The Future of Social Media Sites and Social Networks

by Jason Boom on August 21, 2008

I sat down to think about this question, “Where will social media sites be in five or ten years?” Following are my ramblings. I’m not an expert on social media or social networks, but thought I could tackle the question. I’d love to hear from you as well.

Will it take twenty years to really see a difference in social media sites? Do huge leaps in technology take place overnight? Ten years ago, Fark, Digg, and most other sites were mere twinkles in their developers’ eyes. Ten years from today we may see one large social networking site and other social media sites all combined. It will probably come down to who buys out who.

Then I read what Charlene Li said in her Future of Social Networks post.

There are four components of what I’m calling this idea of “ubiquitous social networks”: 1) Profiles; 2) Relationships; 3) Activities; and 4) Business models…But in the context of ubiquitous social networks, they will develop into the following: 1) Universal identities; 2) A single social graph; 3) Social context for activities; and 4) Social influence defining marketing value.

Sites like friendfeed, ping.fm, and socialthing.com really intrigue me. These are social media sites that revolve around other social media sites. It could be the future of the beast. They may continue to roll-up other social media sites, becoming the destination themselves. In the future these sites will have so many sites for you to connect, you’ll not want to leave their convenience. Again, it’s really a matter of which company buys out the others.

Charlene’s four components would be active in one large network, giving companies like big telephone companies a way to engage customers, knowing far more about their end-user from profiles through the MegaSpace than they ever did before. Cable companies could use the profiles to create user specific programming guides, directing commercials to individuals. It will likely mark the end of privacy.

So where do all the voting, profile, community, content driven sites lead us? A lot depends on the future of the internet. Will it remain open? Will the next generation build better, faster communication channels?

Take Note of Real World Businesses

To what extent we communicate and interact depends largely on how far into the future you want to go. Ten years from now, blogs will be a school project, an English final, a marketing challenge, and on everyone’s mobile phones. RSS feeds will come directly to mobile phones. It’s almost there now.

Ten years is a long time. In that time, it’s likely Facebook and Myspace will become the Walmarts of the online world. They’ll provide everything we need at no cost. These companies will only be challenged by those that begin to question the formula of the sites. How could they do it better?

And How Could Social Media Be Improved?

Social media sites have this malleability to them that other sites cannot capture. A twitter user can connect and communicate rapidly with hundreds of individuals, while a static site can only present information in one fashion. Sites like Digg move in one direction one week (Batman) and completely reverse content emphasis the next (Obama).

At this point, online publishers generate millions of pages of content a day, likely in an hour. Users churn out blog posts, videos, reviews, podcasts, and submit it to Digg, SU, or Del.icio.us. The web opens up its jaws and seemingly keeps opening wider for all this content to come rushing through. At times, it clamps down on a particularly fascinating piece and everyone gets a taste of it. It becomes popular and within time has been viewed by millions, even tens of millions, of users. The real challenge will be to streamline new content to users in the most efficient way possible.

Many of the popular sites today handle this quite well. Digg has user generated submissions with voting up or down. Twitter has conversations and content flying everywhere. But what could a site do to capture content, categorize it in a new way, and/or present it to the user in a different fashion than has already been accomplished? Can a social media network link together, simplify, and aggregate content to the end user without losing touch without sacrificing the good?

Social Media Networks Will Be One Giant Network (or Two)

It’s safe to say someone will get bought out. Myspace, Facebook, Friendster, Hi5 — one of them will faceplant into the lap of a rival. It’s going to happen. Then like two twisters merging they will lay waste to the remaining networks, until eventually the future will have become a single network with many cogs.

So the future will likely be one large network shared among many different media platforms. Our profile will regulate what food our refrigerator orders from the online grocery store, what movies get downloaded to our entertainment room’s computer, and where the nearest coffee shop with our brand of beans can be found. It will be a world marked by invididuality and pushing the boundaries of privacy. It wont’ be Orwellian, if we remain vigilant.

About the author

Jason Boom Jason writes not only about himself in the third person, but also about marketing, site building, SEO, and other topics related to marketing online. He's been an avid fan of blogging since the early days of Blogger. You can connect with Jason (me) on Twitter and Google Plus.

{ 6 comments }

MoneyEnergy August 24, 2008 at 11:59 pm

Perhaps…. but in a way I think the whole social media phase will come and go on its own, too…. it seems large, like a big deal, but the popular fuss around it is a bit “water cooler” to me. There will always be some form of social media (films were once the dominant form, TV is, the internet itself is and was long before Facebook et al). It’s a bit like fashion.

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BlackhatWay August 25, 2008 at 8:09 am

Interesting toughts. We’ll see what they will be in a few years.. At this time I like social networks as the way they are.

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Stephan Miller August 25, 2008 at 11:18 am

I tend to see the big social sites as Walmart. I can pick up a Revereware pan there, but if I want professional grade, I go to the stores focused on cookware. There will always be room for those that don’t appeal to the lowest common denominator.

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lvs August 26, 2008 at 4:53 am

I think the next wave of social networking will involve multimedia. Virtual and real worlds will come together on the net. So we may have virtual coffee bars on the net where we would visit and hang out and most of our social networking will happen in such environments will effect that involove full sound, video and graphics.

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mike August 26, 2008 at 11:38 pm

Jason, I think you neglected one of Li’s comments: “Social influence defining marketing value”. The main purpose that VC funding is received is on the basis of future financial value. Therefore, the underlying criteria for every funded site has to be monetary gain. How does a social site accomplish this?

My belief is through social centres. Individuals or groups of individuals that have influence over others. Typically those with large social networks have a greater persuasion mechanism and influence capability – therefore enabling marketing to go to those individuals and reaching a wider audience. The next immediate step I would take would be to market to “big name” social networkers – those with hundreds of contacts (sure there are some that just add people, but there are still a lot out there with huge networks) — and charge a premium to market to them.

In terms of the social cloud, fragmentation will always win out in the end because of hitting the target market. Now, a site like facebook may enable fragmentation (they do in a way through networks and enabling only certain groups to see certain individuals) – but in the end consumers want to be fragmented (look at television or the different types of news sites). I really believe that a few corporations will take over and merge many of the sites, but remain fragmented in terms of contact (I don’t want my linkedin contacts looking at my facebook profile).

just my $0.02

Dave (The Other One) August 27, 2008 at 4:22 pm

When I started creating websites back in the early 1990′s everybody was crazed about VRML which essentiall would have been the virtual coffee bars, etc that you speak of. Somehow, VRML vanished into thin air at the beginning of the first dot com boom when everybody was focused on data aggregation. The Web2.0 boom has brought back some of those virtual dreams however, it’s still a long way away,

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