The Evolution and Maturing of Social Media

Written by Mark Michalek | Published on August 31, 2012
Tagged in Social Media

Recently I read some articles on the topic of the apparent social media bubble. There is some debate as to whether a true bubble exists. Some fear that social media companies are going to implode and billions will be lost, investors screwed.  Others say social media is a pretty vague term and every internet company seems to be thrown into the category of social. Many of them are separate entities with unique problems and benefits. This bubble is comparable to the rise and fall of a celebrity. The type of arc we love reading about in tabloids. Notions of growing too quickly, becoming unsustainably big leads onlookers waiting to see if Facebook will shave it’s head and attack investors with an umbrella.

There are some critics who say eventually most social media companies will go under. Perhaps they will not fully perish, but certainly degrade in influence and user engagement. They are a fad, and eventually something bigger and better comes along. Just ask MySpace. But rather than dismiss all of these companies as doomed and point to the lack of revenue or users slipping away I want to focus on the evolution of social media. How it has matured over its short lifespan. As it grows there are bound to be speed bumps along the way. Some will be more successful than others. Success will come down to innovation and adaptation.  Seeing what the world needs and wants and changing strategies to fill those.

The Social Media Stages of Maturity

If you think about it the growth of social media is much like a child becoming an adult. Let me take you through my metaphor with the social media stages of life.

  • Birth – Something new and amazing. It requires attention and sustenance to allow it to grow. We saw the baby boom of social media in the mid to late 2000’s
  • Toddler – During these years there is a period of great discovery. The whole world is new, there are all these interesting things around that we want to see, feel, and explore.
  • Child - As children we learn important life lessons. We are taught not to talk to strangers – thus privacy issues that make the news begin to see some attention from social media companies.  Our main focus as kids is to play. Games, socializing and learning is what takes up the majority of our activity.
  • Teen Years – Some very impressionable years. A lot of growth and development is experienced during this time. Lots of risk taking; there is change to how we look, and how we behave. Sometimes not everyone is a fan of how we change our look. We do foolish things that we are now embarrassed about.  Additionally brands become increasingly important. We start to publically display what ideals and things we believe in. Brands recognize that, and see an impressionable and aware audience. Like some teens some social media companies stay at this developmental level and never go far in life. Poor choices are made that affect their future success. They do not always think about the future and get stuck in their ways never moving on.
  • Unattached Young Adult – During these years is a time when “real life” starts. We start thinking about the future and start making responsible choices to become sustainable. Others choose to live up life to the fullest, have fun, do what makes them happy. This works out well for some, but not others. This can still be a time to take risks as there is no one invested in them, nobody to worry about.
  • Adult with Young Family – At is at this point some settle down. They continue to work towards their future. There are more responsibilities now and others to watch out for so it is not a time of risk taking.  Many proceed slowly and safely. It still can be a financially challenging time as they work to create a solid future for themselves and those invested in them.
  • Adult with Mature Family – At this point many have a comfortable living situation. They know who they are, and how to get through life successfully. They are able to make some bigger upgrades as cash flow is less tight, while others don’t need to make upgrades because they are already well established. More comfortable overall and can start to lead relaxed lives.

Final Thoughts

In the end this framework demonstrates a potential evolution for both a company and a person. There is however no right or wrong path. This is just one potential and/or common path. In general this framework demonstrates the growth and maturity a company can experience over its lifetime. Like a person, the choices that are made early on can affect their future.  Risks can yield great pain or great reward.  There is often a struggle to find a way to make money doing what you do best. In the current social media climate yes, some are struggling to find their way. That does not mean they have no future, they just need to figure out how to get there. The social media business is a new one. It has caught the attention of most people on the planet so clearly it has some kind of future. It just needs time to get through those awkward teenage years.

About the Author

While at University he spent his exam study time combing through Facebook pages and correcting people's typos with the accidental inclusion of the #number sign in their online posts. An avid photographer, video maker, and nacho enthusiast, Mark's passion for new media and traditional marketing make him the ultimate social media specialist.


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