Nic Brisbourne recently posted on The Equity Kicker about “social saturation,” a concept put forth by the Forrester Research CEO George Colony to describe his finding that people are running out of time to give to social applications and software. That’s right, the time that we spend checking Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Google+ may be close to peaking. Social consumes such a huge chunk of our available time that we just can’t spare any more.
Colony went on to propose that in order for social applications to continue to grow in importance and relevance, they must become more useful and less of a diversion; they must help you solve problems rather than help you waste time.
This social saturation has some interesting implications for the large social players and Facebook in particular. If we’re socially saturated (at least here in the US), our usage of Facebook is unlikely to grow much and Facebook will have to work harder to maintain their revenue growth. They will surely optimize their ad platform further, put more emphasis on Facebook Credits, and will try more new monetization techniques as they strive to make the most of a market that they already own.
That said, Facebook is still expanding its reach in emerging markets, so even if their share of attention in the US is plateauing, they have plenty of room to grow globally.
Whether or not we’re really at our peak usage of social apps, we here at D3 wholeheartedly agree with the conclusion that social needs to be more focused on solving people’s problems, and this applies to everyone who builds or runs a website. This means YOU.
When you’re creating a social strategy for your site, focus on how your social elements can help your visitors, not how they can help you. Can they inform your visitors, solve their problems, or (of course) answer their questions?
To get started, think about how your site can do any of the following, and how social could enhance these efforts:
- Educate people (e.g. Skillshare, Youtube Education)
- Solve people’s problems (StackOverflow, Yahoo Answers)
- Connect people with people who can help them (Quora, LinkedIn)
- Connect people in real life (Meetup)
- Entertain people (Zynga, Spotify, Turntable.fm, Netflix)
- Save people money (Livingsocial, woot, Amazon)
- Help people keep in touch with those they care about (Facebook, Google+)
The sites I listed have become popular (at least in part) because of their ability to integrate social elements to improve people’s lives. If you can use social tools to give even one of these benefits to your visitors, you’ll be way ahead of your competition. For the social companies out there that do not help people in one of these ways…their days are numbered if they can’t adapt and provide real value. (Twitter is notably missing from this list. With its myriad use cases, it can help in several/all of these categories, as can Facebook.)
Naturally, we believe Q&A is a perfect way to add social interaction to your site, to help your visitors, and to help them help each other. It can educate, solve problems, connect people, save them money, and sometimes even entertain! The most important point to remember is that if you are helping your visitors with your site’s content, tools, and social elements, they will reward you for it, either through subscriptions, purchases, or ad revenue.
We’d love to talk more with you about using Q&A to help your visitors, so drop us a line!
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