The Future of Social Networks has Arrived. And it ain't pretty…

The pundits love to write about the future of social. Some discuss segmentation, fragmentation, and targeting. Others dismiss the large social networks as not being as relevant in a mobile age. And others still believe in the future of Facebook for example, with a huge International base and lots of cash.

As a marketer, I view social networks as media. A different kind of media no doubt, as these networks are primarily based on user generated content, engagement, and social interaction. But I'm not the only one who views social as media, for the business model social is built on is advertising support – just like everything else that one can classify as "media."

Through this lens, I view Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn like the TV networks of old. They are the big fish, kind of like the "big 3." Thanks to John Malone and company, television has become incredibly segmented, as there are channels for every taste. Or in the case of advertising, every demo and psychographic they can reach with ads.

My contention is social is already following a similar path. There are already mid-sized channels such as Google + , Reddit, and Tumblr which by default have targeted audiences. And each of these is struggling not only with relevancy, but monetization, as advertising in social spaces is even less acceptable and harder to engage people with than on websites.

Then you've got the Kiks, Oovos, and Google Hangouts. If you agree social channels are based on user generated content, engagement, and social engagement than surely each of these passes the test.

Niche channels (or networks, take your pick), already account for where social is headed, and I don't expect this to change based on my definition. As people use Outlook, Google Hangouts, and Facetime to communicate, those too are distinct social networks with users who prefer to use them to communicate in a certain manner with certain social groups.

The difference between the channels of today and tomorrow with those of yesterday is simply around monetization, as it will be much harder for pure social plays, like say, Instagram, to figure out how to sell advertising that will not only be valuable to it as a company, but will valuable to its audience as well.

Which brings me back to the point of this post. That for the foreseeable future, I contend that social networks will become even more niche oriented, many of those private. And most of those will fail because unlike TV, these networks still won't have figured out how to monetize in a manner that will keep the doors open and the users engaged.

That's all I have to say about that.

What do you think?

5/20/13 - 1