To echo the thoughts of my colleague Claire: the concept of content sharing happens in more places than simply the online world. Intuitively, we are all constantly creating and sharing things that define who we are. That form of creation can take many forms: a drawing on a refrigerator, an Instagram snapshot, even a simple status update on Facebook or Twitter.
Never before have we had more mediums to express ourselves yet never before has it been harder to be heard, seen or to generate feedback around the very morsels of content we try to share with the very people we want to see it.
For some mass reach is the medium in the social age this has come to define services like Twitter: which now acts as a broadcast medium and aggregator for the right-now economy. Providing an instant, actionable audience, which feeds off of incremental bits of information that are defined by timeliness not quality.
For others, a smaller audience will do a group that’s defined more by the people sitting around a dinner table rather than everyone consuming food in the continental United States at this very moment. For this purpose, there are many mediums of expression, with one dominant player that defines itself by harnessing and showcasing the most relevant moments and people in your life. Through the many features of Facebook you can live vicariously through your rambunctious Aunt Mildred on her whirlwind tour of Turin by following photos she posts, wish her a happy birthday and even find out that she’s somehow connected to that coworker four cubes over with the fuzzy cat-shaped mug. While all of this information is useful, comforting and at this point expected, there’s a certain disconnect between the people you truly want to share with and your lab partner from college physics.
Enter the world of single-purpose platforms where the medium is truly the message places like Instagram where people gather to simply share real-time snapshots of the world around them or Soundtracking where people can chat about the song they’re listening to at this very moment. Single-purpose platforms offer a more focused experience where individual users can actually discover and enjoy content from other individual users they might not necessarily know but respect and align with on a micro level.
This is idea has been around in many forms since noted Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan coined the overall term in 1964.
The concept has been refined and reborn in many forms and has underwritten the success of platforms like tumblr by far the best self-expression mechanism in the known-universe by allowing people to discover content they truly care about and claim ownership of in an active, vibrant community one that fosters their personal growth and validates their actions or feelings.
This is why I’m not quite ready to anoint Google+ as the next evolution in social expression. The big idea behind the service: providing an easier way to share content with the people you actually care about, is a noble cause, however, this very group of people we deem so important is constantly shifting and evolving. The bigger question is how does Google+ (and other incrementally better services) solve or address issues with Facebook in such a way that it would motivate users to seek out an entirely new experience? What are the pain points for the average user? Will we see a generational preference and shift in sharing frequency/methodology?
Will individual mediums keep pace with our digital consumption habits? Will we truly be offered a way to molt as social consumers? Do we need another social network or do we need a way to redefine ourselves within our existing connections?
As consumers decide what medium best reflects their personality, interests, and consumption habits, we as communication experts need to understand what types of content they expect to experience, where they expect to discover it and how we can accurately find the true value in what would otherwise be novel evolutions in social media.
We now need to consider how a brand can continually define and redefine its relevance to keep pace with the habits of the consumers that found it compelling in the first place.
How will consumers continue to define and redefine self expression? What mediums do you consider ripe for exploration?