Social Media Is a Diversion. Understand the Next Social Web.

A couple of weeks ago we hosted an event about: Social Design – The building blocks for creating business on the social web. This was during the Social Media Week in Copenhagen. Our focus on the event was that social is a lot more than just social media. The event was very succesful, including a presentation about yours truly – we had great talks by Anders Pollas (Podio) and Martin Ferro-thomsen (Conferize.com) – One thing that stroke me was the lively discussion afterwards, everyone was really curious and very willing to think outside the frames of the social media context and acknowledge that the web is bigger than social media.

Everything counts in large ammounts
Today, Marketers and communicators are hard at work looking to social media as a great new way to engage users in massive numbers. In social media numbers quickly gets big, because everything can be counted. So followers and likers are incresingly become the end goal in of itself. The current best examples circulating is the wonder that Mærsk line – the old and conservative brand, has crossed 750.000 likes on Facebook and is a smash hit on Instagram. (btw. Krafts Makeroni and Cheese have 1.5 million likes). Obviously it is interesting and great that so many people are sharing the Mærsk brand, however the real business value is yet to be found. And maybe that’s why it is working for Mærsk, it really doesn’t matter to business and so why not give it away.

Currently the hunt for the massive following and like in social media is blinding the real business value. That was to a certain extend one of the themes at our event. Companies are only in the early stage of the social web evolution, currently utilizing the power of the social part of web, in the much same way Tupperware used the livingroom as a media for promoting products to costumers – effective but fairly akward in the long run. Tip of the hat to Douglas Rushkoff for stating this, while leaving Facebook.

The next social web is about people doing things together in more easy and effective ways. 
In Socialsquare we have been calling this shift for some time. And we are seeing this shift comming along more and more profoundly. But let me be bold here: The current focus on mass in social media is a diversion. Just like the Dotcom bubble was a diversion of the “first” internet, the way we are investing in, approaching and using social media is a misfit. The dotcom burst was the natural consequence of overly high expectations and unrealistic high investments. But moreover it was due to a misconception of the web. we got to see that the web was not a “marketplace” like the one we knew, it was and is a different marketplace – a social marketplace. Now, people and increasingly corporations are starting to realize that the web is not a media, it is a different kind of media. In fact trying to understand the web, as a media is what is misleading us. The web is about people doing things together in more effective ways – it’s a web for and of human actions. A social web.

In the aftermath of the dotcom era, we started and era of seeing and developing the web as a social place, a democratized place for networks of people, customers, citizens and groups. We started experimenting with simple and scaleable technologies rather than overly complex and heavy IT systems. We saw the cost for accessing fell, allowing virtually anybody to set up pages and to create relations. We started organising knowledge and content in new ways via folksonomies rather than taxonomies. That age was dubbed web 2.0 – for better or worse – but what it really was was a breakthrough of a social and collaborative web – that we today to many people has been diverted into the notion of social media.

When the dotcom bubble bursted, we didn’t stop talking and thinking about the internet, in fact we started talking about it in a real sense. We started trying to understand what it really was and what it really could be – and where the true value was. This will happen with social media as well. This is not to say that platforms Facebook will crash and burn, but we are going to realize that what Facebook is doing well, is very easy and very effective to apply elsewhere. In fact Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are currently fighting a battle for the powering the next wave of the social web, where users are able to take their social graph with them in order to go into to niche communities and to enable new types of social products and service. So if we are to see the potential of the next social web here’s a few points for departure

Social web is enabling new marketplaces
Sharing and renting flats online wasn’t new, but Airbnb is great example of the current power of the social web to scale up a marketplace, by empowering users. What Airbnb has done right is using the social web to build trust and “security” between people who want to rent and people who want to rent out. This was hard to do before, trusting people on-line, but by designing a process that is social first, Airbnb has changed the business and created a viable marketplace, where everyone is winning. This social trend is emerging into interesting platforms like taskrabbit.com or Gidsy.com where people are able to connect and sell each other services like work or experiences. Connecting the marketplace is one core trend in the next social web.

Social web is enabling specific collaboration and sharing.
Podio is a great example of a social design that takes the social web a bit further. As Anders Pollas presented Podio is enabling a “facebook” like feature set to the workplace. But what is really interesting is that Podio also allows the user to design his or her own specific work apps – that pliability is empowering users and letting people build, create and mashup collaboration to the way they want or need is an interesting social web tendency. We can also see this in services like IFTTT.com that allows you to mix different data and services togehter to create interesting and usefull output.

Social web is enabling social filtering of content.
Martin Ferro-thomsen presented us with Conferize.com and the thoughts behind the concept that aim to disrupt and challgne the idea of what a conference is online. Conferize represents another social web trend – aggregate capturing, visualising and storing content from blogs, twitter, youtube etc. etc. around a social object: the conference. What kind of people, content and relations are shared, and how to get hold of it. Twitter is great as here and now media, but what about two hours later or next year. Social web is about aggregating and make create content valuable in a specific context.

Social web is enabling social products and services.
You wouldn’t call Spotify a social media, would you? No, It’s a social product or a social service that allows you access to content, but also access to freinds and peers that can help you navigate the vast amount of content that you have access to. Spotify or Rdio for that matter is obviously about music listning but is alos creating value by providing a layer of socialilty on top and by useing core “social design objects” like music lists where people can subscribe. Music lovers have always been making lists, Spotify just makes this easier and a more powerfull social object. What is particular powerfull is that social objects is build into the product and becomes a part of the experience.

Social web is connecting production, distribution and consumption.
While Spotiify and other streaming services are increasingly using the social web to create better experiences. But it can go even further. Take the example and succes of soundcloud.com as an example of what happen when both the production, distribution and consumption becomes digital and social. Facebook, instagram and other “platforms” has been extremely good at understanding by constantly decreasing the barriers between producing, distributing and consuming “sharing” content. But increasingly we are seeing this merge into. I’m writing this document in google docs, from which I also can collaborate, publish and distribute from the same tool.

Social web is enabling niche communities
Communites where around way before social media, well one could say that communities are as old as mankind. We have always seeked for the company and the help of each other. the social web is about communities that are in the niche. where passion and praxis drives the participants, where certain social rules and norms are created within the group. Social web is empowering a long tail of communities to form and scale. One fascinating example is the knitting community Raverly.com where over 3.000.000 users have signed up for collaborating about knitting. This has meant tremendous innovation within knitting, where it was once hard “to find the others” raverly is just example that the true “power” of the social web is the niche. Today there is no niche to small for people find each other around topics, praxis of interests.

I could go on but what do you think? Is social media a diversion? And are we going to see a return of the social web?