The Next ‘Wave’ of Social Media..

We’re living in a platform saturated, attention deprived, information overloaded, flooded stream of updates with Social Media at the moment.

Most people, genuinely have access to far too much information, and not enough time, or attention, to process all the things that they would ideally love to read/consume, absorb, and participate in, conversation wise.

The online conversation is here, and it’s depriving us of our offline existence. What was designed to bring us closer to friends and families, have now become advertising portals, to the masses. The product is ‘us’ the consumer. The individual that consumes all that information, and occasionally ‘clicks’ on an ad, or a post, not necessarily realising that this is ‘paid for’ advertising, and gradually gets led ever deeper into the abyss of consumption, and attention deprivation.

Buy this thing, it will make you feel a certain way. Eat this, drink that, wash with this, party with that. The TV, and Mass Media has infiltrated the worlds of online social networks, and most of them are obsessed with increasing clicks, and selling more stuff.

Which is a real shame, because when that balance is wrong, you just don’t get the returns on the investment (which ironically is why Facebook stock has dropped so quickly in value, after being released publicly). Facebook’s stock flotation is nothing like the Google, or Amazon experience, where once they went public, they kept going up in value. Why is that, if not because of the inherent lack of value in the offering?

People are online, for 3 core reasons. To connect with their friends, their families, and their ‘interests’. So far, most of the social platforms have only really done a good job of helping people connect with their friends and their families. Most of the first wave of social networks, have all been focussed on connecting with people you already knew, in some way, shape or form.

However, new social platforms, like Instagram, and Twitter are starting to connect around ‘interests’, more than specific ‘people’. You could claim that Facebook let’s you connect on an ‘interest’ level too, however, if we look at it’s ‘origins’, and ‘focus’ – it was ‘friends’, and then slowly, family, based on how users came onboard. Through my own personal experience, I’m less than satisfied with Facebook’s ability to provide me with an appropriately curated way of staying in the loop with my friends and family, and generally am finding ‘interests’ and brands add far too much noise, to a potentially already busy environment.

Our needs when we connect with our friends and our families are very very different to when we connect with our interests. The conversations we have with our friends, and family, are generally very personal, and intimate, compared to the types of interactions we would have with people who we share a common interest with. In general when I go online, to a social platform, if I had to choose between finding out about someone I know, and care about, and a brand, or a random group of people, I will choose the people I know personally over the strangers. It’s human nature, to tend towards what’s familiar, and known.

So with that in mind, the only time I’m going to go into the ‘unknown’ is to find out something I don’t know, about something I’m interested in knowing more about. That could be related to an interest, a hobby, a sport, or something related to my work. Something that ‘adds value’ to my experience, rather than have me be the source of the experience.

This is where brands should really be. In that ‘interest’ space. Not hanging over our shoulders trying to get access to us, when we’re talking with our nearest and dearest. Even if that is where we spend most of our time. Brands need to find us out in those communities, where we’re asking questions, that their product or service can solve.

The need for yet another tool, to connect with people we know is for the most part over. What we need now, is ways of separating our personal conversations, with our friends and family from the world of our interests, and ‘likes’. There’s only a finite amount of time that people will spend coming to a service, where they can’t do everything they want to, and in my opinion, the time is coming, when communities will start emerging where the content/information/people are so key to the value of being in them, because of their expertise in a very specific niche, vertical, or sector, that the entire community focus will be singularly on that domain.

It will allow domain expertise to start being shared, and built upon in a way that doesn’t overwhelm people with updates, when the conversations get overly active, and allows people to curate and segment their news feeds and update streams by defined interests and level of activity that needs to have developed around a particular topic or discussion before it being brought to your attention.

So keep an eye out for those interesting platforms, interactions, or conversations on topics that matter to you – because you’ll start to need a life outside of your friends and family, and when you do, you’ll probably want to have tools and platforms that connect you in a different way to the dialogue/discussions that are happening there.  (and yes, Google+ does have the potential to be in that space, if they continue to grow and evolve as they have done so far..)

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