Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Out With the Old New Thing, In With the New New Thing!

Things move fast in the world of social media. So fast, in fact, that Tuesday's hot new thing is often Friday's old news. So I chuckled when I read my first Twitter is, like, so yesterday post.

I am SO sorry for writing this, I L-O-V-E Twitter. Love it! I’m just so sorry to say, Tumblr replaces it. It’s that simple. Tumblr is to the iPhone what Twitter is to the pager. I know, I know. I love Twitter and I have been obsessed with it for almost a year now so I KNOW what Twitter is supposed to be, thank you - it’s SUPPOSED to be like a pager, that’s the DNA of what Twitter needs to be to do “microblogging”…I once said. And Pownce (which I love too!) and Jaiku (which I neglect, Im so sorry!), are all not what I’m talking about either, Twitter does best what those other apps do.

Tumblr, on the other hand, is enhanced in the right way and thus, unfortunately, and yet also for the better, replaces the need for Twitter all-together. This is going to be hard for people to see because Pownce could be seen as an attempt to enhance Twitter but actually Powence further illuminated the superior simplicity of Twitter, i.e. that the kind of enhancement doesn’t work. Perhaps unwittingly, and more likely just consequently, Tumblr enhances Twitter in the right kind of way.

The missing piece here - the right kind of way for what? I like Twitter because it's incredibly simple and people I know use it. Tumblr does more, but it's nothing that I want to do or am not doing elsewhere. (Obviously, this isn't true for the writer above... and that's fine.)

I have a Tumblr account, by the way; I'm not linking to it here because I'm boycotting anybody who drops the "e" from "er." No, not really; there's just nothing there, so there's no point in pointing anybody at it.

Finding a use for the next social media tool is, to be blunt, not high on my list of priorities. The tools need to find my needs; if I don't have an unmet need, I'm not interested.

And that's the bigger point: the platform du jour for blogging, microblogging, sharing links and feeds, and so on will change tomorrow, and next week, and next month. As any IT product marketer knows, feature advantages are incredibly hard to maintain; fortunately, they're not usually the point.

Twitter, for all its popularity, is something that a couple of Google developers could recreate in an afternoon and have live in a week. (And it would probably be more reliable on day one than Twitter, which always has the feeling of being held together with duct tape and prayers.) What Google couldn't duplicate that quickly is the user base.

Here's what matters for all of these tools: do people find something useful to do with them? Do they have a critical mass of users? And finally, perhaps most importantly, are the information and network links in them accessible from the outside world?

The nice thing about most of these platforms is that if you don't care to become a hardcore user, you can still get what you need from them through search and RSS feeds. I think we're going to see people get less interested in investing time and effort into using them if that's not possible (hi, Facebook!).

The missing piece is the social graph. If you've got a network of links to others in LinkedIn or Facebook or Twitter, that doesn't move easily somewhere else. That's got to change.

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