In case you have been on vacation for the past 6 months, you’ll knowthat Facebook and Twitter are in a bit of trouble. I don’t mean they are about to go bankrupt or anything (they won’t), but we’re seeing a clear trend of disapproval towards them.
In a recent consumer satisfaction report by ForeSee, Twitter and Facebook scored well below what you would expect, averaging 62.5 out of 100 (that’s well below the average of 74.2).
Incomparison, Google+ scored 78, Google Search scored 82, Bing Scored 81,Yahoo scored 78, Wikipedia 78, and the average score for newspapers was73.
More to the point, Facebook represents the largest drop of all the digitalbrands measured. And while this report only measured consumersatisfaction, we see the same trend in business satisfaction.
Some people call this social media fatigue, but there is a lot more to itthan that. In fact, there is no such thing as social media fatigue. Weare not tired of social, we are tired of all the things that get in theway of being social.
We have the issue of control. When youcreate a blog, you feel in control. It’s your blog and you decide whathappens to it. You decide what service to use, how to use it, how todesign it, what features to include, and the overall structure. A blogfeels like an extension of yourself because you make all the decisions.
We don’t have that feeling on Facebook or Twitter. We feel like we arejust a guest playing around in their garden. We have no control. We candecide what we post, but not how it is posted. We cannot decide howthings should look, we cannot even decide who should see it because ofEdgeRank.
At the same time, we have the constant violations ofprivacy. One day, we find information we thought we could control issuddenly made a part of something that we didn’t agree to at all – likewhen our name is used in relation to 3rd party products or brands. Wehave issues with the design, in which we don’t feel any continuity, notto mention Facebook suddenly changing what email address people see.
For brands it’s not much better. Brands are being limited in so many ways,that they often wonder why they embrace these social channels at all.It’s actually ‘illegal’ to ask fans to vote on two pictures and thenreward them with a prize. We can do this on our blogs, but we can’t onFacebook. Again, we’re not allowed to be in control.
On top ofthis, we are faced with design constraints. We’re not allowed to include promotional messages in our cover images. So, if you have a big eventon Saturday, we can’t visually promote that in the best possible way.Again, we’re are not allowed to be in control. And while I personallylike the Facebook timeline design, it’s not really that useful.
Then we have another problem; the newsfeed. Posts without links arepresented with diminished emphasis when compared to posts that include a photo. Here you get bigger pictures and bigger text than post withlinks to a web shop, for example.
For developers it’s even worse.There is a continual movement to keep people within the confines of each social channel instead of embracing the connected world. For instance,Twitter is preventing tweets being cross-posted to LinkedIn. They arealso preventing 3rd party apps (like Instagram) being able to ‘findfriends via Twitter’, They are increasingly trying to keep people onTwitter instead of being a platform from which we can connect.
All of this, of course, is nothing when compared to the even bigger problem causing social media fatigue. The problem of closed platforms.
Let me tell you a little story about email.
In the early 1980s, email worked pretty much as social services do today.Each email provider used their own proprietary protocols and systems,and each system was unable to communicate with any other.
The result was that you could only send emails to friends who were using the same system as you.
This of course was completely impractical. Soon, a number of third partyservices appeared, which could be used to translate one email protocolto any other, but in doing so you lost the original communication link.
It was better than the closed systems before it, but it was hardly a usable solution.
So email didn’t take off because the process was simply too complicated.It wasn’t until every email provider finally decided on an open,non-proprietary format, that email started to work and became themassively popular communication mechanism that we know today.
Social media is currently undergoing the very same process. When you sign-upfor Facebook, you cannot use it to communicate with people on any otherchannel. There is no way, for instance, to have a communication viaFacebook Chat with a person using Twitter Direct Messages.
Eachsocial platform, just like email of the past, is using their own serverprotocols, their own API specifications, and their own authenticationmodels.
In order for you to communicate with your friends, youare forced to setup separate accounts for each social service. You haveto setup an account on Facebook, on Twitter, on Google+, on Instagram,on Path, on Foursquare, on Pinterest, etc. And not only do you have tosetup up separate accounts, you also have to manage separate channels of communications.
Imagine if this was also how blogs worked.Instead of just setting up one WordPress blog, you would have to setup a blog on each blog network. On WordPress, Blogger, Typepad, Squarespace, etc.
Not only that, but all your readers would have to sign-upas well. If a reader wanted to follow a WordPress blog, he would have to have a WordPress account. And if he wanted to follow a Typepad blog, he would have to signup for Typepad too.
This is how social mediaworks today. We, as publishers, are forced to setup our presence on each platform, and so do our readers.
In resent years, severalstartups have tried to solve this by creating third party tools that can convert communication from one system to any other like Hootsuite,Tweetdeck or Seesmic.
It’s far better than being forced to manually go to each service severaltimes per day, but it is still a terrible solution that doesn’t reallyget us anywhere. We still have to create separate accounts on eachservice, and the communications within each service is still separatedfrom each other.
Again, it’s just like the early 3rd party email converters of the 1980s.
The future of social media
The question is then, what is the next step? What is the future of social media? And the answer is painfully obvious because we have already seen ithappen with email. The future is when social becomes a protocol.
Many people think that the future of Facebook is alternatives like Diaspora, or the many Twitter alternatives that are popping up, but no. Diaspora, while much more open and flexible than Facebook, doesn’t change theproblem. You still cannot communicate across services. You still cannottie it into everything, and you still have to ask people to create aseparate account for each social service.
And it’s the same with the many Twitter alternatives. We are not movingforward and, as such, neither of these alternatives have any chances ofmaking a difference.
The future of Facebook is …nothing. Meaning, the future of social is not yet another destination. It’s acommunication protocol, a standard way of connecting with each other.There is no ‘the next Facebook’, because Facebook itself is like theemail systems of the past.
Let me give you a very simple example of the future of social media. Take this article. Is it social?
No, of course not. It’s published on a website, and while I have addedsharing buttons to it, that’s doesn’t really make it social because youdon’t actually share the article, or the communication within it. Youonly share a link.
But what if I copy/pasted this article and instead posted it directly on Google+ or on Facebook, would it then be social?
Well, yes…it would. Then it would be just like any other social post, tied into the social fabric of the social channels.
But wait-a-minute…that means that today we define social not as what we do, but where we do it. If we post an article on a website, we are not social. But if we post it on Facebook, we are.
Why can’t we define a website as a social channel? Why do we think ofsocial media as a destination? Again, it’s just how we used to thinkabout email.
Isn’t the act of posting something that others can connect, follow and communicate with what social is all about?
There shouldn’t be a difference between how social you are when postingsomething on one channel versus posting it on another. Social mediatoday is still stuck in the old world of destinations.
This is why the real social revolution has only reached 2% of its real potential.We haven’t actually started being social yet …
What will the social world be like in the future?
First of all, social media won’t be a destination. This has a number of hugeimplications. For one, you will no longer have to sign-up for differentsocial channels, just so you can follow a brand or your friends. Youwill be able to decide which tools or services benefit you the most.
Today, people and brands don’t really have a choice which services they wantto use. If all your friends are using Facebook, you have to use Facebook as well.
But what if you could follow your Facebook friends from Google+? What if you didn’t want to sign-up for Facebook at all, andyou happened to prefer another channel? That’s social as a protocol.
With email, you don’t have to sign-up for an Outlook account, just becauseseveral of your friends happen to be using that. But you can stillcommunicate with them because email today isn’t a destination. It’s aprotocol.
For brands, it’s even more profound. Today, brands areforced to publish their content on social channels, and in the processare disconnecting it from their business. We see this, for instance with the Facebook readers of the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian and manyothers, including brands like ASOS, who have to operate two web shops,one on Facebook and one on their website.
When social becomes aprotocol, brands can just use whatever platform that fits their business model the most. It would be just as easy to follow a brand on awebsite, as it is to follow it on Facebook.
And I’m not talkingabout cross-posting or linking the way we see it today. That’sdestination thinking. I’m talking about social as a protocol, where thecontent comes to you, on whatever channel you prefer to use.
If you prefer to use Google+, you can read the full article on Google+. Here is one concept made by Michelle Marie, in which you are following the New York Times directly from within Google+
It’s the full article. It’s not republished. It’s the original article, from the source. It’s included in your stream but you are not followingNYTimes on Google+, you are following the website of NYTimes insideGoogle+.
More to the point, if you read the article over atGoogle+, the interaction is made a part of the original content. Meaning your comments and likes, +1s, or hearts would also show up on any other channel.
When social becomes a protocol, the interaction andcommunication would be linked to the content itself, rather than theplatform.
You might say, this is never going to happen. But it will.
It happened with email, which was first defined as a destination, then adestination + connectors, then as a standard protocol. But it doesn’tstop here…
It also happened with TV. In the early days, TV shows had to be made for each specific type of TV, just like social postshave to be made for each social channel. But today, TV broadcasts are aprotocol, and it doesn’t matter what type of TV you happen to own.
It happened with radio and the telegraph, and even satellite communication.
It happened with our lightbulbs, electric outlets, coffee machines,kitchen stoves, washing machines, the rims on our cars, and the windowsand doors in our houses. It happened with soda cans, shippingcontainers, cardboard boxes. It happened with our clothes, the zipperand buttons. It happened with your speakers and audio file formats. Ithappened with our cameras, video recorders and batteries. It happenedwith our food, our milk cartons and honey jars.
In fact, ithappened with pretty much every single thing we have ever known. Eachone started life as an object controlled only by the company who madeit, then extended by third parties to allow it to work acrossmanufacturers, and finally to becoming a standard or a protocol thatdisconnected the object from the destination.
The social shift is just the natural evolution of how things happen. Not only that, but all the trends are pointing in the same direction. The dissatisfaction wesee with social media today, is the result of the limitations of theactual destinations.
We don’t have social media fatigue. We have social destination fatigue.
What happens now?
So what does this mean for our current social media channels? Well, firstof all, this social ‘shift’ from destination to protocol is going totake a while. The current social world is very entrenched in thetraditional form of social.
So, who’s going to feel the pinch first?
Twitter is probably the first one to feel the pressure. It’s format, limited to 140 characters, means that it cannot be a connection by itself, it canonly be the facilitator of a connection.
Twitter’s very existence is based upon being something that connects people between destination. And once those destinations are replaced, a big part of Twitter’s roleevaporates.
There is, however, one interesting aspect of Twitterand its social future. Twitter Cards. The idea is that a tweet is notjust a tweet anymore, now a tweet is accompanied with the actual postitself (or a summary of it).
The concept of Twitter cards is very interesting, because it illustrates a glimmer of the future of what social will be about.
The problem, of course, is that Twitter isn’t doing this for the sake ofsocial as a protocol. They are doing it to force you to use Twitter as a destination. As such, Twitter is actually moving in the wrongdirection.
They are trying to discourage you from connectingdirectly with the source, by republishing your content within a tweet.The concept is interesting, but the reasoning behind it isn’t.
Twitter will not go away anytime soon, but without the destinations, theirfuture will be a social niche. Great for sharing quick things you wantpeople to see, but not really a part of the larger social revolution.
Facebook has even bigger problems because everything it does is designed toestablish Facebook as the one and only destination for social media.
They are trying to find a way for you to only use Facebook. As such, theirentire business model is based on the opposite of what the socialrevolution is about.
Forcing brands to create specialized brandpages and getting newspapers and web shops to create Facebook apps,these are all tools to get you to use Facebook as a destination.
The features and functionality, and the overall social effect, is all veryimpressive, but it doesn’t change the fact that Facebook is trying toprevent us from turning social into a protocol.
In many ways,Facebook is like Apple. Why, for instance, can’t you buy iBooks on yourAndroid phone? Surely there is a market for that? The reason is simple.Apple’s iBookstore does not exist to sell books, it exists to establishiOS as a destination.
It’s the same with most Facebook features.They are not designed to help the social world. They are designed toestablish Facebook as a destination.
There is, however, oneglimmer of hope for Facebook. We see it with Facebook and Spotify. Theway social works between those two destinations is almost like social as a protocol. Almost, because while you can see everything you do onSpotify within Facebook, and even bring your friend connections back toSpotify, the actual communication is very one sided. Facebook is stillthe only destination.
Google+ is in many ways also a destination, especially with its lack of atwo-way API and outside tools. In that regard, Google+ is just as bad as Facebook, in trying to use social to force people to become part ofthat connection.
Just as all other social channels, you need to be on Google+ to take part in it.
With that said, Google+ is actually the closest thing we have to the futureof social as a protocol. While Google+ itself is a destination like allthe others, Google+ as a service is not. For example, it’s integratedinto Gmail and Google Calendar and ‘Hangout on Air’ is integrated intoYouTube.
The future of social for Google is looking verypromising. It’s already really close within its own services. It won’tbe long until YouTube and Google+ become part of the same socialprotocol. When you upload a video to YouTube, it will also automatically become part of your Google+ stream. When you post a comment on Google+, it won’t be long until that comment is made part of YouTube as well -and vice versa.
But it doesn’t stop there. Think about Bloggercombined with Google+. Soon we will be able to create a blog onBlogger, and then, whenever we post a new article, it will be posted onGoogle+ as well. Not the link, but the real article.
Then, whenyou comment on Google+, it will be made part of the article on Bloggerand vice versa. As an individual, you are then free to decide how youwant to follow it. You can follow it on the blog or on Google+. Youdecide where and how your want to engage with it.
Unlike Facebook (and Twitter), Google has the capabilities to expand beyond its socialnetwork. They have the tools, the sites, and the services, to turnsocial into a protocol.
Of course, it would still be limited toGoogle, and still be a destination. But we already use YouTube videosacross channels and sites. If that happens with Google+, then we arelooking at an early framework for social as protocol.
Nothing comes after Facebook.
As I started out saying. The future of Facebook is…nothing because wehave reached the end of social media as a thing, a place and adestination. The future of social media is to be a protocol.
There will not be another Facebook. There will not be another Twitter, and there will not even be another Google+.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t a future for social tools, there is! We are at 2% of the real social revolution, and the social space is looking veryexciting. But it’s a different type of social.
Pinterest is asocial destination. Foursquare is a social destination, Path is a social destination…and they are all defining social as a ‘thing’.
But think of the Google+ vs Blogger example, where the social element isnot a destination at all, but a protocol that binds everything together. What tools could you add to that? How could you extend it? How couldyou augment it? How could you compete with it?
The real social shift is just about to start!