What’s Next in Social Media

Few people know as much about social media as Shel Israel, fellow Forbes blogger and author (with Robert Scoble) of Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers. During a recent chat, Israel identified four trends to watch in social media. Here’s what’s coming next.

Social media as mass media. Marketers originally disdained blogs, says Israel – too rowdy, too anti-establishment. Now they’ve gotten with the social media program and “are trying to embrace and control it.” The result? “Right now,” he says, “blogs are overwhelmingly in danger of becoming crap.” As with any mass medium, the sheer quantity is making it hard to locate the quality purveyors. “Social media was about conversations,” and that risks being lost amidst corporations’ push to use it as a megaphone. His rule of thumb for producing good content? Make sure it’s interesting and useful to the audience, and that you’re passionate about whatever you’re creating.

It’s the Facebook era – for now. Israel isn’t a huge Facebook fan. Nonetheless, he says, “We live in a Facebook era. You can’t be social if you don’t go where the people are.” However, that may change over time. In what he sees as “Moore’s Law in reverse,” the period of any one company’s dominance is shrinking. “The half-life keeps shortening,” he says. “IBM had it for 40 years, Microsoft for 20 years, Google for 10 years, and now it’s the era of Facebook.” Its reign is unlikely to end with a bang, but he predicts that “At some point, there will be a social network better enough so that people will leave Facebook not in droves, but a little bit at a time…it’ll slowly get smaller, ad revenues will slowly go down, and the new one will figure out how to make money on mobile, which Facebook hasn’t yet done. It will happen sooner than most people think.”

Blogs won’t die. What should we make of tweeting teens, who have largely abandoned long-form blogs that require actual writing and narrative skills? Israel says not to worry: “To know where tech is going, go down the hall and see what kids are doing when you’re not looking.” Video clips, Twitter and texting may be all the rage – and that will continue into the millennials’ adulthood – but that doesn’t mean they won’t pick up new passions as they age. “It goes back to storytelling,” he says. “We live by stories and you can’t tell a story in 140 character spoonfuls.” Blogging may become a niche phenomenon, but it’s still important: “A new medium comes along and sucks attention, the way TV sucked attention away from radio,” he says. “But radio continued, adapted, and changed.” Today, it’s still popular and lucrative, thanks to targeted advertisting – a possible future scenario for blogs.

We’re all media companies. Israel started out as a traditional print reporter – and that’s part of why he believes “the lines between everything have blurred” thanks to the Internet. The difference between a journalist, a blogger, a customer, and the company itself aren’t very clear these days (though Israel points out they were less clear in the past than some might like to admit). Building on former journo Tom Foremski’s insight that every company is a media company, Israel is emphatic that – thanks to social media – every person now is, as well.

What do you think is next in social media?

This post originally appeared on the Forbes website on May 1, 2012.

Dorie Clark is CEO of Clark Strategic Communications and the author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013). She is a strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the Ford Foundation. Listen to her podcasts or follow her on Twitter.