Today we have a guest post from Jesse Langley. Jesse lives near Chicago. He divides his time among work, writing and family life. He writes on behalf of American InterContinental University and has a keen interest in blogging and social media. He also writes for www.professionalintern.com.
Watching the evolution of social media over the last decade has been interesting to say the least. Forecasting the future of social media will be extremely difficult because past indicators haven’t proved to be useful for predicting much at all.
I was an undergraduate when Facebook emerged on the social media scene. At the time, nearly everyone I knew who was into social networking cared strictly about one social site: MySpace.
I was an English literature major who cared mostly about Jack Kerouac, James Joyce and tweed jackets in exactly that order, but I was smart enough to sense that social media would have huge implications for business, marketing and education.
At the time, the popular view toward social media was that it was the realm of a bunch of silly kids who should be engaged in more serious pursuits. And there was more than a little truth in that view. But I saw social media in its infancy as pure untapped potential, something that had the potential to affect nearly every facet of life.
This notion intrigued me and made me an interested observer and gradual participant. I never had a MySpace account, but some students in my sociology class were buzzing about this new social media site that had made its way from the east coast Ivy League scene. That was my introduction to Facebook. There were maybe five of us on campus with Facebook profiles and it was mostly used for campus gossip.
As Facebook evolved over the next couple of years, it gained a growing market share. Soon, MySpace had been reduced to a mostly music-related site. The prediction at the time was that as social media sites continued to proliferate, the social media landscape would continue to fragment. This seemed like a pretty logical prediction too.
After all, MySpace had the social/music scene to itself. Facebook catered to the purely casual social media segment. LinkedIn had the corner on the professional networking social space. When Twitter launched, it became the new media darling, but Twitter is designed to fulfill a rather limited function. So predicting a further fragmentation of social media sites that would all fulfill a basic niche role seemed fairly logical.
Enter Google+. Folks who pride themselves on forecasting social media trends don’t seem to entirely grasp the implication of Google’s entry into the social media arena.
All of the social sites that fulfill a particular niche have done well at it because their platforms accommodate doing one thing really well. Specialization lends itself well to social media fragmentation. We’ve never encountered a social media platform with the capacity to combine all of the various roles that heretofore needed multiple platforms.
Google+ may cause a paradigm shift in the way we view social media. Whether fragmentation gives way to a streamlining of all social functions on one social media platform isn’t dependent on Google+’s ability.
The potential is already there. The already overly hyped Google+ Circles themselves have the capacity to combine all the functions of a LinkedIn-like use right alongside of the purely casual social interactions.
The ability to follow on Google+ could perform a credible Twitteresque function too. The determining factor in whether Google+ will be able to walk away as the lone survivor of the social media wars depends on whether people understand its potential and jump on the Google+ bandwagon.
There are already very significant numbers of new Google+ users joining the site every month. If Google+ experiences the same meteoric rise that Facebook did, we may likely end up with one big streamlined social media site.
Follow Jesse on Twitter: @jesselangley