Social Media: From Status to Stories, We’re Entering a Whole New World of Shiny

I am newly tempted to rename this blog “The Long View” because I find it painful to see people get whiplash as they turn to see the new shiny objects of social media whip by. I wonder if I get tagged as an angry nerd (ok, I have) for not being too quick to embrace the latest and greatest. The truth is, I am aways suspicious of new platforms being declared “The Next XXX ” before it has had a chance to mature a little and give users enough chance to figure out how the platform is going to work for them. Google Plus has been a prime example, making some folks giddy before most people – especially businesses – we’re able to use it, a direct before it was even complete. Not that I don’t think it will make a huge impact, but if the train is leaving the station, say, in eight months, don’t line us up on the platform today.

I have seen several tools vying for “next big thing” status lately, but rather than fitting these for crowns, I see them – and others – fitting into a larger trend, whether they succeed or not.

Pinterest: Wowie-wow-wow has Pinterest gotten a lot of buzz lately. It’s very compelling in that it provides a simple visual way to organize links, visuals, products, or other items. You can see my first Pinboard here (photos of my son playing sports) and there have been several wonderful examples of organizations and companies putting up some nice Pinterest pages; the most recent I caught was the Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market in New York City. Many of my friends are caught up in and addicted to various Pinterest pages. Frustratingly, many more can’t interact with Pinboards the way they ought, as Pinterest is an ivite-only beta product. That will pass, but it shows how quickly people will jump on a bandwagon – before it has all its wheels. The question is for brands is, is this something good they can’t already build easily on their existing websites and blogs? It’s worth asking.

Path: this was presented to me as a new way to separate your closer group of friends from the rabble on Facebook. But can’t you tier friends online, Facebook? Certainly you can using Circles on Google Plus. Also, it focuses on “journaling,” to my main point buried below. Yet, Path gains users, so it’s worth watching.

Instagram: As an Android user, this one mystifies me. How can an iPhone/iPad only app be haied as a next big thing? Love Apple all you want, but that app environment hardly constitutes Everyone. Sure, my making fun of Instagram photos as people purposely denigrating their photography to resemble 40-year-old Polaroids is probably missing the point. Also, the Android problem will be solved shortly. I’ll be eager to see what the fuss is about, as that fuss seems to be centered on the interactions among the network of photo sharers.

Storify: This one seems to be more of a slam-dunk. The ability to curate other sources easily and assemble them into a story is attractive. If you can insert that into your own platform, into your own site or blog, all the better. Makes sense, it’s just a matter of how many people or companies catch on.

Overall, what I do see? Storytelling is the new focus of social media apps. We see this in Facebook’s new Timeline. We saw it in Gowalla attempt to differentiate as a location-based service before it got sold. We saw it in the much-hyped Color (is that one still happening?). Social tools are moving beyond status updates, what we are doing, and towards telling stories, filling get in the gaps of what we have done, what we are doing, and what we want to do. My main question is, did social network users ask for this? As for the overall community, I’m not sure. Facebook seems to have forced Timeline on us rather than asking. This change to “stories” rather than “status” is far from complete, but has been openly attempted numerous times. It’s where we’re going right now, like it or not.

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