The next big thing in social media

Reading that headline, you might think I’m about to tell you what the next big thing in social media is.

But I’m not. Because I can’t. Because I don’t know.

The Next Big Thing T-shirt from Monona Merch.

And if I knew, do you think I’d be sharing it on a blog, of all things? Blogging is dead, man. Wired told us so, way back in October 2008 (Twitter, Flickr, Facebook Make Blogs Look So 2004).

No, if I knew, I’d be tweeting it, or maybe flickring it, or facebooking it, or next-big-thinging it.

The funny thing about the next big thing, is that even the smartest people — the experts — have a pretty lousy track record when it comes to predicting what it will be. We’ve all seen those quotes from business leaders and inventors of the past who made bold predictions for their time that have since turned out to be so very wrong. Using our keen sense of hindsight, it’s easy to poke fun at those guys. But how good are we at trying to predict what technologies will stick? Two years ago, ReadWriteWeb‘s Emre Sokullu predicted that Joost would be all the rage by now. A little less than two years ago, RRW offered a top-10 list of future web trends for the decade of 2007-2017. And last month, Shel Holtz predicted in his podcast (podcast? really?) that AudioBoo could be the up-and-coming next big thing in social networking.

As a higher ed communicator who’s trying to find the right mix of media platforms to connect with diverse audiences and keep them informed about the goings on of one university, my head swirls when I think about the many avenues we’re using simply to accomplish two things:

  1. Connect with a broad range of audiences — from elementary school kids for summer camps to octogenarian and nonagenarian alumni; and
  2. Stay up to speed on the latest communications technologies in order to remain relevant to our constituents.

So when I think about the next big thing, I think about how we connect with our constituents. I think about how many of our alumni are using the mobile web, how many prospective students find our Facebook page useful, how many legislators actually see the news releases we email to them, whether anyone is paying attention to our university blogs anymore. I wonder about the time and money spent on traditional approaches — the quarterly alumni magazine, the printed admissions pieces, the save-the-date cards — and ponder whether moving more of these approaches toward a web-based platform would make sense, or whether simply adding a web-based or social media-based component to extend our reach, like tentacles of an octopus, is the right approach. And then I start thinking about the next big thing and wonder how much time and energy I should devote to investigating that.

Blog fatigue

What got my started on this post was blog fatigue. I don’t know if it has more to do with the time of year or a changing attitude toward blogging, but my interest in regular blogging seems to be on the wane lately. In my social media world, I tend to gravitate toward Twitter (where my network includes higher ed colleagues, online acquaintances in other fields of marketing and PR, some writers and musicians I follow, some students and alumni of Missouri S&T, and one sibling), then Facebook (where I connect with old high school friends and S&T students and alumni), and lastly, the higher ed and PR/marketing blogs that form the loose network that also, in the past two years, has spilled over into Twitter, and does so more and more these days.

If I had to rank my preference for social networks, I’d put Twitter first, with Facebook a distant second. Blogging (both the practice of creating posts and the act of reading others regularly) would come in dead last.

Maybe the guy at Wired is right. Maybe blogging is so 2004. Funny, then, that I didn’t create this one until 2005. Which further proves my point that I know absolutely nothing about the next big thing.

P.S. – I just created a Tumblr account. Maybe that’s the next big thing. For me, anyway.


Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

16 thoughts on “The next big thing in social media”

  1. Tumblr is the next big thing, then I was 18 months early to the party :( Oh well, friend me up anyways in case I come back!

    ‘Focus on the relationships, not the technology.” — Groundswell

    Glad that no matter what happens, no matter what’s the next big thing, we’re already connected via Twitter, Facebook and RSS so our relationship should progress to whatever new platform exists.

    And if all else fails, I’ll hop in my car and shoot 350 miles down I-70 to see how you’re doing. :) And heck, I might even blog about the trip, because that’d be really old-school. ;)

  2. Funny thing is that the NEXT BIG THING only matters to VCs, early adopters, pundits…. Most people are still thinking about starting a blog or maybe updating their Facebook profile. They aren’t thinking about Twitter. I’m amazed at how little attention real people pay to some of the tools that I like personally. I’m not a Facebooker–I have a profile but haven’t updated it in months. But I do like Twitter and I still appreciate blogging. Hope you don’t give up on blogging–your posts are thoughtful and provocative.

  3. Dr. Ho – Yes, Brad probably knows. He’s a pretty sharp guy. I don’t know much about his driving skills, but if he’s as connected to the Interstate highway system as he is to online systems, he’ll do just fine.

  4. Michael – You are right on: most people in the real world we’re trying to connect with don’t care much about Twitter (for example) or even Facebook. Sometimes I need to come up for air and get a reality check.

    I doubt I’ll give up on blogging. I have these slumps every now and again, and after a rant or two I get back into it for awhile (until the next slump), then the cycle repeats.

  5. I actually like to use Twitter to find good blog posts. However my approach to social media has always been backwards–adopting it for professional reasons first, then discovering its social value personal relationships second. Time to tweet this one…

  6. I’m kind of in the same boat as Davina. I tend to adopt “the next big thing” for professional reasons without paying much attention to the personal value of it. I joined Facebook strictly for professional reasons and ignored it for almost a year before I popped on and started using it personally. I’ve had a MySpace account for years, but have only logged in a handful of times (I still don’t see the personal value – or the professional value at this point of MySpace).

    I long blasted Twitter for being completely inane and pointless until I had to check it out for professional reasons. Now I’m addicted to the stupid thing.

    I do still read blogs on a very regular basis, following a handful through RSS feeds; checking aggregate sites like bloghighed; discovering new posts on Twitter and more.

    I sympathize with you about actually writing blog posts. I tend to go through cycles. For a while, I will have ten or 15 ideas for blog posts and will sit down and write them all out and schedule them to be published. Other times, I will go for weeks without a solid idea; feeling that it’s a major chore to try to post something worthwhile every other day (on the main blog to which I contribute, we try to keep a schedule of at least one blog post every other day; and I’m the only regular contributor at this point).

    Personally, though I am not “plugged in” to what’s going on in a lot of cases, I don’t think blogging is going anywhere for a while, still. The thing about blogging is that it does not depend on a specific platform or Web site in order to happen. Anyone can set up a blog and start rolling. They don’t have to sign up for a blogger account or a account or MySpace or anything else.

    MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, etc. may come and go, but the concepts behind those sites will live on for quite a while.

  7. My preference is for the occasional well-written, insightful and timely blog post rather than something that seems forced daily. I am highly selective in what I actually read as there is too much that crosses my path to give it full attention unless it’s somewhat unique.

    I am a voracious reader of SOME blogs, Facebook and only an occasional Tweeter. I have little time to pursue any regular relationship with most of the other social media outlets too numerous to mention.

    Bottom line, whatever I do has to have some functional purpose in my day or I move on to the next “big thing.” Usually the stack on my desk or the email (yes, that’s still here) inbox.

  8. Pretty sure the next big thing will be digital TV… or flying cars. After that, flying hybrid cars will be huge! But please remember I don’t even own a cellphone, so I might be off a few decades.

  9. OtherWebGuy – Good to know others feel the same about web posting. I’m in the same boat as you.

    Lori – Email will always be there. Ugh.

    Todd – You might be on to something with that digital TV prediction.

  10. Great string; agree with so many of the points above: preference for Twitter, streamlining the connection with constituents, blog slumps, maintaining focus on relationships, and the need for frequent reality checks. All the above reminds me that the true “next big thing” for me (and seemingly for some others) is an extra couple hours in the day. When that comes along, I’ll stand in line to get a whole lot of it.

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