The Next Big Thing In Social Media

by · October 7, 201323 comments

It’s been seven years since Facebook opened its use to those outside of academic settings. It’s been four years or so since it really exploded into the hundreds of millions, even billions of users and became the behemoth of the social networking world it is.

The fad watchers have asked for years now what the next big thing in social media is. And frankly, it’s probably time for something else to appear that diverts our online attentions.

Facebook isn’t doing itself any favors, desperately finding ways to insert advertisements in our attention streams. They’ve gone from no commercial interruptions to enough to be noticeably annoying rather quickly. While most people ignore and move on and it’s not that big of a deal, it’s still becoming more and more of a turn off for users.

This is a result of their IPO and status as a public company. They have shareholders to answer to now. If you’re not growing at a rate of about 20% per year or more, investors don’t want to buy your stock, you begin to become devalued and head’s roll.

It’s not Mark Zuckerberg or Facebook that is effectively ruining the platform. It’s the money-at-all-costs approach of investors that demands it.

Without a revenue stream, advertising to the eyeballs your tool has attracted is the easy option. Another would be to charge users for premium features or even to just use the platform at all. (By my math, if Facebook charged users $1 per month it would probably lose about half of it’s user base, but that means it would have an on-the-book revenue of $600 million per month.) But Facebook has always promised it would be free to use, so that poses challenges, too.

While I am under no illusions that advertising will kill Facebook – but will make the experience simply less than ideal – I do think there is room for something else to come along. Path is one platform I like a lot. It’s a mobile-only version of Facebook with limited friends, so you have to really refine who you connect with. There’s no play for brands and the only revenue play they’ve tried so far is premium filters for photo posts and virtual stickers, which I find silly but several of my friends pay for.

Still, the more Path grows without a revenue stream, the more there will be pressure from investors (just private ones so far … Path isn’t a public company) to make it rain. At some point, they will sell themselves to the God of Commerce and the experience will be less than it is now.

Consumers have been running from advertising models, to a degree, for decades. When something new pops up without the intrusion of “buy me!” and that offers a compelling experience around music, entertainment, communications or other topics the general public is interested in, people flock to it. But eventually, it has to show a profit and pay off investors, so the dream dies, even if just a little bit.

The next big thing in social media? It’s the next pretty cool thing that money will ruin.

That’s a prediction you can take to the bank.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://occamsrazr.com Ike Pigott

    I’m becoming more and more convinced that the next big thing in Social Media will be hardware-driven, instead of just another website-n-apps.

    Specifically, a technology built around low-power Bluetooth, NFC, or some other combination.

    It will connect you to the people around you, and the people you converse with in some manner. It will do this connection in the background, and will provide a truer-to-life connection graph, which in turn might fuel multiple social networks.

    The reason many people “drop out” of social networks is the fatigue of continually cultivating those connections manually.

  • http://www.twitterthoughts.com RogerJH

    Hi Jason, I enjoyed your article. It is interesting to see social media platforms struggle to thrive financially and, yes, the pursuit of money for it’s own sake can “ruin” the experience for some users. On the other hand, of course, such services cannot be expected to come without a price tag, particularly when supporting millions of users. There are notable exceptions to your premise though. LinkedIn went public, and looks to offer a comparable user experience despite going public. Google Plus already had the huge cash advantage of the company in any case, and its user experience has simply improved over time. So yes, chasing dollars can wreck the user experience, but it doesn’t have to be that way!

  • Dave Link

    I start to wonder if you won’t see more trepidation in founders when it comes to going public in the future. As the marketing puts continually more pressure on companies to grow perpetually – which is an impossibility – it seems that becoming a public company is solely focused on investors cashing out at the expense of users and the company itself. With tech organizations like Dell looking to turn back the clock and become private once again, I just hope founders continue to fight for their users and the longevity of their platforms over a quick cash out for investors.

  • Carlos Méndez

    Hi there!
    Should be: “opened its use” not “opened it’s use”. Didn’t read more because of this.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Well, thanks for the heads up for the typo, but Social Media Explorer isn’t a term paper. Enjoy your limited world view.

      • Carlos Méndez

        You’re welcome, Mr Falls.

        I didn’t mean to sound that rough. I sincerely apologize. In fact, English is my second language. But yes, I think it deserves special attention and care especially from native speakers who write for a living and/or have influential and important impact on others, as yourself.

        Regarding my limited views: I speak several languages, married to a foreign girl and lived and worked in four continents. Just to give you an idea about my world view. Just arrived to Europe (yesterday) from a two week/2,000 mile road trip in Texas and Louisiana. Jet lag must’ve been made me that rude. Sorry about it. But thinking I have a limited view because of that is in fact having a limited view or just acting as rude as me.

        A very interesting article from Harvard Business Review about the topic… grammar, not my trip :)

        http://blogs.hbr.org/2012/07/i-wont-hire-people-who-use-poo/

        • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

          I apologize as well. I was being snarky. All is forgiven and well.

          Thanks for commenting and pointing out the grammatical error.

          ———————
          Jason Falls
          @JasonFalls

          • Carlos Méndez

            All is well from this side of the Atlantic too! Will read your post and probably… share it. Pleasure! And thanks

  • http://www.RoninMarketeer.com John Wall

    I know we are due for the next big thing when I read posts by parents gushing over their kids, and then picture the kids mortified and rolling their eyes.

  • http://inthekisser.me/ Erica Ayotte

    First of all, most brands haven’t figured out how to make their content *really* good. Good enough to gain attention and followership based on quality alone. Utilizing ads can certainly speed up the organic process, but relying on tired, disruptive advertising is missing the point of an opt-in platform.

    I’m not anti-advertising, but I’m anti-bad advertising. Folks have to rethink what advertising is in relation to a social newstream. If you’re simply taking what you’ve done in display advertising and copy/pasting that into a promoted post on Facebook, it’s not going to be effective because the functions and expectations of a newstream are completely different from what we’ve been conditioned to expect from display.

    At the end of the day, these companies, public or not, have to make money. Users will pay in some way–whether that’s through paying for extra features, paying by being disrupted by advertising, or paying with their data. Pick your poison.

    Oh, and with Path–I get why users really like it. Slightly different experience, beautifully designed, more walls. But for me personally, I feel “meh” about it. I’m on so many other networks that it feel redundant to me.

  • Rodger

    So you think Path will be the next big thing? It could be, but your post whispers another problem we find with social technology — making money. There seems to be three options: user-paid service, ad-supported private or ad-supported public.

    My hunch is that platforms like Facebook that go ad-supported public will drive users away because too many ads overwhelm us with information. In this case, the platform sets itself up to fail because it drives people away. On the other hand, most of us have come to expect social technology to be free, so paying a user fee would detour folks. If Twitter asked me to pay to play, I’d drop Twitter fast and life would go on. I think the happy medium is to find funding solutions that use the ad-supported private model. Will these companies grow and create wealth beyond the owner’s wildest dream, probably not. Will owners and their employees live on three squares of chef boyardee? No.

    How social technology seems to be moving, we will always be in bubble cycles where the next big thing is something that, over times, runs it course.

    I’m glad we haven’t found away to monetize face-to-face conversation.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Didn’t mean to imply Path was next. It’s compelling. But the next thing will be ad-less. Then overrun by ads. It’s cyclical.

      • SteveH

        Hi Jason … I know what the next model will look like, and still make money for the investor without creating the noisiness and irritation … wanna invest?? :-)

  • John

    I agree with most of what you are saying Jason, however there are a few ways in which our opinions differ. Check out my new Digital Marketing blog I just started. Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/BestDigitalMarketingCoursesandTraining

  • Jake Parent

    Thought provoking…

    For me, the next generation of social media successes will be the ones that combine the information dissemination power of the Internet with the genuine connections that can only be built through mechanisms that are deeper than status updates. In particular, those that are truly interactive, create a conversation, and build community.

    -Jake

  • Malcolm (@innovationmuse)

    Well said…my young american friend…well said. Particularly the point about how money seems to ruin great ideas. This is a symptom of a much greater cultural problem in our fair country. As someone who believes that innovation is the bedrock of what makes our culture great, the problem you highlight is where the bedrock meets lightning; capitalism. I am not saying that capitalism is bad, merely that it often gets in the way of innovation because when you tie ROI/business value to anything novel, the odds that it will diminish to incremental innovation is nearly certain. This is what is slowly happening. Back in 2007, it was novel to be able to market for free…well you can still do it, but now you have marketers marketing at you while you try to do it for free…bummer, but unless the cultural measuring stick for success changes to how big it is not how much revenue it generates then incrementalism is the future of all of social media. And I bet there is someone designing processes to optimize the annoyance of those facebook ads right now. And they are getting funded for it…and so on and so on….

  • michael bian

    Salient, well said… Social media has rapidly emerged as an important communication tool for businesses in every industry.

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  • hellboy

    The next big thing in social media is Opinions for sure. People need to discuss things and share ideas and thoughts.

    I found a neat article here

    http://www.squidoo.com/the-next-big-thing-in-social-networking-opinions

    if you agree you should check out Opinionoto.com really great site

  • SteveH

    SteveH

    • SteveH

      I am fully in agreement with the comments re Facebook … advertising is killing it … thank the lord! Facebook, whilst traditionally conceived in the ‘nostalgia’ of halcyon days at educational institutes has degraded into a messy pot of social meddling and personal intrusion that a certain type of person will buy into … not for me anymore thanks! The next best thing in social media that works? … this has to be the antithesis of where it is now … how it will work? Well now … let the companies behind the advertising drive this one …

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