1000% Growth Frenzy in Social Media

Academically, I am sure the following can be shredded apart faster than a term sheet for VC Wear.

I remember reading an article in the New York Times about the fictional 1000% yearly growth rate in telecom industry that was a major factor in the bubble. The territory was so unknown, and everyone was growing so fast they didn’t know how to define what they were doing or where they fit in.

My friend Erica had some commentary last week about what a “Social Media Guru” is. Somehow, these changes remind me of the boom.
Her definition of Social Media is:

Social Media is Word-of-Mouth or Community Based Marketing that leverages technology to enable conversation.

I don’t agree with the last bit of this, ‘enable conversation’ because so much of all media is one way, and communication is developed through the audience, but not as a part of the media (I always think of a painting as social media, people are talking about it, and it is in a way talking back). This is always changing, I will get to that in a bit. Modern media (perhaps mass media?), to be effective, has to have a hierarchical structure that excludes voices to promote quality and standing. Adding the word social here does not mean interaction, to me, that the entire medium is chatting back to you via twitter.

I majored in “New Media” in college. To this day I can’t come up with a way to explain it. Why? Because it has changed drastically since I looked at it in a course catalogue. A few years ago flash intros (promising interactivity but delivering very little) were the hottest idea in new media (paying many consultants vacations). Interactivity was the future, but just last year mashups (little interactivity) were championing the keynotes for ‘what is new media?’ This has left me to define something that I have grown to love as:

“New Media is engaging, creative and changing every week”

That is the only definition that rings true for me for the last 7 years.

And so is Social Media, always changing. It is not about relationships (the advent of talking takes the cake for really building relationships). It is not about engaging with community using the newest techniques (although this is fun and addictive). It is not something to give yourself as a title when your last job wasn’t as fun as chatting to your friends online. It is blending the academic study of group/social dynamics, technology and the current climate, and knowing how to do this without being lame (which is a whole big old post in itself).

The people that are truly gurus are not participating in the conversations the self appointed gurus are having with each other, or any conversations for that matter.

My favorite author Edward Abbey created a womanizing, littering, drunk driving, environmental terrorist character in Monkey Wrench Gang named Hayduke. Once asked if he felt bad for creating such a vile character, he responded: “don’t put Hayduke on me, Hayduke is Hayduke.”

And in a way Social Media is Social Media, growing and changing faster than anyone can decide what it is. It is the best of us, the worst of us, and is what it is. And the only guarantee is next week will be totally different (I am hedging my bets on communities joining together to create the next wave online and offline).

Some people are good participants in the process, and it is worrying that it seems to be a 1000% a year growth frenzy in social media.

Erica calls the true ones the classics. I couldn’t agree more (this week, at least).

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