Social Media Bubble….here we come!

bubbleAre we heading for a ‘speculative bubble’ effect in the portions of the media and IT economy that are tied up with Social Media and Social networking?  Regular readers will know that I’m something of  a cynic about the importance of Social Media and Social Networking; whilst it’s clearly an important aspect of marketing for the future, I am rather concerned about the importance that the ‘industry’, if we can call it that, applies to itself.

Take the following article, from a Canadian newspaper, for example.  Real world businesses are still doubting the importance and relevance of Social networking and Media to their ongoing business activity.  Unsurprisingly, the practitioners are effectively saying ‘Ignore us and you’re doomed, doomed I tell you! Doomed!’  Now, some of us who were out of school in the late 1990s can probably remember the comments made by a number of folks with possible vested interests that anyone without a web presence would be out of business within 5 years.  What actually happened was that within 5 years a lot of web companies were out of business, and many businesses with no web presence or strategy whatsoever were going along quite happily.

Just because you find something sexy and interesting doesn’t mean it’s important; passion is a wonderful thing to have but one also needs to be pragmatic along with it.  In a recession, surely any business is likely to be most interested in keeping existing customers and is likely to be playing a ‘safe hand’ with it’s resources.  It’s unlikely to want to adopt techniques that it’s customers may not actually be aware of or care about.  There is absolutely no point in extensively using social media and social networking technologies if your customers are not aware of them!  It’s rather like advertising in French when you have no one in France reading the ads!

The arrogance of Social Media zealots in assuming that real businesses are lagging behind is astonishing; surely Social Media / Networking is a support function for most companies, part of marketing and advertising.  It’s not as disruptive a technology as the web itself is, and shouldn’t be treated like it is.  Take a look at this definition of a bubble – the phrases that immediately struck me were “emerging social norms”, “positive feedback mechanisms”,”they create excess demand and production”.  I think it’s fair to say that we’re seeing all these effects.

In addition, it’s difficult to value the Social networking / Media market place and individual services and companies within it.  And then we have the other issues often associated with bubbles:

Moral Hazard– how much of the market place is supported by ‘other people’s money’ – if supported mainly by VC capital then companies may take risks that they wouldn’t take with their own money.

Herding– the more folks who say it’s good, the more the markets are likely to follow.

All in all….I think a ‘correction’ to the emergent Social Networking and Media sector is likely.  And then we can get back to realistic use of this technology as part of an integrated marketing strategy for businesses.

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas? Not necessarily…

what-happens-in-vegasLong before it was the title of a movie, it was a fairly well known saying. 

In the UK it was more likely to be ‘What happens in Blackpool, stays in Blackpool’, or, as time passed, what happened in Estonia stays in Estonia. I was a mark of secrecy that was usually associated with the ceremonials of secret societies; it didn’t matter that you’d abseiled down Blackpool Tower naked except for a sock on your head, carrying a crate of beer and singing ‘Unchained Melody’ at 3am.  If you found your boss in flagrante delicto with Myrtle from accounts, playing strip-poker, well, that’s something you were not going to be allowed to use in blackmail.  Because of the simple, unwritten law of the hard playing world of the works outing / stag weekend / hen weekend / mate’s trip to Skegness.   

‘What happens here, stays here’.

It used to be up there with the other rules of social nicety.  Basically, if you did get up to alcohol fuelled high jinks on one of these events, you were OK.  It wouldn’t get home or back to the office (unless you contracted some social disease, got pregnant or turned up in the local  Magistrate’s Court or A&E).  You might have shown yourself to your friends and colleagues as a hypocritical, deceitful, lecherous alcoholic but you were given the ‘Get out of Jail Free’ card of the event falling under the rule of  ‘What happens here, stays here.’

Just to be serious for a moment, there are even ‘legitimate’ versions of the rule – self-development weekends, religious retreats, etc.  What happens there, stays there, unless you want to share your OWN experiences – but no one else’s.

It’s an incredibly sensible rule for the latter type of event, and to be honest I reckon it can be a reasonably sensible code of behaviour to abide by for participants in the other events mentioned above.  

And it’s a way of life and social behaviour that is slipping away.  Whenever you go out these days there will inevitably be someone taking photographs which within 30 seconds show up on Facebook.  I’m one of those people who hate having a photo taken – apart from looking 20 pounds heavier than I am, I always get photographed with a stupid expression on my face or doing something daft.  That sort of thing showing up online is OK to deal with – it’s the other stuff that gives the running commentary of what happened, who spoke to who, who sat next to whom – even for a few minutes, etc.  The minutiae of a social event that to be honest is of fuck-all relevance to anyone who wasn’t there.  Those who are there, know what happened.  Those who weren’t there, rarely need to know what happened except out of vicarious curiosity (OK…nosiness!)

I don’t necessarily want to be photographed when I’m slightly drunk at a non-work related, social event when I take a quick trip and spill drinks.  What would once have been a momentary source of amusement for all who witnessed it that you probably wouldn’t even have remembered the following day now becomes a cast in stone moment on Facebook.  If you’re REALLY unlucky and surrounded by geeks, it will also be Tweeted – which isn’t as bad as the Tweetstream is pretty ephemeral – but you get the idea.

Please people – just go back to taking and posting a nice big group photo at the beginning, share any candid snapshots between you and people who were there directly rather than through your 200 friend Facebook page, and let what happened in the pub, stay in the pub, in 2010.

Facebook – fool if you think it’s over?

I came across two articles today which are related – one informing us that Facebook had finally made it to number 1 in a league of social networking sites:

 and the other telling us that minining the social netspace for business is a waste of time and energy.

Like many things in life I was a late comer to Facebook and within a few weeks of me joining was being told by all and sundry that Facebook was a spent force and that all the cool kids were probably going elsewhere.  My first thought was ‘Thank God – no more being poked by a dead sheep’ or whatever, followed by a quick examination of how many contacts I had in Facebook overlapped with contacts in my E-Mail directory.

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Will no one think about the children…

I’m a big fan of ‘The Simpsons’ and in one episode there is a morally outraged female character who keeps screaming the expression ‘Will no one think about the children’ whenever something crops up.

I was reminded of this sort of ineffective moral indignation when I encountered this article in The Sunday Times about the suggested censorship of sites such as Bebo, MySpace and acebook.

Whilst I can see that there are posts and material that do require removing, I’m less convinced of the suggested ‘Remove within 24 hours of complaint’ approach.  A concerted effort by a few hardliners in some of our less liberal religious and social movements would soon have the websites removing all sorts of material.

Nothing is mentioned of appeal processes, etc. and as many of tehse sites are based in the US there is the US Constitutional Issue of Free Speech, as enshrined in the 1st Amendment.  The solution that I would adopt were I a US web site owner confronted by this sort of daft legislation from Nanny Brown’s Government would simply be to block access to the site form any UK based ISP.

And the comment about allowing children un-supervised use of the Internet not being like TV, but like letting your children play outside un-supervised is yet another issue.  When I was a child, from the age of about 10 onwards I WAS allowed to roam locally, in daylight, unsupervised.  Along with most other children of my generation.  However, I was responsible enough to have earned the trust of my parents.

Perhaps a major thing for HMG to take away from the curent fetish with protecting our children is that responsibility and supervision begins and should, under normal circumstances, end with the parents.  The state has no role unless things have gone very wrong; perhaps the fact that such studies are being commissioned indicates that several years of politically-correct nannying by this and previous Governments has generated a generation of parents who’re scared to actually be parents and state clearly to their children what is acceptable and what is unacceptable.

Reluctantly joining Facebook….


That it should come to this.  Unfortunately a group I belong to is going to be using Facebook, and given that I’m supposed to be the IT guy, I am expected to know how it works.

So, I’ve registered and am working out how little I need to put up there whilst still making any use of it whatsoever.  I have to say that you won’t find much in the line of my social and business calendar up there – I cannot understand for the life of me why people publicise where they’re going to be and when they’re going to be there!

Or am I missing something?

People I know have started increasingly living their lives through bloody Facebook and so as these folks are fairly normal, well balanced individuals I assume that there must be something there that I’m not quite getting.  I’m not at all convinced that social networking sites are going to be with us for much longer, and I await to be convinced by my experiences on there.

Having said that, I just encountered this story on the BBC Website, which points to a future in terms of more local social networks.  Sort of like sites like Sheffield Forum or any other site of a similar nature that’s been around for 5 or 6 years.  There genuinely is nothing new under the sun…

So, poke away – I’m to be found here.