by Robert van Alstyne
Facebook is great for perusing present-day pictures of old high school friends, but when it comes to providing information that’s truly useful or relevant, the site is shaky at best. As social media evolves, emerging services are expanding the meaning of “friend” to include savvy informants, not just acquaintances.
Twitter now boasts 200 million users and has become the de facto news hub for millions of Americans (Mashable.com, 16 July 2011). The freshly launched Google+ mushroomed to 20 million users in less than a month by allowing consumers to share digital dispatches broken into discrete social groups (Reuters.com, 26 July 2011). The number of microblogs on Tumblr has tripled in the last six months, reflecting consumers’ preference for interacting within a circle that’s wider than their Facebook network but equally sociable (NPR.org, 15 June 2011). StumbleUpon, a people-powered Web crawler that presents users with customized search results based on webpage rankings of others with similar tastes, actually topped Facebook in US Web traffic in June 2011 (TechZone360.com, 6 July 2011).
Consumers want to untangle relevant insights from the wild and woolly Web, but “personalized” doesn’t always mean personal. Brands concocting modern marketing strategies must think beyond Facebook and move toward the new social-media power players that prize relevance over randomness.