Lost In Social Media Mayhem!

It seems like everyone is going social media mad! Whether it’s businesses or individuals, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook or Myspace; everyone suddenly wants a piece of the action. I wonder if this will really help us though and where it will end up.

Recently Twitter seems to be the new social media ‘weapon of choice’. Since it's successful use in the Obama campaign it has gained popularity in recent months. Celebrities like Stephen Fry have become high profile ‘Twitterholics’ which have given us a snap-shot into their lives. If I get stuck in a lift I’ll know what to do!

I am hearing a lot of talk at the moment about how Twitter is going to revolutionise everything from businesses to social lives. I still remember when Facebook was flavour of the month. When I went to the pub and I would hear people discussing what they were doing on Facebook. Gradually, now I am hearing more people talking about Twitter.

My point is that Twitter is a very useful tool but it is just one of many tools. While it may facilitate people’s approaches to business and social lives, it is not the revolutionary ‘silver bullet’ that everyone seems to making it out to be. It is nice following people and following others but this assumes that they have something vaguely interesting to say instead of how ‘the train was late again this morning’. As many Twitter users will know, it is all too easy to get lost in a mass of irrelevant updates, photos, videos, etc.

I accept that Twitter has been successfully used to organise global events like Twestival but a closer look leads us to see that many other online tools were used in that campaign as well. Twitter can also be used by businesses to update customers with latest news and organise internal operations/events. However, the online social media landscape is more complicated than Twitter and we still at the tip of the iceberg as far as what the internet can do.

It is important to have some perspective on these tools and IT evolution as a whole. As I have discussed in my previous post about Google, the IT world moves very quickly and it will not be long before there is something newer and more shiny than Twitter for people to go crazy about. I feel like people seem to be jumping on the Twitter bandwagon without really understanding it and worse still because they think they may be ‘missing a trick’ if they don’t.

In fact there are many other social media tools that have sprung up like Friendfeed and BrightKite. Friendfeed works by collecting all your feeds from other networks and displaying them all on one feed. You can also subscribe to other people’s feeds and have them subscribe to yours. BrightKite is still currently in Beta development stage and is location-based social networking. Old favourites like Myspace are not as popular as they once were but are still very useful for bands and musicians. We are also seeing a resurgence in blogging with the use of free services like Blogger (which I use for this blog!), Wordpress and Tumblr.

To make things even more complicated all these different services offer integration with each other and mobile phones! For example this means that you can update your Twitter status on your phone via SMS or online with the use of Twitter mobile application. You could then add Twitter to your Facebook page with use of a Facebook application and get it to update you status there too. There are now services like Ping.fm that also allow you to update multiple networks at the same time.

While this might be a tech enthusiast and social media whore’s dream I fear it may ultimately lead to mass of irrelevant confused communication flying across different networks. People will pick up bits of the story but may find it more difficult to pick up the ‘whole’ story. The original message that was trying to be communicated will be diluted and dispersed over many channels and hence may lose its power.

This may be a long way away and we are still in the ‘honey-moon’ period of social media, however, it could be time we took a look how we are currently using these tools and how they will be used in the future. It is also important that people spend some time learning exactly how these tools work before throwing themselves in the deep-end.