Social media is finished

Social media's role in The Arab SpringSocial media is finished. It’s a bold statement I know, so before the backlash, perhaps I should clarify.

By saying it’s finished, what I’m referring to is the networks, infrastructure, tools and technology that underpin our activity on the web’s social spaces.

Within 30 seconds I can record and upload a video to YouTube for the whole world to see – becoming a broadcaster in an instant. I can create my own magazine or newspaper through blogging technology like WordPress and there are tools to curate, aggregate and share content – in effect, I can become a publisher.

I can even lend and gain finance through crowd-funding – bypassing banks in the process. Thanks to developments such as RSS and OpenSocial, even closed networks like Facebook have a degree of interoperability with other social networks, making it very easy to find and share content across different social spaces.

So the foundations of social media have been laid, the major architectural pieces are in place.

Arguably, the most powerful indicator that this is the case, is the step-change from social media’s use as day-to-day communication tool to facilitator of social change, progression and development. Social media’s role in The Arab Spring is well documented and likewise, there are real-life examples of it playing a vital part in the recovery efforts at natural disasters, such as the floods in Pakistanand earthquake inHaiti. If any further proof was needed, you know a technology has matured when you start to see Government bodies heavily use it – the fact that the Police in the UK are responsible for over half a million tweets a year is testament to this and I’m not talking about Sting & Co.

No more pieces of the  social jigsaw

I genuinely believe we won’t see the emergence of another fundamental piece of the social jigsaw. Of course, there will be new experiences, sites like Pinterest will come and go, but essentially they will be building on the same social layer that we have now. Over the last 10 years we have very successfully socialised the world’s information, and in turn it has helped socialise us. We’re more connected than we’ve ever been and social media’s presence has crept into all corners of society – young and old, businesses and consumers.

Can we see the high-water mark? Has social media peaked? Absolutely not. As explored at last year’s IBM Social Media Jam, there’s still a long way to go for companies work out its place in the wider business context and to uniformly work out how to effectively utilise these social tools. And it will be this that dominates the years ahead, rather than the development of a rival to Facebook, Twitter et al. The penetration of Facebook alone – currently standing at the cusp of a billion global users – is simply staggering and further cements how ingrained the established social platforms are in our lives.

This leads us nicely to the future. With the infrastructure developed, the first movers and smart minded are moving on. In the coming years a gaming layer will emerge on top of the world’s information, that will be every bit as sophisticated as the current socialised web. ‘Play’ will play a defining role in future social media strategies and begin to shape our online behaviour and interactions. We are entering truly exciting times.

Paul Doleman, CEO, iCrossing UK