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by Paul Kiser
USA PDT  [Twitter: ] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Skype:kiserrotary or 775.624.5679]

Paul Kiser

Blogging is about open discussion and the expression of opinion, so I hesitate to contradict someone’s blog; however, when someone titles their blog referencing ‘doomed’ with any aspect of Social Media it gets my attention. I am trying to help older professional adults understand Social Media and what it means to business and organizations like Rotary. Rotarians are sometimes hesitant to engage in Social Media tools like Facebook and Twitter because of irrational fears and a lack of good information.

Last week a blog was published by Gini Dietrich, who has the credentials to be knowledgeable in the field of Social Media and I do not call her experience or professionalism in to question; however her article called, “Creative Destruction: Why Facebook and Twitter May Be Doomed” requires a strong response.

Announcing the possible ‘doom’ two of the most significant tools in the digital world is clever because traditional media professionals and Social Media-phobs drool over anything that smacks of the end of the Internet and its place in civilized society. If I want to get a 10,000 hits on my blog this week, (and ongoing hits from Google searches,) including the words ‘doomed’, ‘Facebook’, ‘Internet’, and ‘Social Media’ would be one of the best tactics I could use. The problem is that the aside from pandering to those who remain firmly entrenched in 1989 thinking, Ms. Dietrich has little substance to support her dire prediction.

(Original blog by Gini Dietrich)

The blog focuses primarily on Facebook and the ongoing whining by non-Facebook users about privacy issues. Ms. Dietrich’s argument is essentially that the masses are ready to revolt and leave Facebook to ‘better’ networks that will be more restrictive to protect the user’s privacy. She goes on to suggest that Facebook and Twitter will be replaced just as they replaced earlier Social Media networking tools.

While every enterprise faces the same potential for creating its own demise, I strongly disagree that Facebook or Twitter may be ‘doomed’. Yes, users are a fickle group, but Friendster and MySpace were first-efforts in creating a comprehensive, open-networking Social Media tool and they had shortcomings that made them annoying (MySpace still does). It is true that Facebook and Twitter’s growth have been driven partly by capitalizing on the weaknesses of their predecessors; however, the major success of both was by bringing new people into the Social Media world with greater connectivity to quality users.

Dark clouds over Facebook?

Facebook attracted a larger segment of the population, including older users that suddenly became addicted to the connections that it provided. Today, even those who dislike Facebook have had a hard time detaching themselves from it because 540 million Social Media users cannot be ignored without sacrificing something significant. The problem is that another networking service may solve certain dissatisfiers of Facebook, but until everyone you know, or want to know moves to that service, you have to try to live in two or more networking worlds, and that is a pain. So a person has to weigh whether they are frustrated enough to add one more networking group to their attention span or live with Facebook.

Ms. Dietrich ignored the other possibility.  That instead of leaving, people may realize and accept that online privacy is a myth. I am constantly amazed by people who believe that they can be anonymous on the Internet. They think that a nondescript user name means that their identity is protected or that a comment they make will disappear the next day. I don’t disagree that there are some legitimate privacy issues and the FCC is proposing new regulations to address many of these issues, but a significant part of the problem is not a problem of Facebook’s creation, but of the gullibility of the user who thinks that they are ‘in disguise’ when they are on the web.

Regarding Twitter, Ms. Dietrich gave little reason for her ominous prediction. Yes, this year Twitter was having many problems with service failures and even I have said this is a problem that must be fixed, but in the 4th quarter I have experienced nothing but reliable service from Twitter.

Personally, I think I think most people have undervalued Twitter. It is perceived by many non-users as a network of celebrities and pointless dribble of ‘what-I-just-did’. However, the core of Twitter consists of people discussing cutting edge issues. It is the only service that brings together people around the world who are focused on one topic with searchable hashtags. If it can overcome its poor public image and be recognized for what it can do, it could jump from 100 million users to 500 million users in 6 months. It is more likely to be the center of business discussion than any other service out there. LinkedIn (started May 2003) is older than MySpace (started Aug. 2003) and it is has been leapfrogged by Twitter (started July 2006) with over twice as many users (41 million vs Twitter’s 98 million.)

The wanna-be replacements for Facebook and Twitter have one big problem.  Some of the very things that users say they want to protect them also restrict the connections that give Facebook and Twitter advantages in adding new users and making new connections.  If any networking service is doomed it is LinkedIn because it has such a complicated system to add new connections (How do you know this person?) that it renders itself irrelevant.

Yes, Facebook has made some stupid mistakes, but if everyone organization that made stupid mistakes was ‘doomed’ then Wal-Mart, Target, HP, Microsoft, Apple, Exxon, and thousands of others mega organizations are all ‘doomed’.

Will Facebook and Twitter be the giants in 2015?  I doubt it, but I don’t see any other Social Media tool that will challenge them in the next two years and is why my response to the suggestion of ‘doom’ is simply: Chicken Crap.

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