Saturday, November 1, 2008

I've seen the Future, and it's got a Stumble Button...!

I have made my position on the future of the social network clear. My recent post The Future of Social Networking; What Future?laid out my prediction that whilst the social network is likely to remain a dominant platform within the social media, the leading service provider is likely to shift cyclically until a more viable revenue creation model is established. As such, I see a limited future for the social network as a business solution. Although the success of the social media is founded upon its ability to connect users, it is my belief that as new social network providers enter the market, grow and then fade again into obscurity, businesses will slowly become disillusioned with the often cited benefits thereof. Whilst the adoption rate of social networks is substantially higher than a number of the other social media platforms, a fact which has allowed these organisations to offer a more mainstream product offering, I am dubious as to the advertising potential offered thereby. Whilst it is impertative that the organisation creates a presence in those forums in which the customer resides; a term coined 'fishing where the fish are by Jeremiah Jowyang, over targeting these networks may offer little additional value to the organisation. In my opinion, a facility such as StumbleUpon offers a far more viable solution for achieving organisational visibility.

For those unfamiliar with StumbleUpon (SU), the premise is simple. Users create a list of favourites; these being websites, videos, photos or content that interests the individual. The product of the favourites listed is automated content recommendations stemming from the favourites of users with similar interests. Whilst this is unremarkable in itself, SU relies heavily upon the contributions of the resultant user community as a means of creating and offering value. As with many social media platforms, community lies at the centre of the product offering, yet SU establishes a somewhat novel approach to community creation. Although users are able to 'friend' acquaintances; a feature which is common throughout the social media, users may alternatively select to 'subscribe' to another user's favourites list. This functionality allows the user to 'follow' other community members as they expand their list of favourites. This is where I see the real potential for businesses in the future.

Perhaps I should rephrase my last statement; this is where I see a role for specialists in the future. Facilities such as SU can be used to create a mass following. By establishing such a following within the SU community, the individual has an incredibly asset upon which to call. Whilst such a community is unlikely to offers solutions such as those frequently seen on platforms such as Twitter, it is a fantastic means of drawing significant attention to a particular webpage. In that respect, SU holds more in common with news aggregation sites such as Digg than with microblogging communities. As these specialists create a community following, the value which they are able to offer to an organisation increases proportionately. As Metcalfe once posited, the value of a network is equivalent to the square of the number of users therein. Imagine if you controlled such a network of devoted fans...

Clearly, SU has the potential to draw significant traffic to a given website. As users create their own community of subscribers, the value which the individual is able to offer to a portfolio of clients is unparalleled. Although these individuals are likely to offer little value as organisation specific employees (principally because the network will remain attached to the individual), it is as brand advocates that 'Stumblers' offer potentially huge levels of visibility. As such, SU is likely to represent an important tool for anyone looking to get professionally involved with the social media.

Planning on using the social media to your advantage? Best get Stumbling...

Show the Rogue some Stumble love


  1. Couldn't agree more, Chris. I think SU is one of the most under-used yet hugely effective social media apps around. Yes, it's a great personal tool, but for businesses it offers a massively untapped market.

    I wrote a blog post about harnessing the power of Stumbleupon. Although I'm not keen on leaving links on other people's blog posts, I hope you don't mind this (and might find it relevant to your post):

  2. Danny,
    Agreed, SU offers real potential for those with the insight to adopt it in these relatively early stages. In fact, this is the platform on which I am focusing my efforts at the moment. By building a strong personal community, an individual can use the resultant asset to their advantage. This seems like a viable strategy the success in the social media.

    Thank you for the link, Danny; just read the post. The social media group strategy which you reference sounds fascinating; such a simple premise, which simultaneously offers incredibly levels of reach that may otherwise be difficult to achieve alone. That is something I may look to get involved with over the coming months.

    Thanks for the insight, Danny.