Social media continues to advance at an astonishing rate; it seems almost everyone is using it in some shape or form. Even those stalwarts who have successfully
avoided the internet thus far are now finding old school friends and connecting
with fellow model train enthusiasts and topiary appreciation groups.
In the last year alone, FacebookÂ has grown by another 100 million users to an almostÂ unconceivable 700 million users. OverÂ the same period of time, Twitter has doubled in sizeÂ and now boasts 200 million active users.
Most businesses, regardless of size, use at least one form of social media; whether itâ€™s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, FourSquareÂ or blogs. Itâ€™s astonishing considering only three years ago many businesses were wondering if it was all a fad and whether it was worth bothering with at all. In this time itâ€™s gone from a novel idea to the single biggest marketing innovation since the Dot.com bubble
But what is the future of social media in such a frenetic, ever-changing environment where new communication mediums can pop up almost overnight?
There have already been some notable casualties in the social media revolution; MySpace â€“ although hanging in there by a thread â€“ is probably the best example. Others include Bebo, Yahoo!BuzzÂ and dozens more that never even got off the ground. The one thing they all have in common is they all stayed in one place too long and paid the price.
In social media, either persistent ingenuity keeps your head above water or you leave holes for the competition to come charging through.
All we know for certain is that nothing is permanent. For business, this means being on the lookout for new, smarter ways to connect with, and engage potential customers.
With advertising becoming more ingrained in social media, having pages which add â€˜valueâ€™ rather than blatant self-promotion will still be the most effective way to keep people interested.
As social media goes more mainstream, services such as Googleâ€™s Social Search Â â€“ currently linked to their own expanding social media platform Google+ â€“ will break
down the divide between official sources of information and more informal discussions. For business, this means Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) will continue to be important but the crucial element for success will be your ability to present your brand as reputable and trustworthy in a marketplace of competitors.
Are the big players becoming victims of their own success?
As more and more friends and followers join us on social networks, connections become broader and less personal; itâ€™s the cyberspace version of being in a crowded room and having to shout to the person next to you. Some IT commentators are suggesting that we are already witnessing social media reinventing itself in a smaller, more interactive capacity.
As mobile social networking expands, platforms which allow users to interact with smaller, more specific groups will be quicker and easier to manage than hundreds of contacts on Facebook and Twitter.
Â Platforms such as GroupMe, break down sets of contacts into groups and are growing in popularity for mobile and PC. Messages are sent to as many people in the â€˜groupâ€™ as you like, meaning you can interact with yourÂ sportsÂ team and work colleagues separately. Although GroupMe has only been around for less than a year, it is already handling up to 100 million messages per month.
The rumour mill is rife that GroupMe is being sold to Skype as part of a Microsoft attempt to take on the main players.
Businesses usually have the advantage of being an expert in a given field and this has advantages in a more personalised, concentrated community of followers. As a footwear manufacturer for example, you may coordinate a group of amateur athletes who are keen toÂ interact under your own brand.
Some businesses have already begun creating their own social media platforms, through mobile applications or as a dedicated site asÂ theÂ next-gen replacement for online forums or dated support content. Only time will tell if it works.