Anti-Social Media?


So – Facebook is worth 50 billion bucks. Or so Goldman Sachs tell us.

Well why not? It’s a known fact that no teenager can live without Facebook – and hard headed businessmen have made it the biggest single provider of display advertising in the UK. So $50 billion seems about right. Where can I invest…

But hang on. It’s Goldman Sachs telling us this. The very same Goldman Sachs who like to pay out enormous sums of money to, er…employees of Goldman Sachs. So we should take the valuation with a pinch of salt. Actually, more than a pinch of salt. It’s the beginning of the end for Facebook. In fact, this whole social media thing is just a passing fad.

That was the central thesis of an article I read over the weekend. It was in Marketing Week, and it quoted an analyst called Douglas Rushkoff – who’s already accurately predicted the demise of Netscape and the failure of the AOL Time Warner deal. According to Rushkoff, social media is nothing more than a craze – a ‘party’ – and pretty soon we’ll all move on to the next big thing. The founders of Facebook may well cash in – just like the founders of MySpace did – but ultimately Facebook will be eclipsed, in exactly the same way that MySpace was.

Facebook – the story so far

Can all that be right? I decided to do some research of my own. Hard-hitting, empirically based, scientific research. I spoke to a friend who has a teenage daughter.

“On Facebook?” he said. “She’s got about 700 friends.”

Seven hundred? That was a staggering figure. “And she knows them all?”

“She claims to. Friends. Friends of friends. Friends from school that are at university now…Actually it’s really good in that respect. She has a far better idea of what to expect from uni than I ever had.”

“So how does she keep in touch?”

“On Facebook. Our phone bill’s about six quid a month. Told her I’d sent her an e-mail the other day. Looked at me as though I’d used a wax tablet…”

Less than ten years from now my friend’s daughter will be in the workplace. She’s grown up with social media. It’s how her generation communicates. No, she may not be using Facebook in the future – Mark Zuckerberg may well have cashed in his chips – but neither will she have jumped back into the tender embrace of good old fashioned e-mail.

The world is becoming increasingly digital – in the US sales of e-books have just outstripped sales of ‘normal’ books for the first time. And social media will be with us for the foreseeable future.

Twitter & Blogging

Let’s take Twitter as an example. You may snort in derision here, and tell me it’s stupid and whether or not Stephen Fry is brushing his teeth is of no interest to you. And I agree – partly. A lot of it is vacuous celebrity tosh. Thanks to Twitter I’m ashamed to say that I now know who Kim Kardashian is – what an indictment that is.

But behind the froth there’s a serious purpose. I find the ability to convey a short, sharp message (less than 140 characters) increasingly useful. There have been a couple of times when the first I’ve heard of something has been on Twitter. Yes, I’d like a British-based business version of it – but who says that a couple of years from now there won’t be one?

It’s the same with blogging. A great many blogs are dull, badly-written rubbish. But I am constantly amazed at how much valuable information you can find – at how much people are willing to share. And blogging is absolutely ideal if you want to keep your business in front of clients and potential clients…

So Mr Rushkoff may be right about the individual companies involved. But I think he’s wholly wrong about the phenomenon. I don’t think social media is going anywhere, and your business needs to embrace it. (If you don’t know where to turn, ring me. I know plenty of experts.)

Yes, of course the landscape in two, five, ten years from now will look very different – after all, five years ago Facebook had just launched its US high school version – but we won’t take a step backwards, any more than I’ll suddenly decide to drive a car without electric windows.

Never mind my friend’s daughter – I picked Dan up from football training last week. A couple of ten year old girls were coming out at the same time. “Catch you later,” I overheard one of them say. “I’ll be on Twitter as soon as I’ve finished my tea…”

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12 comments

  1. Caroline Anderson · February 4, 2011

    Very accurate I feel! My son is only 9, so I can hardly imagine what his workplace will include, but I am fairly sure social media will play a huge part.

    • edreidyork · February 5, 2011

      Thanks for your comment Caroline – I couldn’t agree more. My boys are both under 10 and their workplace will look very different from today

  2. Brian De Vere · February 4, 2011

    Made me smile- particularly as any time I come back from leave I see an inbox swimming in red. Must be a lot of people out there still using “wax tablets” !!!!!

    • edreidyork · February 5, 2011

      In that case Brian I’ll reply via the blog rather than email – nice to be wanted though, isn’t it?!

  3. Rich Cadden · February 4, 2011

    Do you remember the BT advert on TV afew years ago?
    It was 2 grumpy teenage school girls sat in the back of the car, not saying a word.
    The next clip is them both sat at home, in the comfort of their bedrooms almost talking in tongues, they were talking that frantically. That must have been way back in the early 1990’s (almost 20-years ago now!)

    Times have moved on…..
    The only constant is change…..

    I do 90/95% of my business via facebook.
    Most of my PT clients are between 15-35 so I am keeping my finger on the pulse with new social media coming out. At the end of the day you always have to be visable.
    I do not think FB is dying…..and I could hazard a guess that Goldman-Sachs may have a rival product coming out soon! Or maybe thats just me creating a story and being a bit cynical! 😛
    I do hear about people being a bit more selective about who they accept, but thats just being IT-savvy, but I think you have to embrace change, otherwise before you know it, you get left behind.

    • edreidyork · February 5, 2011

      Keep embracing change Rich, and let’s watch this space for Goldman Sachs’ rival product!

  4. Andrew Walker · February 4, 2011

    Predicting the next trend is a tall order but what I do know is that at a personal level Twitter works for me. We live in a world where we are all increasingly time pressured and may not even live in the same time zones as friends. The abilty to leave messages for multiple contacts who can read it when it suits them is pretty useful. The fact that the message is under 140 characters is great. I can’t remember the last time I phoned or emailed either of my brothers but I have a very good idea of what they have been up to this week.

    I suspect we have a good number of years to go before the party ends

    • edreidyork · February 5, 2011

      I should obviously be tweeting this back, shouldn’t I? I do secretly enjoy following some of the top sports people as there’s some great banter between them, which I’m sure wasn’t happening to the same extent LBT (Life before Twitter)

  5. Dave Rawlings · February 4, 2011

    My aversion can’t just be a generational thing. There must be many young people who need a lot of time reflecting – inside their own heads. Peer pressure to socialise ALL THE TIME must be hell!

    • Tom Morton · February 4, 2011

      LIke posting comments to blogs, you mean, Dave?!

      • edreidyork · February 5, 2011

        Very good Tom! Dave’s right, there should still be plenty of room for reflection, and I’m sure some kids feel they don’t get that because of the peer pressure to be connected all the time

    • Rich Cadden · February 6, 2011

      I think its the motivation behind WHY people are involving themselves in social media….
      Are they really seeking approval, socialising/swapping idea’s or are they selling idea’s/services?

      I think its using these as ‘tools’ rather than just spilling your private life all over the internet.

      Theres a lot of good advice out there, but theres also a lot of bad advice.
      SOCIAL interaction should be just that…..
      I think the internet/anti-social media is just an instant shop-window of your services, or maybe thats just how I am using this communication tool.

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