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Summary:

Is “Social” already over? That’s news to me. Those immersed in web work may be sick of the (over)use of the word “social,” particularly if, like me, they’ve been working in the social media space back before anyone called it “social.”

Recently, I was speaking to another web-working type about his company’s name – which I really liked, by the way. The name included “Social” in it. He said he’s been hearing mixed things about the name.

“Someone told me that ‘social’ is so over,” he said, lamenting that his company name may already be dated.

Is “Social” already over? That’s news to me. Those immersed in web work may be sick of the (over)use of the word “social,” particularly if, like me, they’ve been working in the social media space back before anyone called it “social.”

Back in 1995, we called it “community” and “communication.” Heck, we all became social online when we first realized we could communicate with others via our computers on traditional phone lines. Out on the speaking circuit, I talked about how the Internet was all about “connection – not just connecting us to information but also connecting us to people, to one another.”  Sure, we didn’t have the powerful sharing tools that we have today and social networks weren’t even a glimmer on the horizon. Does anyone remember Andrew Weinreich’s “failed” online community SixDegrees.com that paved the way for LinkedIn and the like? That was a social media before it was called social media.

So is “Social” just 2008′s buzzword and on its way out?

For anyone with a company that has “Social” in their name, rest assured, I don’t think that it is over yet. And for anyone out there searching for any available combination of social with another word that might make a good name for a social media business, don’t worry. “Social” is not over yet.

In fact, the general consumer out there is still struggling to understand what a blog is much less a microblog. The term “social media” isn’t even on many people’s radars. The nice thing about “social” is that any non-techie does get what “social” means. But then try to explain to them that “social” now refers to Web 2.0 tools that facilitate collaboration and sharing, and their eyes glaze over. At least many people have now heard the word “social” used in combination with the word “network” often enough in the media, but many of them still think social networks like MySpace are dangerous. Lesson? Let us not forget the learning curve that every new technology and new terminology must go through before mass adoption.

Socialtext, Socialminder, Socialthing? These aren’t household names yet and might not ever be. I’m not knocking any of those companies but for every Socialtext there is a Yammer. For every Socialthing there is aFriendFeed. For ever Socialminder, there’s another contact or CRM management tool.

Think about who these “social” companies are targeting at this time. Not really Mom or Pop. Nor John or Jane Q. Public. Their current customers or members or subscribers tend to be industry types, the iindy Web workers who “get it” or a small pool of IT guys in corporations who also get it.

“Social” as a buzz word simply has not hit the masses.

What do you think of the term “Social?” In your opinion, is it grossly overused or still a useful and viable buzzword that hasn’t even peaked yet?

  1. It’s overused. It’s ok to use it to refer to the entire phenomenon (i.e. Social Networking), but it’s been there, done that when naming your product.

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  2. Just like it happened with search engines, blogs and web.20 – the hype is over. The market has been saturated…Main thing – there is some healthy remainders, like google, AJAX, linkedin, etc…

    Looks like the next big bang is the cloud apps – thousands of apps emerged so far – next phase is the period of survival and consolidation.

    Mobile – there are still miles to go…

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  3. The great thing about “social” as noted in the post is that ordinary person gets it. Unlike website, blog, status update, pipeline…it’s an ordinary word, not a term of art. So yes, “I’m a social media this or that…” may or may not be overused (probably is) or used incorrectly (definitely) and so subject to the same pollutive/corruptive/weakening effects that define the acceptance curve of any term of art.

    But…to the ordinary person, social media represents something that he or she can immediately understand and participate in. Have a thought? Post it. See something cool? Shoot it (ah, to be clear, with a camera…) and share it. The “web” (and what we’d call “Web 2.0/Social Web”) has now arrived at a new plateau that truly enables anyone to be a publisher using ordinary tools (words, pictures, audio) recorded via devices they generally have (a digital camera, smart phone, etc.)

    So, claiming “I’m social xyz” at a SXSW party this spring may draw a thin smile and a “so what” from your peers…but for ordinary folks (the type that wear tennis shoes or maybe the occasional python boot) the term “social” means that they are finally included in all of what we love in a way that is immediately obvious to them.

    No, social is not over. In fact, it’s just now happening.

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  4. I’d say that “social” is over as a marketing term, or a buzzword, or likely as a company name, but that’s largely due to two causes: overhyping of the concept, and the fact that its use is standard and mainstream (well, business mainstream anyway), that it’s just not a distinguishing feature anymore.

    Social is the web standard (and always has been really), so it doesn’t need to be the hype centre anymore.

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  5. I’ve noticed we humans tire of words quickly and to demonstrate, here is your question, “Is Social So Over?” I think not.

    Web evolution is causing us to evolve and invent language – to create shortcuts to describe sometimes nebulous concepts. Nebulous like computing in the “Cloud” one might say. :-)

    There’s a reason why Eskimos have over 30 words to describe snow. Snow is more important and ever changing in their world – as the web is in ours. They’re probably not so much tired of the word, but have found it not specific enough for many purposes.

    A nice short useful word like “social” will be with us for a very long time, I’m guessing. But like Eskimos, we won’t just be satisfied just to know there’s snow outside – we’ll want to know the color, texture, granularity, depth and more – or that the site is a dating site – or a social cause site – or a targeted community site like “a long haul trucker load board community site”.

    Yeah, social’s a bit worn, but here to stay.

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  6. You may also want to check out yonkly. It’s the first microblog that integrates with twitter: http://yonkly.com

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  7. Can I at least hope out loud that the phrase “Join the conversation” is over?

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  8. I also worked with a company in 1999 that thought it would be awesome to use 2000 in their domain name.

    Using the term Social in a company name definitely dates your business and limits your ability to diversify, but I don’t think social media is over. I think there are millions of people and thousands of business that haven’t even scratched the surface of social media.

    If this other people think social is over, let them get out of the way so I can capitalize on their absence.

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  9. U r damn right, it was a fad getting over now.

    Rakesh

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  10. It is not over until the fat lady sings and posts a video on YouTube where haters tell her she is fat.

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  11. [...] Read more of my post over on Web Worker Daily’s site. [...]

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  12. I’m conducting a job search for the first time since 2005 and I was surprised at how many postings required Social Media skills! It’s one thing to spend time on Facebook all day but to successfully roll out social media in the professional setting is something else altogether.

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