“Is This Social Media Bubble Deadly?”

Photo cred: "Circulating"
Photo cred: "Circulating"

There’s a problem, and deep down, we’re all aware of it…but to do something about it would make many feel hypocritical and so they push it aside whenever it’s brought up.

The Social Media Bubble.

We’re all enthusiastic about the power of social media. And if someone questions it, we refer them to the same case studies of social media success stories, and big news events to back it up.  While MILLIONS of dollars (h/t Alex Tan) and countless hours are now being invested in social media tools, most companies aren’t making money. People say the money will come, but…

Are we setting ourselves up for disaster?

Half a year ago, it seemed that the few social media evangelists were the only ones that saw the value in social media, and getting brands and media to embrace these new technologies was extremely difficult.

Fast forward to today…the evangelists have gotten their way.  Virtually every brand and their mother wants to jump in, whether they know why or not.  Brands, media and professionals are hearing the voice of the evangelists, finding the success stories that they share, and they don’t want to be left behind in the proverbial dust.

When brands and professionals embrace something because they’ll be ridiculed for not doing so or because other brands and professionals are doing it, without actually understanding the value, there’s a problem.

They spend a lot of money, quite possibly on people who don’t actually know what they’re doing and tools that aren’t actually worth the time or money.  By setting the standards, this will fuel other companies to do the same.

There is value in social media, but something isn’t valuable just because it’s social media based.  This is the distinction that many are missing, a problem that evangelists are catalyzing.  Social media can be valuable, but it is not definitive value.

I’ll admit, I’ve been to blame for this as well.  I am learning more every day, and becoming more perceptive and realistic.  I’m learning to look at the big picture…outside of the “fishbowl”.

Much of this false value is created when people that are active in the social media space, become successful within the space and become a case study for social media success.

For example, I write about social media, I am active in the social media space, I spend a lot of time on emerging technologies, and my time and effort has paid off greatly.

That kind of story might inspire others to attempt the same path…but the reason it worked so well for me is because I am working IN the social media space.  While the same path might work for those in other professions, to blindly apply it to any situation is naïve and dangerous.

These kinds of generalities and assumptions are taking place constantly.  Resources are being dumped into this concept of “social media success” with little to warrant such action.  How long can this last?

Are we blinded by the enjoyment of these tools?  Is the bliss that is social media encouraging our ignorance to the reality that is taking place?

Are we headed toward the next bubble burst?  If we are, what can we do to stop it from killing the entire space?

61 thoughts on ““Is This Social Media Bubble Deadly?”

  1. We are in a Social Media Bubble, but it’s a bubble brought on by something larger; a transitional phase where we are throwing out old models and replacing them with newer, more efficient models.

    Take a big picture look and you will see that the way in which we communicate is changing. First, there was the internet and email and IM. Then during Web 2.0, we transitioned into Blogs becoming the preeminent communications platform because it was easy and people could talk to their hearts content.

    Now we’re transitioning into the “Social” web where the current batch of tools are easier to use than ever and blogs are giving way in some quarters to the speed and brevity of micro-blogging. But more importantly, what’s happening is that we’re learning to communicate in new ways which enable unprecedented expansion of our social graphs.

    Transitions are fertile grounds for speculation and that’s what you see with all the social tools being developed and millions of people flocking to try out new services, etc. The user base and sheer number of tools/products & services are increasing rapidly (hence, the bubble). For marketers, the result will eventually bear fruit and soon they will see their deepening relationships with their customers result in increasing sales and stronger customer loyalty. As you will recall everyone said the same during the dot com boom and while that bubble did burst, it laid the foundations for the web we are using today. After this ‘bubble’ pops, I have no doubt that we will all be better for it.

    1. Thanks for getting the conversation started Neil. So you think that the bubble will inevitably pop, and that in the long run, it will be for the better?

      Makes sense.

      I agree that the bubble will probably pop, we’ll have to make it through that disaster phase and probably come out of it more realistic, and with great hindsight…but does the bubble have to pop? Can we make these transitions without having to go through a phase of “disaster”?

      1. Actually, I don’t think the “Social Media Bubble” bursting will be a bad thing or even too painful (unless you invested in or work at a company that goes “poof”). Things are different today and the benefits of what ‘all things social’ bring are just too valuable. Certainly, Social Media 5 years from now may not look anything like SM today, but that’s because something even better will come along.

        1. I don’t think it will be too painful either. I think the majority of us see it as a piece of the marketing/communications pie. Don’t we all tout ourselves as being ‘creative’ and ‘flexible’ anyway 🙂 We’ll move on the the next big thing, or we’ll watch SM morph into something new. In the end, SM is pretty extraordinary. Who knows what the future will hold, but I’m sure it will be exciting.

  2. Great points Dave. This is sometihng I have been thinking about a lot since I started working with social media a few months ago. You wouldn’t believe how many people I see who just want to jump on the social media bandwagon because it’s the cool thing to do. These people think that because they’re on Twitter, they “get it,” when in reality it is a completely wrong approach for their company.

    There is no cookie cutter marketing approach for everyone. It really depends on the industry and the audience.

    I’m wondering if all companies get on social media, will it all become white noise? And, if so, will that lead to a social media backlash?


    1. exactly…that backlash is what I’m foreseeing, and am not too comfortable with.

      Remember when our web 2.0 class started and many students scoffed at twitter? They’d laugh at people that used it and label it as “lame”…and now I see all of them on it. They’re on it, because they see ESPN, CNN, OchoCinco, and everyone else on it, so whether or not they knew why, they joined too. Well it’s been the same trend with business, and the backlash won’t be pretty.

      Thanks for weighing in Ryan.

  3. David, I think you’ve hit the proverbial ‘nail on the head’ with this post. I often have to remove myself from my own experience with social media when deciding whether its an appropriate marketing tool for our clients @EngineCom. Just because I have had success, and Engine employs the tools with success, doesn’t mean it will add value to all brands.

    I think the bubble will burst if we don’t find ways of measuring the outputs of social media for our clients. If their use doesn’t produce sales and revenue, why bother? However, on the flip side, I have a small jewellery/accessories client that says about 25% of her walk in business is driven by her Facebook fan page. We’re going to be monitoring this to get some real numbers. Still, it indicates that when used properly, small business can benefit.

    We aren’t setting ourselves up for disaster by embracing this media, but we are if we think that everyone will experience the results we have. Most of my business’ target market isn’t on Twitter, so if I think I’m reaching them by hanging out online all day, I’m not. I still have to do the leg work. But for information sharing within our profession. Amazing!!

    We’ll just have to wait and see how it evolves.

  4. Bubbles always burst, that’s what makes them bubbles. The good news is that the backlash will largely affect the poseurs, not the people who have built real relationships. If anything, a good shakeout will weed out the weak and improve the credibility of the real players.

    Your social media presence is only as strong as the relationships you’ve built. If you or your business actually contributes something people find valuable, then they won’t abandon you even if social media’s various platforms collapse entirely.

  5. David, as always pertinent insight here.

    I don’t know if there’s a bubble about to burst, because I don’t think we have a “bubble”.

    As a general rule, corporations usually examine newly evolved trends through glass doors – that is they look from afar but don’t touch the merchandise. Meaning: they don’t develop their own personal experience which can drive more informed decisions about the value of novel media.

    You’re absolutely correct about the Echo Chamber. It’s an individual choice to spend all day in the chamber or going out and being creative and productive and executing and delivering value where it’s needed.

    This brutally ugly phrase “social media” is misleading a lot of organizations – and I even think a lot of people in the social media space.

    I wouldn’t say where headed to a burst: but I’d say we’re headed toward The Great Disappointment. By that, I mean many organizations will dip into the stream, find it cold, not know where to go and then get out long before they realize what a long, hard journey they have ahead of them.

    My philosophy: there will be businesses who figure it out and those that don’t. The ones that don’t, were fated to fail anyway. That’s evolution. It’s cold, but that’s the way of things and in the long-run, it’s what produces the fittest businesses.


  6. I think there’s a few different things going on here. One is our enjoyment/use of the tools and the other is the utilization of bigger social media themes. Sometimes people overhype the tools without focusing on how the bigger themes (real-time communication and monitoring, crowdsourcing, user-generated content, etc) actually can drive business. If we only focus on the tools and not results, this is a recipe for failure. This could lead to a bubble, but I don’t think it will. I think many businesses are starting to get past the point of just doing things because it’s cool or they don’t want to be left behind. They realize that there needs to be metrics around this stuff and it needs to drive business results. And there have been a lot of good articles and videos spreading around recently about the ROI of this stuff–so people understand that it’s not just about the # of Twitter followers you have.

    One thing that is probably hurting the credibility of this stuff is all the link bait posts and ebooks promising “6 ways to explode your business on Twitter” and making it sound easy. It’s certainly not easy, if you’re talking about the actions that must take place before you even move the needle one degree. It takes resources, time and the right strategy to do things right. Hopefully most smart businesses are understanding this now, so hopefully there won’t be any kind of bubble.

  7. Heck yes we have a social media bubble.

    I think when SM first became a hit, it was easy to be extremely nice to others and we were wading the waters together. The ones that are successful have built bridges and have their communities – kind of like cliques.

    I think after a while, you start seeing people’s true colors – once they’ve come out of the bubble. I think it’s a constant popping, if that makes any sense. 🙂

    1. I see what you mean. There are definitely those who still participate within the realm of this “bubble” but can still step out and see the reality of it all. We’re no longer contributing to the growing of the bubble.

      Is it then up to those people to prevent the bubble from bursting through their influence?

  8. Then again, the fact that I felt like I had to post this maybe means that we are in a bubble that could burst-because there is still a lot of bad information out there…but then maybe that’s a good thing–because all the phonies/scammers who don’t help people get results will go away–and we’ll be there to take their business.

    1. I see that a lot of commenters are actually looking forward to the bubble bursting. I can see and understand how it might help the social media space, by weeding out the dirt, but is that in itself not bubble thinking?

      What about the economic ramifications? They could be severe, much like the dot com bubble burst. As social media becomes more and more integrated into our society, we become more reliant on it, socially AND ECONOMICALLY. If the social media bubble bursts, we could face some very hard times, and just as we’re recovering from the last economic downturn.

  9. I think,like most who’ve commented, that the “Bubble” will burst. It’s just a matter of when and how big. Like Bryna, I think it is important to be realistic and learn to measure success via social media by the thing that matters most to business, ROI. This is where people like Beth Harte and Olivier Blanchard come in. People that are active and trusted in the space and are passionate about proving the value of social media via the traditional means of ROI and willing to share with everyone. So, I think the size of the bubble burst will be determined by how many people listen and learn from people like them who are passionate about the space, but also temper that with realistic views on what can be accomplished and what you need to do to prove success.

  10. I think that it comes down to one of the very valid points that Beth Harte approached in the Marketing Profs #summersocial series yesterday. People, especially in marketing are always looking for a magic silver bullet. Worse off I think, many are hoping to just press a button and feel as if they achieved something. “Social Media” is going to be up against the wall in the next several months because so much time has been spent retweeting and quoting in 2009 that people have often forgotten to stop and ask, why? What is the purpose, what is the strategy, what will I provide to people in this platform?

    Michael Bourne wrote about this on Stuart Foster’s lost jacket blog. I’ll liked his analogy, don’t be the Judas Cow.

    1. “so much time has been spent retweeting and quoting in 2009 that people have often forgotten to stop and ask, why? What is the purpose, what is the strategy, what will I provide to people in this platform?”

      Well said. I think that really touches on the core of this issue. Question is, are enough people going to ask why? and will it be too late?

  11. I think, if we all stop and take a breath, admit and realize that the world will be fine if every Grandma is not tweeting a brand compliment or complaint by sometime next week, “social media” will not implode and disappear.

    Some of the platforms will surely evaporate, that is the nature of the beast. TV stations fold (and boy are many going to crumble in the near future) print publications fold (long before and long after social media) advertising agencies fold.

    Communication does not fold. People still want to discover, converse, teach and just have fun. That is going to happen whether social media evangelists are right or wrong.

  12. I definitely feel there’s a bubble. But I’m with Neal in that I’m not sure how painful it’ll be when it pops because we’re transitioning through communications in a much bigger way. I think those who *will* suffer are the ones who’ve staked their career status on this space, instead of understanding that social media is part of a much larger whole.

    Honestly, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens once the bubble pops. It might just clear the way for some real work to be done. I mentioned this on Olivier Blanchard’s blog awhile back, but those who do this right, who incorporate and teach the philosophy behind social business, will probably have *more* to do after the bubble pops cleaning up the messes the tool-focused, silver-bullet types have created.

  13. I don’t actually think we are in bubble, I like to think of it as a fad which is just a transition to the next one 🙂 However, if you ~ put all your eggs into the one basket ~ (excuse an old cliche), it will sure feel like the bubble broke when we are on to the next fad!

    1. I respectfully have to disagree.

      Using the “eggs in a basket” analogy, I think a fad exists when even if your eggs are all in one basket, you can take them out and put them in a new basket.

      A bubble (a problem) occurs when taking your eggs out of the basket, is not so easy. As I mentioned, there is a great deal of capital being invested in this space. It won’t be so easy to recover and move into the next space.

  14. Ah, yes David! I loved our conversation about social media the other day and this “bubble” we are forming.

    Maybe it’s not a bubble that will “pop” necessarily. Social media is fundamentally about how people communicate. The tools will change, but how we connect with each other via the web and mobile will not. This bubble will slowly evaporate into the rest of the “air” it lives in. New technologies will emerge and the same process (over several years of course) will occur, just as it did with other communication channels.

    Effective marketers will understand how to use the space at the right place and time to meet their customers’ needs-integrated with the rest of their efforts.

    1. You’re right that it doesn’t have to pop…but I do think at the rate things are going now, it will. It’s going to take a shift in mentality and perception for social media to peacefully become integrated, or “evaporated” into the air around it.

      Or I could be completely wrong haha. I guess only time will tell.

  15. David,

    I don’t see the economic angle. Social media is not a market. So, while the “bubble” idea applies as a metaphor, it doesn’t translate in real life economics.

    A market bubble occurs when invested capital outpaces the actual value of a market. That guarantees ill-informed investors will lose their shirt when the bubble bursts.

    So, yes, the market bubble model applies to dotcoms, but not social media, which is simply a collection of tools, strategies and conversational platforms. Except for Twitter and the like, there’s been very little capital investment in a social media business model – certainly not enough to signify a market, much less a market bubble.

    So, the social media bubble may burst metaphorically if people and businesses abandon the online presences they’ve built. But next to the impact of the housing bubble, I’m not too worried about that.

    1. I disagree, I think there is a social media market. I hear about social media start-ups taking on rounds of funding pretty much every day during my experience at Dreamit Ventures this summer. Half of the companies at Dreamit were closely integrated with social media, if not solely focused on social media.

      The issue of the social media bubble can be applied economically.

      “A market bubble occurs when invested capital outpaces the actual value of a market. That guarantees ill-informed investors will lose their shirt when the bubble bursts.”

      …and that’s the question I’m posing. There IS a great deal of investment going into social media tools, websites, and applications…and it seems to be growing quickly.

  16. Fair enough, thanks.

    If investments are disclosed, then someone’s probably tracking them. Forrester perhaps?

    Even so, I don’t see a bubble… yet. Emerging markets often see investment ebb and flow (e.g. nanotech, solar, etc.). A high rate of failed businesses is also very common.

    But don’t mistake that failure among social media companies for a bubble.

    Consider the dotcoms: That market didn’t go ballistic until after Netscape (remember them?) went public and reaped huge returns. Then everyone and his brother began throwing money at the sector in the hopes of catching the next rising star. Didn’t take long for there to be more money than value. Then, kablooey.

    I haven’t seen a similar trend in social media… Like I said, yet.

    1. I actually searched through Forrester for some stats related to this post, but unfortunately could not find anything. If you come across any, I’ll be glad to include them.

      I’ve seen similar trends. I linked and spoke about those social media “success stories” and case studies that we always refer to. To make a comparison to the dot com bubble, much like Netscape’s success fueled this value inconsistency, Dell reported the great deal of earnings that they’ve gained from social media, setting that example that now, many are trying to follow.

  17. Great post and loads of food for thought.

    I read a while back the social predictions for 2009. I think it’s inevitable that we will find ourselves with lots of doors closing and multiple M&As over the next 12 to 18mths as the masses are running in to quickly to monetize on Social bits and pieces.

    But I wonder about a few things:

    1. The Evolution that brought us here today. The dot com burst is a great parallel and there is lots for us to learn. It got too big too fast and toppled over. But no one can imagine life without the internet. Likewise, the economy also endures it’s fair share of ups and downs to naturally course correct the madness a few of us create.

    2. The approach to Social. Beware wolf in sheep’s clothing. I face a daily struggle with clients who are anxious to bypass the consumer insights, research, trends and strategy. They want to slap on a few apps, start a few groups and feel validated that they are now part of the current craze. Social Marketers absolutely get that this is not a get social quick scheme. It requires a complete shift in how we do business. A social tactic does not equal a social business. It not only requires a complete understanding of your audience’s online and offline behavior, but being completely comfortable with implementing true social initiatives as opposed to slapping a fb group together.

    3. B2B vs. B2C – I have been processing this for several days. I wonder if B2B is where the community should be built. B2C is where brands go to the UG communities to enable, sponsor, support. The whole build it and they will come is ridiculously dangerous ground to stand on. I think we need to start asking tougher questions.. instead of taking the brief to socialize an event… we should be asking… why are you choosing an event? What is the real problem you are trying to solve? Social may or may not be the answer.

    I think we are in a bubble but I wonder if this bubble exists purely because too many people who possess a small amount of knowledge are applying it under the pretense of expert that is bound to result in oodles of failed social attempts.

    When looking at the B2C space – this space absolutely belongs to the consumer. We are merely guests at a dinner party. If we don’t show up with flowers for the hostess and a bottle of vino for the house, look out. If we sit at their table and dominate the entire conversation about how great we are and how everyone should buy our products… we’ll be quickly shown the door. But if we sit at the table and overhear a conversation about something we could support, enable or bring visibility to, we’ll be invited back.

  18. There is a great deal of extremely valuable input in these comments …… so perceived bubble or not, all eggs in one…. or not, individuals like you will come out all the better for the SM learning experience, and be well equipped to go onto the next……. because you understand there is a next…. Great discussion.

    1. Every day is a great learning experience, mostly because of the great, smart people that I interact with in this community. What’s next is the most exciting part ^_^

  19. a few books to consider for this topic:

    The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda

    In Pursuit of Elegance by Matthew May

    My opinion is the bubble will bust one day but we will see many more bubbles… so long as we keep THE conversation alive and the community involved, someone will keep blowing the bubbles…

  20. Hold on because what I am about to tell you will be hard to hear. I have been doing some searching and I have found out that David Spinks, the insightful blogger you all know and love, does not actually exist. His persona is in fact an agglomeration of several writers and advertisers in an attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the people by engaging them in inane debate. Their true agenda is to spread zionistic ideals through subconcious advertisments that can be found through out his texts.
    For example:

    “We’re all enthusiastiC abOut the power of soCiAl media. And if someone questions it, we refer them to the same Case studies Of sociaL mediA …” hmmm coca – cola anyone?

    Coincidence? I think not. Its just like that movie where this exact same thing happened

    yes coke is zionist

    1. Please welcome my very “bored at work” friend Jon to my blog. On the rare occasion I don’t delete his comments (when they’re as funny as this one), you may enjoy his insights.

  21. Wow! Such great insight David, and it has inspired so many great comments!

    When thinking about the “bubble,” whether it exists or not, the key is to understand Murphy’s Law (everything that can go wrong, will go wrong), and realize and accept the inevitiability of social technologies not really bursting, but evolving.

    Social media has definitely become a market, like some have said, with the rise of social media agencies and the insane amounts of money being spent to purchase these popular networks. The question is whether these companies stay with what they have now, or work to improve the communication (and the community as a whole) within the network, i.e. MySpace vs. Facebook.

    MySpace, while still great for music artists and fans of those artists, has become busted when it comes to organizing tight-knit communities and personal communication. Facebook currently reigns king and is consistently working to improve their technology with the times and the emergence of other technologies. The MySpace “bubble” has burst and is proven by the network’s loss of users and drop in revenue.

    In business terms, social media runs the risk of failing if too many people see it as the be-all-end-all in terms of running a company, branding, advertising, sales, etc. All markets go through cycles, which can serve as evolutionary steps that help improve the theories, trends and practices. The Dot.com bust was a hard time for many people who had their professional careers online, but now the online space has evolved into a realm that is smaller and flatter, resulting in new channels for human interaction.

    Human civilization is based on community and communication. Strong communities will thrive because of strong communication, and those who strive to learn, to help, and to build these communities will always have a place in the market, whether it bursts or not.

  22. We’ve also come a long way since having sheep thrown at us on Facebook. Social media is still early in its evolution and one wonders how primitive it will seem in 10 years time. Thanks for the insightful post, and to all those who replied.


  23. David thanks for the great post. I love your approach. Some of my thoughts.

    1. Not every CEO buys in or even every VP.

    2. Not every brand has the ability to produce OR even have opportunities for great brand related content.

    3. Not every brand really has the ability to engage people

    4. Some conversations should just end.

    Lets not get back into the late 90’s when there were portals and vortals and ecommerce for the stupidest businesses.

    Thanks again!

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Duncan.

      re #1: True, there hasn’t been unanimous and simultaneous buy in, although the numbers have been consistently rising from what I’ve seen (haven’t found any stats unfortunately)

      #2 True.

      #3 Because of their product or because of their resources?

      #4 haha True.

      1. Ok I’ll get extreme – Dippin’ Dots – while disgusting to me – have a large very engaged following in social media. I get that. Now consider Sears – or JC Penney – other than deals – I can’t imagine why anyone would want to get involved with company’s like that. Nordstrom maybe. My point is that some brands have products or services (or a niche) that are just not capable of getting people involved. Even if people get involved because they hate something – thats better than no involvement. IF tis negative – at least you can learn something from it or address it. But with Zero involvement – you have nothing.

    2. I’m not sure I really understand either #2 or #3. If you have a product or service worth buying then you have something worth talking about, right? Please explain.

      1. Joe

        #2 – you might buy an ipod – but the product is so ubiquitous and easy to see in action – creating concent about it is pointless. OR a hammer company – does anyone really care about content about a hammer? Maybe they do – after all who would think blenders could be interesting. The brand has to be on fire internally – service wise and product/service feature wise – to be extendable to social media. Othervise its just broadcast.

        #3 see above.

        1. I kind of see your point, buy don’t totally agree. First of all, you’d be surprised what some people can get passionate about or are interested in. Also, maybe you just need to get more creative and create interaction around related subjects or even a lifestyle that fits your target market. Your hammer example. Maybe that company engages with people about home improvement and their hammers are an integral piece to making projects happen (admittedly maybe a stretch). Or JC Penney can engage over how they make the lifestyle of their customers more affordable.

          This may be a bit extreme and a little over-dramatic, but if your customers aren’t talking about you or with you, then you may have a problem on the horizon.

        2. I agree with Joe here. Perhaps just on those examples, but in general, I think that if your audience is present on these tools where that type of content can reach them…you absolutely can create content around your product to reach your audience.

          A concept that is often forgotten is that you don’t have to push your product, but rather share content that is related to your product. Engage in the environment in which your product exists, and so there will be trust built around your brand so when that purchase decision comes up, they come to you.

  24. This reminds me of the 2001 dot-com bubble: We will have a creative destruction of unsustainable Social Media models very soon and out of the ashes new business models will emerge are based on social media principles. The Dachis Group calls it Social Business Design, I would call it Social Business Movements.

    Hopefully, we can chat more about it at SXSW

  25. I love this. the social media bubble sounds so “self-contained” – in the sense that it seems like it is something new and most talk about it forgets the society at large (those people buying, selling, talking, etc).

    It is not.
    Social media is about tools, that’s all. Nothing new in the social part. What we are doing today, on the internet, was talked about back in 1990, we just didn’t have the procedures or tools available to make it simple and easy. Back then we had to use email,forums, ftp, gopher, and web to be “social” at a distance.

    If there is a bubble burst, it will be social media dot com that bursts , social and media will remain.

    The simple fact is, people want to talk. Nothing stops that. Since it is a perceived need, there will always be providers for tools to fulfill the need. If Facebook or Twitter disappeared tomorrow, that still leave a few hundred million users who want to inter-connect.

    What will speed up the social media dot com bubble burst will be reports from PRODUCT producing/selling companies which report LOSSES or bankruptcies due to their intense spending on SM. Until then it’s on a train roll.

    In my mind, it’s becoming difficult to define SM.
    Somtimes it’s “Social Media”, other times it’s “suck money”.

    I find it somewhat ironic that whether we call it Social Media, or Social Business Design, or integrated conversation management — it’s esentially what your local Mom & Pop store from 1900 has always done — talked with and listened to their customers.

    An interesting read from 1999 here. “the cluetrain manifesto ” The first markets were filled with talk.” http://www.cluetrain.com/book/markets.html provides some clear foresight with relations to this internet “thingy”.

    btw: selfless plug
    We’ve used SM successfully with a mostly LOCAL customer base using NING networks combined with twitter, websites and B&M store
    We plan on cashing in on it for the next 5years.
    http://greenspot.ning.com for reference.

    And no, we are not marketers, nor communications experts, we’re just simple mom&pop B&M antiques store who “gets it”.

    1. Good points….it would be the social media dot com burst. It would be the bubble that has grown around the investment into these tools, brands, etc…not around the concepts of social and media.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  26. David, coming at this from a marketing communication perspective, I think you make very valid points. There are some people who want to say that every company should be participating in social media — and those that “opt out” are to be ridiculed … in public, no less. I believe most companies can find value in social media; however, that doesn’t mean they all need to jump in.

    Similarly, my career has been focused on public relations; as such, I think all brands could benefit from a proactive PR campaign. But, that doesn’t mean all brands are going to embrace PR. And that’s okay. The bottom line is that companies need to take an integrated approach to communication — incorporating the right mix of tools to achieve their business objectives. There are lots of case studies that illustrate the value of social media in business which shouldn’t be ignored. But, if a business doesn’t have the resources or the desire to interact with various audiences, then social media might not be right for them. Doesn’t make it right … doesn’t make it wrong. It just is what it is.

    I still think it’s smart for companies to integrate social media along with their other communication efforts, but that’s just my opinion.

    Great post, D.

    Heather (@prtini)

    1. Thanks Heather. I agree, and that’s kind of what I was talking about when I said “social media is valuable, it’s not value”. Those of us who understand social media concepts know that they can provide value. Does that mean that any company that implements social media will automatically be adding value? No. That’s where the issue lies.

  27. I’m surprised that no one in the comment section has mention the gartner group’s ‘hype cycle’ model for new technologies. there is a good description and diagram on wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hype_cycle. basically there are five phases: (1) “technology trigger;” (2) “peak of inflated expectations;” (3) “trough of disillusionment;” (4) “slope of enlightenment;” and (5) “plateau of productivity.”

    by this model, we are currently in stage (2), where the koolaid flows freely and all the world’s problems can be solved with the new tools. the bursting bubble you describe in your post is the (inevitable) third phase, where users realize not every problem has a sm fix and/or fail to realize they are not using the tools correctly. but all is not lost – the curve does continue.

    thanks for the post

    1. Todd,

      Thanks for sharing that link. That’s extremely interesting and is pretty much exactly what I had in mind.

      I guess this trend could occur on different levels then right? So what will determine the level of negative impact from the “bubble burst” (2= bubble -burst-> 3= results)? I guess while that trend is always going to occur, it could happen at higher or lower slopes. Sometimes these changes can take on a smoother transition, and BOOM!

      Right now, I feel like we’re headed toward the latter, but we shall see!

  28. I always liked Scott Hepburn’s (@scotthepburn) take on it – “emerging media”. Let’s face it, social media has been around for years – all it has now is a fancy new name. ICQ chat rooms? Twitter. Forums? Friendfeed. User-generated content? Blogs, wikis, Youtube, etc. So it’s nothing new – just a new tag.

    I think where a large percentage of failings, faults, call it what you will, comes from common sense (or lack of it), mixed in with a little dollop of greed. People and companies are seeing dollar signs from early successes (as you rightly mention in the post, David). But early successes don’t always mean long-term survival (I’m looking at you, Betamax and Cuil).

    If someone is so greedy that they don’t take an analysis and project whether social media will work for them or not, then I’m sorry but they deserve to fail. This goes for consultants too – if you’re out to snake oil companies because you know some buzzwords, I hope the failure shit lands on you first.

    Social media is here to stay for one simple reason – it’s pretty much always been here since the first person said “Hello” to another online.

    What needs to change is business mindsets – but hasn’t that always been the case?

    Great post, my friend – THIS is why I recommend you so highly any chance I get.

    1. “What needs to change is business mindsets”

      Well said. “social media” has always been valuable. These recent emerging technologies have amplified its usage. With the growth of capabilities, however, expectations have grown exponentially.

      Get an umbrella, because the “failure shit” is coming haha.

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