When you read a news story about social media or come across a job posting for a 'social media expert', chances are the tools of social media will be front and center.
Twitter, Facebook, MySpace. If you had no exposure to social media, you'd probably assume that these popular services were the end all and be all of social media.
With the rise of 'open platforms' on the web, particularly on popular
consumer-oriented services like Facebook and Twitter, it's never been
easier for individuals and small upstarts to get their applications in
front of millions of consumers quickly and efficiently.
The appeal of open platforms is easy to understand: instead of having
to deal with the dreaded chicken and egg challenge most new consumer
internet upstarts have to contend with, you can leverage the existing
userbases of popular services.
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube. These are but a few of the services many of us have come to enjoy.
Yet there's one thing that seems anything but enjoyable about them: dealing with their customer service.
What is a 'social media expert'? What qualifications does one reasonably need before being paid to assist businesses with social media campaigns?
Despite the fact that there are plenty of self-proclaimed 'social media experts' out there, these are two questions for which we don't have good answers.
Here's an obvious but sometimes forgotten social media factoid: the most successful services of the past several years have been created by upstarts.
Microsoft, Yahoo and even Google? They haven't had much luck building a homegrown success. The big names in social media, from Facebook to Twitter and MySpace to YouTube, were all created by little guys.
Facebook is already pretty open. Its developer platform enables developers to build applications that leverage Facebook users' 'social graphs' and its Connect API gives developers the means to 'connect' their websites with Facebook.
But, perhaps in an effort to compete with the service Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg can't have (Twitter), the social network is set to become even more open.
Social networks are so intriguing to marketers because they represent the internet equivalent of a popular hangout, thoroughfare or stadium.
If you're looking for eyeballs, social networks like Facebook and MySpace have no shortage of them. But eyeballs don't always equate to revenue, or ROI, and capitalizing on them has proven hard for marketers and social network owners to do.
The current state of the financial markets has made it very difficult for startups to go public. Even startups with significant revenue and bright futures have no guarantee that they'll be able to go public anytime soon.
The dismal IPO market is taking its toll on venture capitalists, who invest in companies that they expect, if successful, will be liquid within some years.
As Facebook's unbelievable growth continues unabated, the company is increasingly finding itself scrutinized by critics who are asking a simple question: 'where's the money'?
Even though Facebook is generating hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, its costs are growing rapidly and there are various unsubstantiated rumors that the company is on a potentially disastrous financial path.
It used to be that you do a decent job of protecting your brand by registering the domain names that incorporate your brand name.
Not anymore. Thanks to social networking sites and other online communities, consumers are increasingly interacting on third party services that have become targets for brand hijackers, impostors and opportunists. Their MO: snap up usernames that are related to major brands (and prominent individuals).