Do You Think Social Has Jumped the Shark?

Way back in April 2008, Paul remarked that Web 2.0 had jumped the shark, at least for him.

Image from Wikipedia

Image from Wikipedia

For the last six months or so, I’ve been feeling the same way about social, which is essentially analogous to Web 2.0, but more focused on applying social aspects to everything. I’m not alone in this belief; it’s shared by my ‘Lab partners and others (a good read).

This could be a reaction to my early adopter mentality, i.e. things are only cool and fun when they’re new and under-utilized, after people flock to them, I want to move on to the next shiny object. It’s a bit ironic that, ultimately, adoption of the stuff we evangelize drives us away from it, but frankly, that’s what we do as a so-called innovation lab. We chase shiny objects.

Rich told me today he was contemplating deleting his Facebook account. The reasoning is obvious. Too damn noisy and not very useful anymore. I wish him luck, since there are long-standing issues with completely erasing yourself from Facebook. Plus, apparently, they now give you a guilt trip.

The onrush of people to Facebook and Twitter has created an enormous amount of noise, spam and security risks. I haven’t used Facebook much since they were invaded by zombies and vampires well over a year ago, and my Twitter usage has slowed down to occasional retweets and @replies.

Security risks make me increasingly uneasy, especially with Facebook, since it includes so much personal data that can be used to hijack people’s identity. At the same time, if you take a look at Facebook’s privacy settings, securing your account while maintaining a semblance of transparency is an undertaking. I figure it would take me several hours to comb through my list of friends, organize them into lists, and tweak the privacy settings just the way I want them.

This shouldn’t be a surprise, since it’s in Facebook’s interest to encourage people to share. They have reached a critical point where the design of their privacy settings is too complex for the average user, which, I hope, will prompt a redesign. Seems doubtful though.

Twitter’s problem is more noise, since they are, by default, not private at all. Twitter’s success is driving Facebook to be more open, which can only end in tears.

Paul, the king of one-liners, has declared that social is “dead to me”.

I’m feeling the same way with a caveat. We’ve become a product team, which takes away from the lab work, and even though everyone is into social now, I’m looking ahead to the practical applications of the data we’ve collected in two years.

Now that we have a large data set, we can start investigating the next phase of social: reputation and reporting.

Reporting sounds a bit antiseptic, so maybe it’s better described as social analytics, e.g. comparing engagement and participation with connections, tracing the usage pattern of people in different organizations, correlating top-down announcements vs. viral adoption among small teams, tracking geographical patterns, etc.

You know, the interesting stuff beyond pure metrics.

Paul discussed some of this at Defrag last year, and he’s been noodling it for quite some time. From what a few commenters have told me, the consumer web is moving this way too.

Building interesting reports and reputation into the social platform is the next evolution for social. Now, if only we could spend more time on it.

So, are you fed up with Facebook and/or Twitter? If so, why? Or maybe we’re just being annoying early adopter types?

Sound off in the comments.




  1. Yeah (…). When your parents are on Facebook it's time to move on. When your granparents on it, it's time to tell your parents to move on. I still get a good bit of mileage out of Twitter – mostly as a filter for info on stuff I'm interested it, 'though I've practically ceased blogging, which really is dead for me, not having a beard (…) or being a edgy arriviste social media “guru”. iPhone? Hero HTC is where it's at.

  2. Funny, that was when FB hit 60 million, and they've just admitted to 250 million, although speculation says it's closing in on 300.

    Blogging remains relevant to me b/c I control it, and there's a record of what I say, in case I need one.

    Twitter is becoming a wasteland of annoyances. My only real value is for communication now.

  3. Yep, social networking is so yesterday. The only site I'm on now is LinkedIn, and I actually don't see the benefit any more. In fact, being happily employed, I've never seen the benefit. I still blog, of course. 🙂

    I just bought a new 5.1 surround sound speaker system. It took more time than was reasonable to narrow down my choice, especially given the vast number of reviews out there. The trouble was the difficulty in figuring out which reviews to trust.

    Hey, this sounds like a reputation system…

  4. Security is definitely a concern with FB, especially after going here per Mr. Topper's tweet. Then, ironically, allowing the application access. My information didn't disturb me all that much, by my friends information included? WTF is up with that?

    I can't conceptually wrap my head around the reputation system yet, so I won't argue that it's a better paradiggem.

    SM jumping the shark though? Stop it. It's just getting started. Yeah it gets loud and noisy, but you just change the channel. I don't use FB much anymore, but it is nice to catch up once in a while with old friends. I follow about 100 people and trim that list once a month or so but my completely unobjective “annoyance” factor.

    Perhaps the phrase describing it has jumped the shark, but really? Never in our history have we had access to so much in such a short period of time. It will take a while (relatively speaking of course) to learn how to filter it.

    The ability to catch up with old friends so easily will not go away. Whether it is FB or someone new.

    The ability to get help on work related stuff so freaking easily will not go away anytime soon.

    The ability to get free stuff will not go away anytime soon (but it will get harder I am sure).

    That's what SM is to me. I don't connect with just anyone just because. I don't follow people just because they decide to follow me. I don't accept all friend requests on FB.

    It's in our control. Especially us…as we have a better understanding of how to navigate the security aspects you speak of. A redesign would be nice (of FB). I love simplicity. Perhaps FB has just gotten to big? They're trying to solve problems for everyone…but I digress (sorry).

    No, SM hasn't jumped the shark. It's just evolving.

    BTW, can I get in on that social analytics stuff? That has to be some pretty cool data.

  5. I never got on the Facebook bandwagon, mainly because I got so tired of all the hoopla and hype around it a couple of years ago. (After that came the security hazards, CIA-is-watching-you warnings and the rest of the tinfoil hat headaches, so there was even less incentive to join.)

    Twitter is (still) nice, mainly as a news and opinion aggregator from people of interest. It seems this idea hasn't catched on yet everywhere, most of my friends (technical or otherwise) still think it's only about people reporting on eating a cheese sandwich. Following on keywords or hashtags is becoming quite useless due to the amount of traffic, especially on popular topics (searching on #michaeljackson during the funeral was quite amusing).

    A while ago I started to write a blog post about how the novelty value of social media has worn off but couldn't bother finishing the post (oh the irony).

    Are we in the hype cycle's Trough of Disillusionment, or already farther than that?

  6. If a given service continues to provide value, it will persist. Facebook, Twitter, etc can be noisy but I find that I can make sense of the noise through various filtering methods. At the other end of the spectrum, I enjoy the real time searching and zeitgeist that Twitter enables — which basically culls information from noise. And now you guys are investigating deeper analytics. If you don't find value in social media, why do you blog, tweet, etc? 😉

    While the mainstreaming of social media may cause it lose some of its sex appeal – I don't see it going away. TV has been around for a while — it didn't exactly go to pot.

    Fun, shiny-thing chasers will continue to do just that. And because of it, social media will continue to evolve. Evolution, evolution, evolution, revolution…

  7. Yeah, reputation makes social useful b/c a) you know who people really are and what they, unlike forums, and b) you can measure them against others and apply trust or not.

  8. The problem is that FB is too big, and Twitter is getting that way too. FB's size is reflected in their gnarly privacy settings. The post I linked above has some interesting points, chief among them, sometimes reconnecting isn't all that great.

    I think we're having an introvert vs. extrovert argument here. I know there's value in social, but I want to mine that value now. Ideally that will help me tone down the noise too.

    You're right though, we're just at the beginning, so it's early.

  9. It depends on the person. We may be feeling like the party's over, but the bell curve is just catching the wave. This is the best time to mine the data and use it, shortening the hype cycle.

    It's tough to keep everyone engaged. That's a problem that few have solved.

  10. I blog because I control it, the noise level, the content, and it also provides a record. As I mention, I've been using FB much less than a couple years ago and Twitter less recently. It's not that I don't find *any* value; it's just waning as the noise increases.

    You don't agree that, especially in the enterprise, analytics and reputation add tons of value to the steam of information coming out of social systems?

    That's the next evolution. Not more bells and whistles.

  11. it sounds like you lack focus and follow-through. the point of a tool is to use it to your advantage, not to admire how shiny it is

  12. If you read here, you'll know we've been investigating this space and working with social platforms internally and externally for several years. I think that's a good indicator of focus and follow-through.

    I understand the point and the advantages. In fact, I'm trying to find new ones, e.g. analytics and reputation, to enhance the tools.

    Social has reached a point of diminishing returns due to noise, but since I still think it's useful, I'm trying to find ways to make it more valuable.

  13. So would you say that if you could more effectively filter out the noise, that you would be better able to harness the value of social media?

    I don't Tweet a lot (I'm more of a consumer), but I like the ability to create TweetDeck groups and populate them w/ people that mainly tweet in a given genre and have good reputations. Also I find value in tracking topics on Twitter over time and the zeitgeist paradigm (in multiple levels of a hierarchy perhaps.) Strategies like this help make Twitter less noisy for me.

    And I fully agree with you. Social media is growing in the enterprise but its uptake may slow unless we can make better sense of all the data being spewed at us. Therefore, it's critical that more emphasis in social media software be placed on making sense of this spew. I like where you're going with filters, analytics, reputation, etc and am interested in the discusion forward.

  14. Totally, I think reputation is the next step to filtering. I also use TweetDeck for the same reasons you do. Its groups have always been a major win for me.

    Analytics are for the community manager/development team to understand what engages people. We have a lot of data, and it's high time we use it for something.

    The plan is to move on these twin tracks, but you never know what will happen.

  15. I knew FB was coming to an end for me the first time I clicked “Hide” on one of the people on my friends list. I still check in more often than I should, given the S/N ratio, but the bloom is definitely off the rose. I still value FB as a means to keep tabs on geographically dispersed family and friends in busy times, though. Kind of like RSS for relationships. Still digging Twitter, though the pr0n follower pruning is getting old. Maybe I'm just a step or three behind the early adopter curve, and w/in a few months I'll have abandoned FB and Twitter, and wondering what the next thing is. *shrug*

    Reputation is a hard (and interesting, funny how that works) problem. Seems to me that you need a bounded community to make it work at all (e.g. OTN, StackOverflow), which leaves out big social properties like Twitter/FB. Or maybe I'm just not thinking far enough outside the box.

  16. Totally agree about bounded communities, which is why reputation should really cut its teeth in the enterprise. Forums do a decent job, but there are other criteria to consider beyond mechanical answering of posts.

    Trust is key. Another one of my broken record musings.

  17. I'm in the same boat regarding FB, Twitter and LinkedIn – strictly in a very light maintenance mode. Even blogging takes an act of willpower these days…too much noise, too little value, mostly because too many people selling too much crud have joined in. Also searching for whatever may be next.

  18. Excellent observation, the spam, security and broadcast of content has made it very tough to filter out useful information. Part of the problem for me is effort. I know I can use lists in FB and groups in TweetDeck, but maintaining those requires effort I'm not willing to spend.

    It's a tough problem to fix though. Have a look at FB's privacy settings if you want an example.

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