I posted earlier on the debacle of the Facebook IPO and some longer-term considerations in respect of the valuation and staying-power of these early-generation social media brands. And they are early-generation. Part of the problem we are facing is that we are in the throes of exponential change. One thing that means is that we have faced dramatic shifts, which we are tempted to see as lasting and offering us a fresh gently-rising plateau as we look ahead. The fact that the exponential, disruptive bombs are getting bigger every day is too hard to grasp. So we don’t try. So we behave dumb. (Yes, there’s a book there to explain what I’m on about; and yes, I am working on it, so there. Back off, plagiarizers, but join the convo!)
1. In general, this is early early days. Which makes future-scoping (a) very hard, and (b) very necessary. More of both (a) and (b) every day.
2. We’re talking about the brands/companies that have been quick out of the box in, essentially, social media round 2. Round 1 was shaped and dominated by AOL; its curious corporate survival and the bizarre Time takeover blur our capacity to reflect on how revolutionary was Steve Case’s invention ( which has pretty much defined everything social since; Zuck owes him big. . . .). The key brands of the past decade have been awarded huge valuations on the naive assumption that the barriers to entry will remain high and that interoperability and utility status is not around the corner. Yeah, right.
3. As we look ahead, we see multiple converging streams that include “social” a la Facebook, social marketing leading to profound shifts in “social business,” CSR/social enterprise parallel and convergent developments as a subset of the foregoing, Gov. 2.0 (3.0), wholly new developments in global governance (of which more in another post), and . . . well, point is, we have just begun. It’s why Facebook and Google, qua biz model and tech trailblazers, are so important. It’s why, qua brands, they will be proved to have been relatively insignificant.
4. While we are at it: Facebook’s curious upcoming vote on a privacy change reminds us that, ultimately, social networks will be mutually owned and driven by crowd-sourced decision-making. I am actually astonished that Zuck (whom I greatly admire) has not tumbled to this. But one thing one learns is that innovators are often successful precisely because they don’t see most of the context, rather than because they do.
The future is social. But that social is not ad-driven, privacy-destroying, IP-wielding, reaping economic profit. It is in general mutualized, open-sourced, and ultimately a thrilling constantly innovating utility environment for much human activity. Getting there is messy, but since when was getting anywhere worthwhile not?