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Some of you might be familiar with the typical trend of new technology adoption, best characterized by Gartner’s hype cycle. The technology is introduced, quickly undergoes increible inflation of expectations, only be dashed by naysayers before emerging as something useful, albeit of less promise than at the peak of its hype. Social media has undoubtedly followed that curve until now, and a new study gives us a clue as to where it is landing on the hype cycle right now.
I’m a member of the Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG), which published its 3rd Annual Marketing Trends Study (link to PPT) back on March 2nd, had several interesting findings in its survey of marketing executives (conducted early this year):
- Social media is viewed as even more important now than last year
- Social media is, however, one of the buzz words marketers are most tired of hearing
- About 70% of marketers are planning new social media initiatives in 2010
At first glance, these findings challenge us to place social media into any particular phase of Gartner’s hype cycle. I mean, if they think it is more important, it might be at its peak expectations, but if they are tired of hearing about it, it might be in the trough, but if they are going to do it, then is it emerging to have real usefulness?
I think the answer lies in the steep adoption curve that we are seeing for new technologies. Where previous technologies took decades (or at least one decade in the case of the Internet) to reach 3/4 of the population, newer technologies move much faster, with social media being no exception. What you see now is that the disparity between the market segments (early adopters, the majority, laggards) is more of a factor than the overall technology adoption itself.
Here’s what I mean. When the Internet took a decade to be adopted broadly, you could see the boom and bust cycles quite easily. When social media is being adopted broadly in half that time, the early adopters are heading to usefulness before the laggards have even bought the initial hype. So the answer to where social media is in the curve: Everywhere. Where you think it is becomes more of a personality test than anything else.
So, what am I really expecting? The early adopters are already pushing to usefulness. One of the other findings of the MENG study is that Marketing ROI is the most important idea the executives see today. If social media can stop being a buzz word and starts being a way to get ROI, I think we’ll push through the hype cycle faster than the technologies that have come before it.
So where do you think we are on the hype cycle? More importantly, what does that opinion say about what you and your company are doing with social media? Understanding that answer might be the most important one of all.