A recently retired U.S. armed forces General was quoted on a national news show as saying he joined one of the online social media networks because he wanted to keep up with the younger generation and very quickly I had 4200 new “friends.” Other than vaporizing the meaning of “friends”, what was learned?
In his book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell, cites many examples of some average limits on humans when it comes to: easily remembering telephone numbers (seven digits), optimizing teamwork (150 persons per team), distinguishing tastes, touches or sounds (six), and maintaining close friendships (15). Gladwell also posits the phenomenon of immunity in mass communications – at some point the more pervasive a network becomes the more likely it is to engender immunity to it. In what might be called Gladwell’s Law of Inverse Effects, he says: “As a network grows in size, . . . it is also the case that the time and nuisance costs borne by each member of the network grows as well.”
In the case of telephone marketing, immunity responses to those costs include do not call lists, answering machines, caller I.D. and just hanging up! They have helped decrease the effectiveness of telemarketing by 50 percent over the last 25 years or so, according to Gladwell. And now it may be immunities to social media’s are incubating.
While it is a mix of functional and financial factors, each of the big social networks is having troubles. Writing for the Silicon Valley Insider, Benjamin Wayne says, “YouTube is soaring towards the future like a pigeon towards a plate glass window.” He projects a half-billion dollar loss for the video-sharing network in 2009.
Maria Russo asks in The Wrap, “With no buzz factor, low scores for ‘user trust’ in online surveys and a reputation as a hangout for disaffected teenagers, is MySpace still viable as a broad-based, come-one-come-all social network?” Om Malik answers in GigaCom, “Like an 80’s rock band MySpace’s time has come and gone.” Forbes writer Taylor Buley cites Facebook insiders as putting that network’s “burn rate” at $200 million a year. Meanwhile Twitter, coming off one of, if not the best, PR/Marketing campaigns of the year with the Ashton Kutcher, Oprah Winfrey ploys, is growing approximately 33 percent per month, according to ComScore.
Some columnists suggest that this short-form social networking may itself be an immunizing response to the personal costs of participating in the full-blown versions. Keeping it short and most often, too simple. For those who despair, there is consolation in a Media Publications report that checking the weather is the most popular app on smart phones.
And there’s this thought by Corey Treffiletti writing in Online Spin: “Just about everyone agrees that the next stage of the Web is a transition towards a customizable, distributed Web that no longer relies on mass audience destinations as much as it will rely on technology to tailor the remote experience to the individual user. But is it possible that this next stage will also transition from a two-dimensional experience of flat Web pages to a three-dimensional experience more akin to virtual worlds?”