A bad moon is rising over social media platforms, according to sources. Google+ is the walking dead. Twitter is dying. Oh, and Facebook is moribund. Plus, don’t get too attached to your blog—blogging is on its way out. Or so I hear.
In fact, if you pay attention to various tech soothsayers, pretty much the entirety of social media is either doomed, dying, or has already gone to that great Hard Drive in the Sky.
And yet…here I am blogging about it. And when I’m done, I’ll be talking to people about this post…on Google+, Twitter, and possibly even Facebook.
So what’s up, then? Do I have a particularly spectacular case of denial, or are all the reports of the death of social media just so much cynical link-bait, propagated by click-hungry news outlets to incite panic and drive fears that the social media party is over before it even really got into full swing?
Is Google+ really dying?
Mark Traphagen of Stone Temple Consulting points out that shortly after the infamous TechCrunch story announced that “unnamed sources” at Google were claiming that more than 1,000 G+ staffers were being “moved elsewhere,” and that the Google+ project was basically now “walking dead,” a couple of actual named Google sources jumped in to comment.
Calling the TechCrunch story “complete bollocks,” Yonatan Zunger, Google+ Chief Architect (whom you might think would know a thing or three about the project) stated, “G+ is just as much a crucial asset as it was a month ago: social is critical to our success.”
Later, he added that “it is true that somewhere around 1,200 Google+ employees moved to another building. That would in fact be the entire Google+ team, as we outgrew our old building and were packed in like sardines. The new building is great. :-)”
So…not off to the gulag, then?
Nope, just a nice shiny new building for a team that needs room to grow.
But if the Google+ story isn’t true, why did TechCrunch report it? While the story broke after Vic Gundora, head of G+’s social efforts, announced he was leaving his position, that hardly seems enough reason to declare an entire platform kaput. After all, no one believed that Apple would go out of business when founder and guiding hand Steve Jobs died.
I see the TechCrunch story as an extension of the “Google+ is a ghost town” misperception—one that’s easy to believe if you’re dropping in and using the platform only as a place to broadcast your own posts, rather than to engage with other users. More cynical observers have framed it as link-bait: basically, an attempt to lure readers on a slow news day.
As for the specific allegations made in the TechCrunch article, I refer you to Matt Cruikshank, a former Google employee, who analyzed it very cogently on his blog last week. Basically, he argues that staff reassignments and redeployments are standard practice for major projects at Google. The company takes a “tiger team” approach to launching new projects, before moving into development mode over the long haul.
But what about Twitter?
If the TechCrunch Google+ article was filled with unattributed rumors and unwarranted speculation, the Atlantic’s recent “eulogy for Twitter” was based almost entirely on personal hunch, and read more like a wistful remembrance of the good old days than a report on the demise of a social media platform. In fact, the authors admitted as much in the article’s fourth paragraph:
The publishing platform that carried us into the mobile Internet age is receding. Its influence on publishing will remain, but the platform’s place in Internet culture is changing in a way that feels irreversible and echoes the tradition of AIM and pre-2005 blogging. A lot of this argument comes down to what we feel.
While it’s true that Twitter’s growth, once explosive, has slowed slightly, it’s hardly reason to start ordering the casket.
In a fascinating article on Slate, Will Oremus points out that Twitter is not a “social sharing site” in the manner of Facebook; rather, he says, it’s a “social media platform,” with the emphasis on “media.” And he states Twitter isn’t dying; in fact, its influence is growing far beyond the bounds of the Internet.
What should content marketers do?
What’s the takeaway from all this?
First, I’d suggest we not get our knickers in a collective twist over every rumour we hear or every article we read.
Yes, the world of social media is changing and evolving—as it has always done. Yes, platforms are growing and shifting—as they have always done.
And our job as content marketers is to monitor the changes carefully, assess the benefits and drawbacks of each platform, and plan our strategies accordingly. Just as we’ve always done.