Is 2011 the year when Social media peaks the hype cycle?

Is 2011 the year when social media tools and technologies will see its peak in inflated expectations? Every new technology goes through the boom-and-bust hype cycle of inflated expectations, social media tools and technologies are clearly no exception. For all of us familiar with the Innovator’s dilemma on disruptive technologies we know that tools and technologies needs time to mature, and that the timing of when to adopt or not can be difficult match.

There’s no shortage of tools branded with “social” as prefix. But the question is; are they solving real business needs or just very promising feature applications but yet without a real need?

That something is hyped doesn’t mean its worthless, far from it. It simply means that expectations are inflated. This is clearly the case with anything social today.

Let’s look at a Google Trend search from the past 6 years:

  • E-commerce saw a huge peak pre the year 2000 dot-com bubble, but only provided businesses real value after dot-com bubble.
  • Web 2.o was all the rage in 2006 but it’s still not yet clear what it was all about.
  • Social media looks to reach a peak this year.

The relationship between visibility (when something trends on Google in this case) and a real value for businesses can be illustrated with gartner’s hype cycle. As e-commerce was what built the dot-com bubble it only emerged as a real profitable option for businesses post dot-com bubble. The Web 2.0 phrase coined by Tim O’Reilly sparked a huge hype where we saw everything going into two-point-0.  The term tries to describe the tools and technologies powering what we today call social media sites. From here on it was easy to forecast that Social media as a term would trend.

When all companies has “engaged”, “personalised”, “tweeted” and endlessly discussed with peers, which tools and technologies will last and how will it shape the future of business? My bet is that Social as term will be short-lived and we’ll instead talk about what we’re actually doing with these tools and technologies. The future is ever more exciting.

Simply trying to put social media itself on the hype cycle is not that easy as the topic is to broad and encompasses way to many things. User generated publishing platforms such as blogs, social networks and microblogs are likely to be further to the right in this graph, whereas  emerging technologies such as social analytics, monitoring and other business intelligence tools are receiving a greater deal of the visibility contra its current value for mainstream end-users.

The existing vendor landscape needs a few more years to develop, mature and be adopted by the mainstream.  But the discussion is two-fold, on one side are consumers using and driving the social media landscape, on the other are business desperately trying to adopt and playing catch-up to an ever changing media landscape.

Whilst this is the beginning, as always it’s the future that  holds the really valuable stuff. Remember to manage your expectations and benefit from the opportunities.

Update: here’s gartner’s hype cycle for emerging technologies 2009

About Joakim Nilsson

As a Social CRM Strategist I provide consulting services that moves fast from strategy to operations helping brands do better business in today’s transparent and digitally connected world. Specifically in the Social CRM areas of; social media monitoring, analytics & measurement, campaign design, vendor selection and community management. With 8 years of experience, I'm a seasoned digital marketing professional with solid grounding in both operations and strategy and as former Head of Social Media for Betclic Everest Group I've hands-on experience in both the development and implementation of cross functional social media programs for an organisation. Having an entrepreneurial mindset and genuine passion for Internet applications I’m spending part of my time with various Internet start-ups as small seed investor.

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