Facebook. Twitter. Google+. Pinterest. Foursquare. LinkedIn. Path.
How many of these social networks do you belong to? Do you participate in every day? Every week? Every month? When a new one comes along does your heart leap in anticipation, or sink a little when you realize it’s one more thing to add to your already burgeoning list of chores; one more series of tasks on an already too-long to-do list?
As pervasive as social media seems, it’s still early days and there have already been shakeouts. Some of us are old and hoary enough to remember Orkut, to once have thought we’d never be qualified to join Facebook because we’d already graduated from college, and to have believed that MySpace’s supremacy could never be called into question.
The State Of Social Media Today
All that has changed, and the social landscape continues to evolve. Facebook, of course, is the centerpiece with nearly a billion members and such a deeply entrenched user base that leaving it would be tantamount to burning what used to be called your little black book.
While Facebook has no shortage of users who compulsively update their statuses, not all can be counted on to do so. At a recent dinner at SXSW, Kevin Colleran, the site’s first ad salesperson and longest-tenured employee (after Zuck), mentioned that all those “like” buttons across the web serve a purpose critical to Facebook’s revenue model: to provide a lower bar for users to update their status. Colleran departed the company last year.
Prior to the “like” button, profiles were getting stale. Ad targeting was suffering as a result.
New Kids On The Block
Pinterest’s shooting-star ascendency of late can also be attributed to having a very low bar to entry. Click “Pin It” and you’ve posted a photo. There’s almost nothing to fill out or download, and zero learning curve. It’s doubtless this distinct lack of a technological threshold that’s made middle aged women, not early-adopter younger men, the bulk of Pinterest’s audience — a probable first in social media.
Is there validity in Path’s premise that 150 is the maximum number of social connections anyone can realistically hope to keep up with? Certainly many Facebook users wish they’d been more judicious about accepting all those early friend requests (and circles is a strong selling point of Google+ — keeping separate social graphs separate). Or is Path’s real value in having a far superior mobile interface to Facebook, something that could make it a potential acquisition target by the company at which many of its founders learned social network basics?
Google+ launched to enormous anticipation, rapidly followed by a somewhat hollow thud. It’s hard to know how many members are actually active, given if a Google account is active, e.g. in Gmail or YouTube, it’s signed in to the service. A Comscore report shows users spent an average 3.3 minutes on Google+ in January, compared to 7.5 hours on Facebook.
When To Invest Time In The New New Thing?
It’s not difficult to argue that if users are investing that much time in Facebook, perhaps they don’t have that much time left to invest in Google+, particularly on top of tweeting, and checking in on FourSquare. There’s only so much time per day consumers can devote to social media, yet it’s an arena that’s increasingly crowded.
One of the most burgeoning areas lately is a host of start-ups in the social television space. You have to wonder if a clear leader will emerge out of the pack of start-ups, or if Facebook isn’t working on something in stealth mode that will blow these fledgling upstarts out of the water.
New social networks keep coming down the pike, but the established players seem increasingly unassailable, at least in the near term. Users are deeply habituated with using Facebook and Twitter, and have deep networks on these properties — networks that aren’t portable to other platforms.
What we’re seeing in newer players like Pinterest that are succeeding in the social space is ease of use, a very vertical focus, and deep integration with Facebook’s API (join Pinterest and you take your Facebook friends with you).
Like consumers, brands are challenged to make social channel choices. Spreading themselves too thin in an effort to be everywhere, for everyone, leads to challenges few brands are prepared to meet. The demands of continual parallel content creation. The ability to react and respond to earned media in multiple social channels. The overall demands of social media account management. And most important, entering every new social media channel strategically, rather than merely tactically.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.
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