Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Surfing the Next Wave of Social Media

The tide of social media, which swept in as the recession was hitting, has recently receded a bit.  Some of the mighty waves of expectation and overblown rhetoric have crashed on the rocks of media reality. Here are a few data points among the flotsam and jetsam:

Your humble blogger heard Harvard professor Nick Christakis in a webcast of the Healthways Wellbeing Summit (select his session to view) the other day taking about influence.  Note to event people:  the setting was interesting; a conference seemly staged more for internet broadcast/replay then as a self contained event.  The production was TV-like with two cameras actively zooming in and out and panning across the scene.  The set was more elaborate than the typical conference set and TV-style audience, small but animated was sprinkled around the room in couches and easy chairs, probably because the numbers were lower than originally expected.

One of Christakis’s topics was the relatively weak influence of internet networks vs. “real networks.”  Online networks have the most influence when they reinforce relationships which also exist off-line, according to Christakis.

The moral neutrality of networks was another topic Christakis touched on, asserting that “networks magnify whatever they are seeded with.”  Evil ideas can be transmitted as effectively as good ones according to Christakis, in contrast to the many apostles of social media who give it some kind of crowd (mob?)-sourced moral superiority.

The number of households with TV’s in the US declined for the first time since in 20 years. Nontheless Americans jumped from the little screen to the big screen upon learning of the recent killing of Osama Ben Ladin in Pakistan.  President Obama got the biggest TV audience of his presidency for his announcement of the raid that resulted in Ben Ladin’s death.

The New York Times reported yesterday about the next wave of social networking services for smaller more specialized networks most notably Path which raised $11 million in VC money and GroupMe which raised $10.6 million.  According to the report these services “do a better job of mimicking offline social networks” than Facebook or Twitter.  Your humble blogger has opined before that access to capital is a profound competitive advantage for an early stage company – we can expect to hear more about at least these two.

Meanwhile LinkedIn is hoping to raise $274.4 million in their IPO announced Monday According to the NYT, the major VC investors are holding on to their interests which means the “smart money” thinks the best is yet to come at least for the big players in the field.

So while the tide has receded, as they say in the earthquake zones, don’t run down on the beach, the really big waves could still be on the way.

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