Sunday, October 14, 2007

What are you using social media for?

One of my friends posted a Facebook question: What are you using Facebook for? She didn't get many answers, but from my observation, today's mainstream users fall into a few categories:

  • Fun users: By far the majority, people are using social media to supplement their "real" contact with friends. They are poking, sending gifts, writing messages, and just generally interacting in new, fun ways, with people they already know in RL.
  • Supplementers: In this category, we have people who are using social media to supplement their real life groups in some way. Either they belong to a virtual group (such as an open-source project or chat room), and they can use social media to enhance it, or they belong to a real world group (such as a corporation or a party-going club), and they are using the social media to enhance that. I will devote a future post just to exploring some of the supplemental ways people are using the media.
  • Wait-and-see users: Plenty of my professional colleagues seem to be joining just to "see what happens". They aren't really part of the conversation. They've joined, and they are waiting for "something" to happen to them or for it to become suddenly obvious why they joined. Some of them are relatively serious about building up a good friend base, so that whenever "it" happens, they will be ready.
  • Tinkerers (myself included): Similar to the wait-and-see users in that they don't know what is going to happen. Unlike the wait-and-see users, the tinkerers are trying all kinds of stuff to see what "it" might be and how "it" might work.
  • Monetizers: Application developers who are really ahead of the curve and can already see ways to monetize the platforms. Some of them will succeed, some won't. The quickest monetizers seem to be in the adult industries, that is gambling and sex, not surprisingly. There are also quite a lot of monetizers in the consumer goods industries.
  • Pundits and prophets: The pundits and prophets are either being paid by their companies to figure out social media, or they are already making a living some way through social media. Some of the pundits don't need to make a living on a day-to-day basis, so they are really in the best positions to leverage this media.
The conclusion is that most of us are going to be reluctant to answer the question "What do you use Facebook for" because our answer is some variation of "just fooling around with it".

Nobody is going to answer the question "What is your social media strategy?" because the kind of people who know what social media is don't tend to be the kind of people who know what strategy is. And the few that do know what both mean are probably smart enough not to publicize their social media strategy to their competitors.

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