YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. All are in the press these days and if they are not part of our lives yet they probably soon will be. So how do they fare when judged against "what makes a successful social site"? Let's have a read:
Social sites have been around for some time now. And in that time I have had a chance to observe some fairly standard activity that either leads to success or obscurity for social sites. Keeping things simple, there are 3 phases that a social site needs to survive and there are 3 groups of people that will help to make or break it.
- Fad and Frenzy -- everybody jumps on board. Vampire bites and hours of endless surfing with no real point or reason. This is a very important phase for a social site.
- Get Real -- Rapid fall off of people as they realise that they are completely wasting their time on what seems to be a senseless and all consuming past time. Use and tools need to get sophisticated to retain interest.
- Strong and Stable -- Innovation leads to value. People recognise useful tools and ability to make time work for them and not take time from them.
- Time wasters -- These are usually the first on an application and the last to leave. With hours of endless time to waste, they are usually the ones that push the next group off because of persistent annoying behaviour.
- Convince me -- These are the people that tentatively join after a bit of coaxing but do not get caught up in the craziness and drop off quickly. However, these are the core group that will return if the app makes it to the 3rd phase.
- Innovators -- These are the people that see the future. They transcend the silliness and ego that drives social sites in the first two phases and can recognise the long term potential. They develop the apps that turn a "waste time" app into a valuable tool.
Three very well know social media apps are YouTube, Facebook and the up and coming Twitter. Each of these represents various stages of the 3 phases.
YouTube (no success yet) was the most promising. With its explosive launch and unique offering – VIDEO, YouTube set the world ablaze with imagination. YouTube provided us with a new world of choices, new ways to share and hours of good fun. YouTube enjoyed one of the most explosive Fad phases of any social media application to date. However, since that time they have not been able to transition to the Strong and Stable phase. YouTube has not come up with a solid business model that provides long term profitability. My comment to my clients is that YouTube is a good platform for them to host their videos free of charge. But it is lacking as a good marketing tool and their poor search capability and overwhelming amount of content makes it almost impossible to use with out additional help outside YouTube. Without the deep pockets of Google supporting YouTube they most likely would not be able to continue. The cost of supporting their services is too prohibitive without a legitimate revenue model.
Facebook, despite the occasional bad press, is a poster child for success. It grew at meteoric speed and then faced intense pressure to retain viewers. Exhausted by vampire bites and inane gifts, the “convince me” group started to leave in droves. What made Facebook greatly successful is that the Innovators were able to see long term value in the deep connections that Facebook allowed. This ability to manage connections whether they are friends, events, social media or virtually any other had huge value. Facebook matured into a good personal management systems. With its attention to small business and organisations, it opened itself up to limitless content creation. The ability for individuals to filter and minimise unwanted communications makes it very attractive. It is almost impossible to eliminate spam from your email, but with Facebook you only see what you want.
Twitter is the up and coming new Social App. The hype is huge and people are logging on and jumping off in droves. However, the innovators have clearly identified Twitter as possessing great potential. The question is will Twitter successfully make it through the final Strong and Stable phase? I am betting it will.