time trying to drive people to our website; we go where they are and show up in their new feed. It is an opportunistic marketing opportunity.

    Part of my agency’s mission is to provide opportunities for Missourians to use, enjoy and learn about our fish, forests and wildlife. Some outreach tools have a bigger bang for the buck, but traditional media, especially print news, is becoming less and less effective. Putting our message where people are already visiting makes sense for us.

  • #147069
    Profile photo of Kevin Lanahan
    Kevin Lanahan

    Being on social media just to be on social media is not a good long-term strategy. Getting on social media to figure it out and see how it can be useful is smart, though. You just have to be ready to cut it if it doesn’t meet expectations.

    Presumably, you are on social media to reach out with your agency’s message. If you don’t feel like you are getting some bang for your buck, then try something else.

    It’s all about your message and communicating. For some agencies, FB doesn’t make sense, but Twitter does. Or LinkedIn. Or maybe Flickr. Or a bulletin board. You have to know your audience and your message, and figure out where they meet.

    In Missouri, it makes sense for my agency to be on FB. We encourage people to go outside and hunt, fish, hike and enjoy nature. If we were a regulatory agency, like, say Labor or Insurance, FB wouldn’t be as effective, but Twitter may make sense.

    There’s “no one size fits all.” Robert Bacal, for all his nay-saying on social media, is on GovLoop and has a blog. So something will work.

  • #147067
    Profile photo of Wyatt Kash
    Wyatt Kash

    I agree with Mike that as machines push more and more stuff at us, we will quickly not only grow weary, tune out and turn away, that are trust even in people we know will diminish. Relationships are personal. Messages that are not personal, or which lack a personal purpose, tend to turn relationships into something totally artificial. That’s one reason why we need better tools to filter the noise; aim messages to more precisely managed groups; and somehow make sense of the big picture.

  • #147065
    Profile photo of Gregory Butera
    Gregory Butera

    I agree with a lot of what Robert Bacal said in his replies here. I think it is understandable. There is just too much information to access. I’m overwhelmed by the amount of information thrown at me everyday. Once the initial excitement of social media wears off for each of us, after a certain amount of time engaging you realize you have to decide how best to spend your time. There is online news, newsletters that get pushed to our inboxes, blogs galore, GovLoop, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Wikipedia, Reddit, plus real life interaction with actual people in our lives. If we spend all our time engaging online, nothing will be produced, no service will be generated, no wealth will be created. We will not be better off.

    Yes, there is value, otherwise we wouldn’t be reading this right now. I’ve gained a lot of benefit reconnecting with people, networking for my career, engaging with interesting strangers half a world away, being more informed about items I’d never hear about otherwise. If we are information sponges, I think we’re all pretty full. I’d love to have time to engage in conversations on blogs I follow, news items I read… But it is just too much. I try to choose wisely, but as a matter of practicality, have to be passive in most of my use in social media.

  • #147063

    I think part of the issue here is the need for the user to constantly adapt as new functionality is added. Not all features are going to turn out to be useful, so each user now has the added responsibility of customizing the experience using the privacy and feed tools that have also been added. Once people become aware of the tools and adept in using them, it will be less annoying. I personally have set all my SM “volumes” at levels I find useful, so I am not experiencing any SM fatigue.

  • #147061
    Profile photo of SteveWonder

    I dont do Facebook, but–most people LOVE it (addicting like a drug)!

  • #147059

    Social Media has no “end” in sight; however, barometers of use may be altering and fortunately these will vary just as much as individuals vary. FaceBook has a lot of information fodder, personally it has become a place for a quick note of trending news items, some light humor, updates on friends needing prayer or affirmation. Some users when you visit their page are all gamers, others grumblers, others hack comedians, some photography buffs, it is really fun and interesting to take a few minutes and visit the lives of folks otherwise inaccessible in the day-to-day of living, but this means managing FB not answering to it. And, the apps such as Networked Blogs, groups, pages, etc. are very helpful to sharing data. FB is an excellent resource on many levels.

    Twitter is one of the highest targeted traffic drivers on the Internet. Twitter is not about what you are doing in the moment – it isn’t about I’m going to the gym and then getting a latte’ at Starbucks. Used effectively – Twitter drives more traffic to websites than perhaps any other resource.

    LinkedIn is now considered by recruiters to be an extension of a resume. And, they’ve made LinkedIn more functional in recent months with added capabilities.

    Social Media are tools and as such very effective in a business arsenal with the added benefit of some privatized “fun” data, but they are for the user not vice versa.


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