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Is the social web party over?

I keep reading reports of Second Life being an overhyped piece of dead meat, and now get the same vibes about Twitter and more.

In the latest round of discussions, James Gardner and Ron Shevlin both question the worthiness of Twitter for banking, whilst an interesting survey by Purewire found that millions of Twitterati never actually tweet.

Purewire managed to analyse about 7 million Twitter user profiles and found that many Twitter users abandoned their accounts shortly after creating them:

* 40% of Twitter users have not tweeted since their first day on Twitter, which means that the account was most likely created and subsequently forgotten about; and

* Around 25% are not following anyone, while two-thirds are following less than 10 people, which probably means that the account was created but is not being used regularly.

The data also shows that most users find Twitter useful for receiving information, rather than sending or interacting:

* over a third of users have not posted a single tweet and almost 80% have less than ten tweets;

* around a third have no followers whilst 80% have less than ten; and

* 50% are following more people than follow them whilst another 30% follow the same number of people who follow them

Does this prove James and Ron's point: that Twitter is not relevant right now?

I don't think so, as I've said before.

What this proves is unclear, except that Twitter is an evolving medium which some people like and find useful for knowledge sharing whilst others find it of no interest at all.

This is why I take the view that Twitter, and other social media, needs to be considered in context as these tools are useful for communications, but this is an evolution not a static moment.

Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and more could come and go as quickly as a politician’s seat in government, but their model of communication is here to stay. After all, these tools are just replacing Instant Messaging, Friendster and Friends Reunited with easier ways of socialising. In another few years, they may have been replaced again.

And we really need to see these tools in the context of the evolution of the web and other technologies.

For example, a decade ago AOL was one of the biggest providers of access to the online community and became so big they acquired Time Warner. Today, AOL is dead meat and broadband communications carriers along with Yahoo! lead the world.

But just for now.

A decade ago, eBay ruled the commercial community. Today, it is a withering flame.

Over a decade ago, Netscape ruled the world. Then Microsoft extinguished their fire. Now Firefox and Chrome are trying to do the same to Internet Explorer.

Therefore, we need to see the context of our web evolution and consider that what we are really seeing a phase of innovation around how we connect to each other.

This would mean that the first phase of the web was all about commerce, knowledge and search – eBay, Amazon, Expedia, Google.

The second phase is all about communications, relationships and reactive media – Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Second Life, Twitter … and this phase has not completed yet, so we have no idea who the Amazon’s and Google’s will be for this generation.

There will then be the next phase as well which will, in my view, be all about meaning, context and proactive media. Connecting me with people is great, but I want you to give my connection context. Who is the most worthy for me to connect to and through what media? When I want to buy things, recommend where to buy them. Look at my way of living digitally and tell me how to live better electronically.

This web is already close, and we can already see the strands of such proactive media.

Plaxo, LinkedIn, Facebook and more now tell me who I might want to connect to. They recommend to me.

iTunes, Amazon and more tell me what I might want to buy. They recommend to me.

Mint, Wesabe and more now tell me how I might want to organise my finances. They recommend to me.

Take this on one generation, and the next web will see the current tone replaced by proactive recommendation engines.

These engines will seamlessly work in my life via my mobile telephone, my web homepages and my television and more.

Then Twitter, Facebook, Amazon and other great first and second generation internet names may again whither and die or flourish and become reborn.

In the meantime, this means that denigrating the transient moments of bandwagons that spark and disappear is just pointless when the real focus is on what these transient sparks do to our way of living, socialising, buying and selling.

That’s the real point.

Meantime, those who think Web 2.0 is dead are just talking recycling materials … in other words, rubbish.

About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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  • Darren Goucher

    Great article Chris. The dismissal of twitter sounds very similar to almost any new form of communication, be that telephone or the internet.

  • Chris,
    I am not certain that anyone is “denigrating twitter”, and I quite see your point about “transient moments”.
    Noone is dismissing twitter, at least I’m not. But what I am saying is that whist Twitter might have been a valuable experiment for the first bank, or maybe even several banks, that tried it, the rest are copying because it is current and cool.
    You know that we banks have a herd mentality, so that is nothing all that surprising.

  • Chris Skinner

    Point taken James, e.g. you are NOT saying these tools are erroneous … but challenging their relevance to a bank. There is a relevance to a bank however, just not for all banks or for banks that have a poorly developed communications strategy and are just jumping on the ride because other banks happen to be there.
    If so, I agree.
    Chris

  • Bill Jones

    The question is whether they change behaviour temporarily or permanently. The evidence is that behaviour (individual or group) is changed temporarily but that does not indicate that they’re not important or relevant. They may be silo experiences on the journey towards something else which technology historians will write about in times to come. But of course business and profit is matching revenues with costs with assets, and whilst interesting these tools are not yet businesses, and are more social toys for hobbyists. Some will play the game others will not.

  • Chris Skinner

    That’s an interesting perspective Bill but maybe misinterprets my point which is that transient phenomena such as Facebook and Twitter, which may become permanent, do not change our behaviours in and of themselves … but the mobile phone and internet have, and continue to change our behaviours as we see waves of change from commerce (Web 1.0) to socialising (Web 2.0) to relationships (Web 3.0).
    Do you really believe that the Web, Mobile et al has not permanently changed our world and our behaviours?
    Chris

  • Maybe as some proof that things are actually changing around the world, you might have a look at the following YouTube video:


    Food for thought if ever you doubted Generation Y does exist and is indeed changing and creating a new social world.
    Now after watching that video, you might wonder what those kids have to do with banking. Well looking at the way these students handle technology, how would you expect them to treat a bank which issues them paper cheques? Would they prefer to send a text in order to pay for a sandwich? Would they make an effort to find the best possible deal for a student loan on the net?
    These people do exist, these people are growing up, turning into young professionals before this crisis will be fully over… how will banks convince them to become their clients?

  • Maybe as some proof that things are actually changing around the world, you might have a look at the following YouTube video:


    Food for thought if ever you doubted Generation Y does exist and is indeed changing and creating a new social world.
    Now after watching that video, you might wonder what those kids have to do with banking. Well looking at the way these students handle technology, how would you expect them to treat a bank which issues them paper cheques? Would they prefer to send a text in order to pay for a sandwich? Would they make an effort to find the best possible deal for a student loan on the net?
    These people do exist, these people are growing up, turning into young professionals before this crisis will be fully over… how will banks convince them to become their clients?