Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Welcom to The Social Media Wild West Yeehaw!

It seems that the social media market is starting to arrive.  Linked In (public), Radian 6 (bought by Salesforce for $325MM), Tweetdeck (bought by Twitter $40-50MM) and Springboard research (acquired by Forrester) and the list gets smaller and goes on. 

I have often used the analogy that when I started applying social media to business in 2006 that is was midnight at the time.  As I shopped the idea of getting insights more quickly from this new form of data that had a degree of real objectivity I was laughed at.  Everyone said that data was crap because only the teenagers blogged or crazy people/companies are writing that stuff.  Well since then the amount of content increases exponentially by the second and the myriad of ways one can interact with it only explodes day by day.  Start ups are popping up faster than you can see them fall and in reality the times have changed.

Today it is dawn.  The acquisitions above suggest that the market has arrived.  And for the venture capital world that might be true (because the coalescence has clearly begun), but in reality the companies swallowing/using this content are still immature and scared.  That is why I believe it is only dawn.  The sun is starting to come up because companies cannot deny that the data set has hit a sort of "singularity", but their cultures who are filled with people who use it do not tell them to do it in their jobs.  The dawn of social media is definitely here although the disconnect brings up a very interesting conundrum.

For us in the space trying to build a new market and show people how and why they should use it, there is resistance.  As I work from company to company and with partners everyone is still trying to figure out how to get our customers to take the leap and think beyond matching the data to the methods they currently use.  People are still waiting for their leaders to say it is OK.  They are waiting to be sure that they invest correctly.  They don't want to make a mistake and sometimes this analysis paralysis is going to catch a number of companies flatfooted because this rocket ship is flying into the new day faster than those standing on the ground can keep up. 

This is making for a serious wild west like atmosphere.  The market is beginning to snap itself up, the consumers of the information aren't sure which way is up, and the data set increases faster than the US debt.  This could make for some serious challenges for those trying to make heads or tails of when the right time to jump in.  As was often told to me as a kid if you just open your mouth, hold your breath and eat it experience of trying something new can be better than the fear of trying it. 

I would say this to everyone...

If you wait too long the products you are evaluating will change or the culture of those you are working with will be different if they are swallowed (because you will lose your say in how the products develop)

If you don't trust the data you will be so far behind that your competitor will be better prepared to deal with the data than you

If you try to get it perfect the choices will be too great.  You gotta believe in the new to take this leap. That being said, I watch lots of players not getting in early hoping to save a bit of money rather than learning.  This is a huge mistake because the products, data and market are changing so fast that it will be too late.

See what I mean...this argument is getting totally intertwined, circular and messed up. It is just too fast to make sense of.  And those trying to show the market its power continue to wonder why each and everyone of you use this data multiple times a day (how about I take your iphone from you...now how lost do you feel), but they seem to be too afraid to collectively tell their companies that their methods are old and tired.   Everyone uses it but nobody trusts it...I tell you it is the wild west out there.

And it keeps getting crazier, louder and more confusing.  Take a stand, pull out your six shooter and start shooting...chances are you will hit something and your business will get the chance to get those trying to get their guns out of their holster!


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