Recently, I came across a post in a forum that addressed the recently promoted idea that social media is a bubble that is going to burst in 2011. The idea being floated is a comparison with the dot.com crash that occurred from March 11, 2000 to October 9, 2002 This idea is stirring up a lot of unfounded and in many cases misguided fear. First of all what are we really looking at? When the term dot.com is mentioned, what does it actually apply to? The internet as a whole has been a rapidly expanding medium, becoming something the US military never had in mind when they first had it put in place. As the internet became an ever more powerful medium, it began to attract more attention. Just like a “bug light” on a warm summer night, it attracted ungodly numbers of investors, opportunists, gold-diggers, dreamers, con-artists, unsuspecting dreamers and a host of others. The real culprit in all of this was the abuse of the IPO process. This process allowed firms seeking investment to project profitability and stir up speculation regarding future stock evaluation. Also, investors in many cases prodded firms to over expand to promote artificial valuations. Since the environment at the time fostered unbridled optimism, valuations tended to range far ahead of real ability to perform. As soon as the “Emperor’s New Clothing” was seen to be a ruse, the panic button was pressed and the free-fall began.
Social media is a totally different ball of wax. First of all, the term is somewhat misleading. What has really occurred has been the advancement in web technology to the point where it is powerful enough to become the de facto platform for social interaction. So a better term (Social Technology) describes what is occurring in terms of the increasing power, flexibility and real time speed being provided through the web today in comparison to the slow speeds, narrow bandwidth, and lack of socially oriented internet based companies that existed only a few years ago.
There is a growing awareness of the “Tsunami-like” impact of amplified social chatter that can overwhelm businesses large and small despite immense SEO budgets, etc. Everyone knows some of the more prominent examples: Domino’s Pizza (almost destroyed by a YouTube video), Southwest Airlines (almost knocked out due to an angry blogger) and so many others! The adoption of “Social Technology” tools by business is due to very pragmatic and undeniable reasoning. There was a time when one person or group of persons could only muster a limited audience. Now one person can literally destroy a company.
To say that the use of technology for social interaction will cease to be a force in 2011 or any time in the foreseeable future is really a sign of gross misunderstanding of the dynamics impacting the business landscape today. There are those in various “Ivory Towers” who have begun to see their base of profits being eroded by this “Social Tsunami” who are putting out misleading messages with the hopes of staving off the inevitable. Push style marketing is not dead, but the status quo will never be the same. Businesses that do not make positive use of “Social Technologies” to listen and directly interact in real time with their markets are in harms way from the negative impact of this massive “Tsunami”.
The one caution to those who are trying to decide if and when to do something is to make certain you do not get involved with someone who is going to reinvent the wheel. You need to be certain that the “Expert” is going to translate your best brick and mortar practices that work into a digital version of you first. Once that is done, then they need to connect you directly with your market/s in a way that is engaging and social. They also need to put controls and systems in place (social media dashboard) so that you can monitor your success and make appropriate adjustments or changes as warranted.
Good reading for those who are interested:
http://alturl.com/wqaby , http://alturl.com/gsqqu