On the internet, change is part of the definition. In social media, changes are happening literally by the minute. 2008 promises to show humungous growth and an incredible amount of change for major and minor social media websites.
Certain things will be universal as the websites below grow. Some were acquired, some will be acquired in the future, but one thing that we have seen and that we will continue to see is a lack of a shake-up based upon the acquisitions. When a larger company buys a smaller company in the “real world”, there are normally big changes made right from the start. These changes rarely result in mass exodus of employees (unless done by design) nor does it yield a major drop in consumers.
The participatory nature of social media and social networks requires that changes happen slowly and any changes in the beginning must be subtle. Unlike in the real world, a change from one social website to another is quick and easy. Had eBay started throwing their results pages on StumbleUpon, many would have left. Reddit is virtually unaffected by being acquired by Wired, just as Newsvine has seen no change since MSNBC scooped them up. Expect this trend to continue.
Newsvine – Marketing Changes
The MSNBC acquisition will not change much for Newsvine from a useability perspective. What we will see more than with any of the other social media websites is marketing that hits all fronts. Newsvine was the “pet project” for someone who recognized that it was a low-risk acquisition that, if handled properly, could turn into a home run.
The interface is more geared to help people transition from traditional news websites to social news. It’s citizen journalism that offers the quality in writing of professional journalism without making the less educated user feel alienated. Social media with a smile! By the end of the year, expect Newsvine to triple in membership and double in traffic, due in large part to MSNBC taking its mass of resources to get the word out.
StumbleUpon – Monetization Changes
The eBay purchase terrified many users. They waited, and when nothing happened, many put it to the back of their mind that there was even a purchase. Did it really happen, or was it a rumor that never came through?
It did happen, and executives at eBay (other than the ones on the campaign trail) are brainstorming ways to make money from it. Tying it into eBay in any way is out of the question. Many will bail out the second they stumble a couple of “Buy it Now” filled pages. Still, there is an angle, and someone knows it, but nobody is talking yet.
We will see SU blossom as more and more features make the user-experience so strong, people will continue to tell their real world friends about it. It’s fun. For 2008, the fun will be monetized. Currently, buying stumble traffic is working to some extent, but advertisers are realizing that the traffic quality is low. They don’t buy. One idea on the table is to utilize user data to offer targeted advertising while stumbling and when not. They will learn from Facebook Beacon and offer a better service in 2008.
Digg – Sellability Changes
Will it be sold? Who will buy it? Are we in the groomed product stage, or are recent indications of an upcoming improved interface part of the master plan to increase traffic, pageviews, and perceived value?
Expect major changes to Digg on an evolutionary level. It has the luxury of a large base of users who are so entrenched in it, they will welcome changes that improve the site and deal with changes that don’t (at least that’s the hope). The changes have been rolling out pretty constantly over the last few months, but it should be miniscule compared to the changes that are coming. Advertising will change, as will how pages are delivered. Nofollow attribute is also coming, as the huge base of users do not care whether there is any search engine optimization value in the links and Digg no longer needs the SEO submissions and traffic to maintain huge status.
Comments fixed at last? Most definitely.
This article by Muhammad Saleem details some of the potential changes, and they barely scratch the surface.
Reddit – Design Changes
Will Reddit have its first major redesign in years? Will the algorithm be tweaked, submission style get changed, or functionality be improved?
The smart money is on “no”, that Old-faithful Mr. Steady will not change. The users like it the way it is. Our money is on a big, fat “YES”. For the first time, there will be a truly noticeable redesign that will be met with resistance at first, but with the tremendous loyalty that Reddit users have, they’ll get used to it and eventually love it.
Mixx – Innovative Changes
The new kid on the block has been tweaking behind the scenes since the beginning. This social media website that rose to modest prominence because of a single banned user at Digg drawing attention to it is now working their way up the ranks.
Are they a Digg-killer? There is no such thing, other than Digg itself. Still, Mixx has features that other social media sites don’t, and it’s in their nice array of stories that will be its greatest strength in 2008.
Watch as it grows to compete with Propeller, possibly even Reddit, in traffic. It has a long way to go as far as users, but the ones that are there are either in and out, here and gone, or they are the dedicated users that Reddit and Newsvine enjoy.
With a billing that says they take the best features of Digg, LinkedIn, and My Yahoo!, expect them to innovate their platform to draw in people from other realms outside of social media. More interaction, more Facebook-style community, and less Digg-cloning. They want to improve on what Digg started, not copy them.
Propeller – Partnership Changes
Is AOL going to sell Netscape? Who would buy it? Propeller, on the other hand, is ripe for a change. With all of the traditional media outlets looking into social media, someone will most likely make an offer that Propeller can’t refuse. Whether it’s a buyout or a partnership, something will attach them to someone. It could be someone within the AOL circle, but if that were the case, it probably would have happened already.
The interface itself should only see minor tweaks. They like the product they have to offer, and most of the users do as well. It’s growing faster than the larger SM sites, not as fast as Mixx, but it’s starting to secure its place as the 2nd/3rd/4th option.
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Social media was big last year, huge in 2007, and will become the same level of phenomenon that social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook enjoy. They allow for video interaction on sites like YouTube and 5min, but they have the avantage of being filtered by peers.
One more thing to remember — the niche social media sites that have been a failure so far will slowly emerge in 2008 as viable websites. Sphinn has proven that appealing to a small group of people is not a sign of doom. Sites like Hugg didn’t exactly explode in 2007, but they did offer a glimpse into what is to come in 2008.
Should be a great year.
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