the past, present and future of social media (or why facebook is pretty much dead to me)

Clearly, as someone who has earned a living off helping brands devise and implement social media strategies for around 15 years, I’m off message with this post. Or am I?

Social platforms come and go. I remember setting up my first bulletin board system on an Apple IIe back in the mid-eightys. I clearly recall building a 5000+ person email list on Yahoo Groups in the early 90’s. I ran facilitated web chats with a variety of experts in the mid-90’s. And I created a whole slew of bulletin boards, both personally and professionally, around the same time.

I’ve always been an enthusiastic (usually) adopter of just about every social platform to emerge, and sometimes die, from the late 90’s until today.

For some time now, I’ve realised that my use of social media has segmented across three distinct use cases, based on my perceptions of time and the usefulness of contacts and communities across it. Let me explain:

The Future: I use LinkedIn, almost exclusively, to connect with and keep track of people who, in the future, might be personally or professionally relevant to me. LinkedIn is like a safety net. People I can call upon later to provide support for a project as a freelancer. Who I might want to employ. Who I might want to work with or for. I have friends, as well as professional contacts, there. But the key thing is that I want to stay in touch with contacts on LinkedIn because, if they aren’t relevant today, they might be tomorrow. That and it’s my number one source of professional content, these days.

The Present: I use Twitter for the present – through the people I follow, and those who follow me, I learn, in real time, about the world. They aggregate and filter content, then deliver it to me. Twitter has replaced RSS and google alerts for me, and the human filters it applies are, for the most part, better than the technological one’s that proceeded my enthusiasm for the platform.

The Past: Facebook has, for a long time, been sort of a storage closet of my past. It’s where I learn, usually after the funeral, of the passing of a friend from years ago. Or of a fundraising effort for a friend in need. Well, that or a fundraising effort by a friend from long ago who wants their mates to finance a charity walk the length of the Great Wall of China.

Basically, Facebook is dead to me as a social platform of preference. And it’s not just a personal thing. I’d have a really difficult time, in most instances, recommending that a client focuses their energy, or budget, there. How many brands do you follow on Facebook? What’s the last piece of branded content you engaged with? I’m guessing those two questions are ones that most people, most of the time, wouldn’t be able to answer with any accuracy or conviction.

“I loved what brand X posted the other day”. Yeah, right.

The thing is, on LinkedIn, where your professional reputation is at stake, a like means,”share this industry news with people who I might, now or later in life, have a commercial or industry related interest in connecting with.” It has meaning.

On Twitter, a re-tweet is an expression of interest, maybe professional, possibly personal. A nod to collaborative filtering and sharing. Again, it has meaning.

On Facebook, a like is more of a bookmark of something you might wish to go back to later, or possibly a nod that you’ve seen something, but not necessarily a sign that you wished to share that content, saw value in it, or agreed.

I realise, probably more than most, that Facebook is the dominant social network. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a bit shit. To me, anyway, it’s like Friend’s Reunited – a curiosity to those who care about the past, but not something that will have much value to those focused on the now or the future.