Opinion: The social media bubble will burst in 2014…

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… or thereabouts

When it comes to the social media bubble bursting, it appears the majority of communicators agree it is not a matter of if, but when.

My hypothesis is that we’ll reach that point in 2014, based on this view:

2010: The year everyone talked about social media marketing
2011: The year social media marketing becomes a regular way of life for forward thinking brands / orgs
2012: The year it becomes a regular way of life for all brands, but with some decent budget to support it
2013: A year of consolidation, budgets are finally about right, and it’s done more than talked about
2014: The bubble bursts – social media isn’t so special any more, it is actually seen as simply a part of the overall communications package…by everyone

The two questions I’d probably ask if I read something like that would be:

1. What is that thinking based on?
2. What does it mean for communicators and brands right now?

Let me address both.

Why 2014 and what it means now…

I’m not going to reel off a bunch of social media adoption statistics here, or tell you how many people will be blogging in 2014 because I think numbers like that are quite irrelevant.

I am going to base this on what I see happening in organisations right now, what my clients are telling me and how their set ups are changing.

While agency people have developed a serious case of Social Media Desperation Disorder (SMDD) in 2010, big business has been getting its head around how to structure themselves internally to do social media properly.

The major stumbling block hasn’t been that they don’t know what to do, but rather finding the budget to do it.

Marketing budgets are already stretched and social media, which was wrongly positioned as a cheaper way of communicating for most of 2009, is now being rightly seen by organisation as an investment in talented people, not platforms.

So, if my feeling on this is right, based on a combination of instinct and insight, brands and organisations have a very difficult choice to make:

  • A) Invest in social media now, so by the time the start of 2012 rolls around, they are equipped to reap the benefits and minimize the risk sufficiently.

Or

  • B) Wait another 12 months until budgets have more give, know exactly what direction to take, and then get your house in order.

The problem with option B is that timing is not a luxury that brands / orgs have.

What is the solution then?

It comes down to each individual business, none of which are the same.

Each has different products, margins, structures, people and most importantly, priorities.

Should social media be at the top of that priority list?

No, overall communications structure should be, because when the bubble bursts, robust social media solutions will simply be a part of what is expected from them, just like everything else.

Are you ready?

Adam

10 Comments

  • Reply October 10, 2010

    Paul Sutton

    Fantastic post, mate, and a very interesting take on the ‘bubble bursting’ scenario. Some bloggers I could name are making a very big deal of this, but without much in the way of reasoning. But your explanation makes a lot of sense.

    Timing-wise, who knows?! Could be 2014, could be sooner. Or it could be later. I also think it depends on what the likes of Twitter has up its sleeve, as there are actually very few platforms that are viable business models in the long term. Digg, for example, looks like it may go the way of Bebo in the next 12 months. There’s got to be a shakedown at some stage, and who knows what will remain?

    You’re quite right when you say that the choice of whether or not to invest in the social web is down to the individual business. From personal experience, I’d say that there are very few organisations (large brands aside) out there who are really throwing themselves into it. It’s all very, very tentative, and that’s frustrating for the likes of you and I who have big ideas and no money to spend on them. But I can’t really see that changing for another 12 months.

    I’d argue that by 2012 it’ll be too late to make an impact. The longer brands and organisations leave it, the harder it will be. But try and tell that to the man holding the marketing purse strings…

  • Reply October 10, 2010

    mike_mcgrail

    Hi Adam,

    Like the overall thoughts here but have to disagree that by 2012 it will be a way of life for all brands ‘with decent budgets behind it’ I think it will take longer than that before major slabs of budget is allocated across the board, and the fact is that many ‘brands’ will have no budget to allocate to SMM. I also think there is a whole load of education required before the swathes of lesser savvy brands see the benefits of re-allocating their quite possibly low budgets to SMM activity.

  • Reply October 10, 2010

    shanezj

    Interesting post Adam, I definitely agree it will become mainstream. However do you think evolution in technology could extend the life of the SM bubble? A newer platform that trumps Facebook or Twitter could change everything…all the same an interesting post

  • Reply October 10, 2010

    Adam Vincenzini

    I will take this up with you when we have dinner in a couple of weeks!!

  • Reply October 10, 2010

    Kerrymg

    Not sure if the bubble wil burst or just deflate. Much like every year since 1999 until this year was slated to be the ‘The Year of the Mobile’ and this year, when mobile internet has really taken off it’s almost been an anti-climax. I think by abou 2014 social media will just be media, a different type, with different rules of engagement but it will be just what we do.

    Rather as the great, late, Douglas Adams said “Technology is a word that describes something that doesn’t work yet.” Social media is a term that describes something that doesn’t quite work, yet”*.

    *I understand that I am laying myself open to many people stating maning examples of how amazingly Social Media works and has worked, my point, much like Douglas Adams’, is that it does not yet work ubiquitously.

  • Reply October 10, 2010

    Adam Vincenzini

    K, the last sentence in your first para was what I was attempting to say in my post…you’ve said it much more eloquently than I ever could…thank you! 🙂

  • Reply October 11, 2010

    Kerrymg

    I have one brief period of lucidity a day, seems I hit it on when I read your post 🙂

  • Reply October 11, 2010

    PRBristolblog

    It was 2009 when everyone talked about social media marketing, for example Twitter was the most used word in the English language. But fair enough in 2010 the phrase has become more mainstream.

    BUT social media marketing (people having conversations) has been going on for 1,000s of years, just off line. Coupons for example are an early form of social media.

    I think that it is dangerous to say that social media marketing will become part of the ‘communications package’, as people Tweet not corporations.

    Online communications, Wikis, Twitter or whatever the next buzz phrase in technology, will become part of the culture of an organisation and effect sales, customer service and product development, as well as marketing.

    The fact is that professional communicators like ourselves will no longer be the gate keepers of these communications. To be successful (and still be in a job) we must become facilitators of social media and empower employees to speak to our customers. After all we trust our employees to speak on the phone to customers?

    2014 for this watershed sounds about right.

  • Reply October 19, 2010

    Hughes PR

    Great read. Our PR firm already sees social media as a long term part of clients’ overall communications plans.
    Actually, the ‘bubble will burst’ sooner than 2014. Thanks for the post.

  • Reply October 24, 2010

    sarahrose

    I thought this post was very interesting because using social media networks for marketing and PR is something new for me. I’ve been hearing a lot about how companies won’t hire you if you don’t know how to navigate and implement new social media tactics. I’ve often wondered to myself if this new trend would continue to grow more important throughout the years to come or if it would eventually dwindle off and lose the importance it has today. I’m very interested to see what happens in the years to come but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if you were exactly right!

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