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Is the social media hype fading?

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.

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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.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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