Published on March 31st, 2011 | by charliesaidthat12
The Social Media Platform Lifecycle (Part I)
This is the first in a series of several blog posts I have planned to discuss the lifecycle of social networking platforms. I decided to publish this after several conversations I had this week, stemming from a tweet I sent at Social Media World Forum (below) that got retweeted over 50 times.
Don’t build everything on Facebook. Whilst it seems unassailable now.. It’s just like Myspace 5 years ago. Platforms change. #smwf
This post is an overview of social media platform lifecycle. It’s borne of traditional marketing theory and it’d be great to further the discussion here.
What we can learn from social media’s (brief) history.
There is a common social media lifecycle emerging, and it looks pretty similar to traditional product adoption and product life cycle theory.
Based on: Diffusion of Innovation, Rogers, E (1962). & Product Life Cycle, Levitt, T. (1965)
Diffusion of Innovation / Network Adoption
Diffusion is the communication process that a new social network is introduced and (possibly) accepted by the public. The rate of diffusion relates to the speed that the new idea spreads from one consumer to the next and is therefore vital in understanding the growth of social networks (and “viral” videos etc.).
The adoption process is evident in social networks across the board. Quora, saw an explosion of users earlier this year by creating an intuitive interface allowing users to import their friends from their other social networks, meaning they skipped from innovators to early adopters very quickly.
As marketers, we should all understand the power of targeting marketing messages to innovators and early adopters. These are the most influential 15% of people that care enough about your product or service to spread it to their friends.
Product Life Cycle
A social network is developed and eventually launched; it grows, and at some point, may die.
The shape of its life cycle is based on how quick it’s adopted and how much market penetration it has. Whilst it’s clear there are exceptions to this theory, e.g. some platforms will be able to adapt and alter their life cycles through innovation, most tend to fit the following lifecycle model.
The Social Media Lifecycle
- All good social networks start with a simple core premise which usually serves a niche well.
- It generates buzz and creates hype around the service.
- Good coverage and word of mouth spurs growth.
- Growth tends to mean widening the appeal of the service to more than the intended niche.
- Quicker growth is a by product of widening appeal (services are often jumped upon by spammers at this point).
- Saturation and stagnation can set in, meaning users can become bored of the service.
- This in turn causes concerns in core users, often based on spam or lack of focus but could be privacy concerns or just the service is no longer cool.
- This will cause people to start looking for alternatives, whether they are “cooler” or more suited to their needs.
- If there is an alternative, a mass migration of users is likely.
- At this stage, a social networking site must innovate, adapt or face death.
Expect and Adapt to the Unpredictable
In late 2006 when Myspace reached 100million users, few people would have imagined that only 5 years later in 2011 Facebook (or any other service) would have over 6 times the number of users than Myspace had at its peak.
But it does.
Are you putting all your social media eggs in one basket?
So what does this mean for Social Media Marketers?
We need to keep our ears to the ground and our eyes peeled. The digital landscape is shifting everyday and social media lifecycles will go on with or without us.
So ask yourself are you…
- Living a digital life outside and beyond your dayjob?
- Embedding yourself in the communities you are a part of?
- Keeping on top of trends?
- Filtering the right content to avoid an information overload?
- Listening to the concerns of our communities?
- Fixing those concerns where possible?
- Passing on the concerns of your community to people who can fix them?
As the platforms must evolve constantly, so must you. Keeping on top of this is the basic requirement to be a social marketer. Over-reliance on platforms is not a long term strategy, understanding your community is.
Are you a social media marketer? or a social media platform marketer? And what do you do to keep ahead of the social media lifecycle?