Unless you’re new to the Internet — or have been living in a cave — you know that social media has been an influential part of the Web for well over a decade. As an interactive social instrument of communication, social media has shaped how we communicate with each other, all thanks to that wacky tool we call the Internet.
Social media isn’t a static tool though, oh no no no. Websites and applications that have interactive social communication tools have been coming and going for a while now, with new versions supplementing and even replacing older forms.
We’ve come a long way from the early bulletin board systems (BBSs) which allowed users to exchange messages and other data. By the time Friendster and MySpace arrived in the early 2000s, social interaction with family and friends was being taken to a new level on the Web. Then along came Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, each bringing different aspects to the world of social media. Facebook became the heavyweight in sharing information with family and friends; LinkedIn brought social media to the business world; and Twitter made microblogging fashionable for individuals and businesses alike.
But just as the Facebooks of the world have overtaken other social media sites in popularity, so shall newcomers arrive. The newest contestants in the battle to be the latest social media darling bring with them new ways to share and interact with others, including in the realm of the mobile device, an increasingly popular platform for social media.
Here are four relatively new social media sites or applications that stand a chance of making a noticeable impact (if they haven’t already).
1. Pinterest: If you’re an active female Internet user, you probably have heard of Pinterest by now. Dubbed the third most popular social media site last week, Pinterest has apparently captured the interest of the female population, boasting a nearly 97 percent subscribership from that demographic.
Pinterest gives users the ability to share images they find on the web with friends via “pinboards.” A user can have multiple pinboards, each with a different theme, featuring the ability to be commented on and shared yet again on another user’s pinboard. My Pinterest account, for example, has a mere three pinboards: one for places I’d like to travel to, another for things that “capture my imagination,” and another for writing themes. Some users have many more.
The site is very image-centric, however. While you can share news stories and other written media on the site, it can only be done through pinning an image associated with the written media. Overall, if you prefer sharing images rather than the written word, Pinterest is definitely a social media site to try.
2. Google+: Before there was Google+ there was Google Buzz. Introduced in 2010, it was met with significant criticism for its implementation. Not to be deterred, the company tried again in late 2011 with Google+. Its initial release caught some eyes, but it was slow to take off. Since then, though, it has seen a steady increase in use. Google is hoping even more jump on board with its first redesign of Google+, introduced yesterday. Built as a competitor to Facebook, Google+ has new features like a customizable navigation bar, stream of conversation “cards,” large image and video support, and “Hangout” pages.
Like many new social networking sites, there are concerns about whether or not your friends are using or going to use it. New data indicates at a minimum businesses are giving Google+ more consideration this year, and more individuals are sure to follow as Facebook continues to be an annoyance to some.
3. Instagram: Another photo sharing tool — but this time in the form of a free, purely mobile application — Instagram allows users to photograph something with their smartphone, apply a unique array of filters to the resulting photo, and then share it on Flickr, Facebook, and Twitter. Instagram doesn’t necessarily allow for social interactions, but rather it acts as an enabler for sharing photos on other social networking sites.
On April 9, news broke that Instagram was being bought by Facebook, but with the recognition it would remain separate from Facebook, at least in the short term. This raised a few eyebrows, and even some of Instagram’s most avid users weren’t thrilled by the news, resulting in a variety of negative comments. This leaves many to wonder about the long-term future of the social networking tool. Many are hoping as Facebook better defines its goals for Instagram to the public, the application’s future may become clearer.
4. Springpad: Perhaps not the most widely-known social media entity, Springpad has been around since 2008 as a place where users can save, organize, and share ideas and information like recipes, travel recommendations, and to-do lists in a “notebook.” A new update to Springpad was revealed yesterday, however, that aims to make it an even more “social” media tool. Now you can share your notebooks publicly or privately with other users. Additionally, you can now follow other people’s notebooks, which like Pinterest, can receive their own theme, allowing you to follow a user’s recipe notebook but not their travel itinerary. Images now play a heavy role in notebooks, allowing for more than just text to be shared. Springpad can be accessed via the Web or through a mobile application, making it even easier to update your notebooks at any moment. It will be interesting to see if the changes draw in more of the typical social media crowd, especially given the recent surge of interest in Pinterest.
Photo via Chris Lott, Flickr Creative Commons
In August 2008, Mark Mahaney, a leading business analyst with Citigroup, stated “the Kindle is becoming the iPod of the book world.” He reckoned that the Kindle — Amazon’s highly-popular e-reader — would sell roughly 380,000 units in 2008.
Fast-forward to 2011. Ever secretive of their sales numbers, Amazon is estimated to have sold between 5.4 to 8 million Kindles in 2010, with even larger numbers likely by the end of the 2011 sales year. Even if we use the more conservative number, we’re still talking about 14 times the units being sold a couple of years later. It’s difficult not to translate that to significant adoption of e-books and other digital written content, especially with EPUB-based platforms like the iPad strongly playing in the mix.
Of course, there are plenty of other signs that e-books and e-readers are becoming more popular, especially in libraries and the education sector. Let’s look at a few of those indicators.
1. Libraries: The folks at Library Journal released the results of their second annual Ebook Penetration & Use in U.S. Libraries Survey, and those results tell a story of e-books gaining ground in libraries around the country. According to their results, compared to last year there has been a 10 percent increase in the number of public libraries offering e-books, with a 184 percent increase in the average number of available e-books. Academic libraries saw small increases as well, though not as pronounced as the public realm.
Recent news stories seem to support Library Journal’s survey. Whether it’s high-profile entities like the U.S. Air Force or small local libraries like the one in Lexington, Nebraska, interest in and adoption of e-books at libraries is increasing. “We’re using mobile devices like tablets, netbooks, and smart phones more than ever,” Air Force Services Agency administrative librarian Melinda Mosley told the Air Force. “We’re interested in providing service to our customers anywhere, anytime, in addition to providing face-to-face services at our libraries.”
A similar story is told in the city of Lexington, where Kathleen Thomsen works as the director of the Lexington Public Library. “We have so many people coming in and inquiring about e-books,” she told the Lexington Clipper-Herald. “The new technology is really growing.”
Yet while interest in e-books is increasing, both Mosley and Thomsen paint a similar picture of one of the speed bumps along the way: there’s a learning curve to using e-readers and e-books. In each case the additional component of “how do I use this?” comes into play. The solution is on-site education in the form of “sandbox sessions” and “technology petting zoos,” allowing people from all walks of life to learn how to use emerging reading technologies to read the content they want.
Jim Hahn, a researcher at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign who performed a recent case study on technology and the library, agrees that despite the popularity of e-books and e-readers, educational and utilization-related barriers still slow the march of tech saturation in the library.
“Librarians have a sense that today’s rapidly changing technological landscape should be reflected in the services they provide,” he said in his case study. “But while enthusiasm and curiosity are in abundance in the library technical field, consensus on precisely where and how to merge library-specific expertise and emerging digital tools remains elusive.”
Continue on for three more indicators…
I would say this is a paradox. (A tenet or proposition contrary to received opinion; an assertion or sentiment seemingly contradictory, or opposed to common sense; that which in appearance or terms is absurd, but yet may be true in fact.) Hmm..many of you would surely agree with me on the ‘kind of paradox’ that I am talking about. Well this is about the new social forum Google+ and its ubiquitous features!
Hmm..again! Newspapers in India have been guarded with the way they would like to view Google’s foray ‘again’ into the social networking scene. This isn’t surprising given the psyche of the Indian media. They dither, they drool, they hedge but are never firm on their views. Why is it so scary for them to call a spade a spade I am not sure. But then some say it’s too early to call a spade a spade! It’s been just two weeks that Google+ launched flamboyantly its new features, challenging the other social networking site Facebook! Facebook responded by hurriedly making changes to many of its features and applications overnight.
Now what can you say of a giant taking on the Goliath! Google has been on the IT map for over 16 years and has entrenched its roots deep into the psyche of every being associated with the internet. A giant that leaped into the social networking scene with hopes of cashing in on the vast number of people resources and their ideas that Facebook has. It did so in the past with the launching of ‘Picasa ultimatum’ that wasn’t as successful as it disappointed its users who didn’t want to share their photos, hence stopped them from signing up. Facebook has not put such stoppers at all. In fact it has agreed to play to the hilt offering its users to change their privacy settings anytime and every time they felt the need to do so.
Mark Zuckerberg’s strategy to outwit the giant the moment it made its intentions clear drew a sigh of admirable gasps from its users. I leapt with joy the moment I saw the posting on my wall that I could now view, chat and speak to my friends for free just as we do in Skype! This sent a clear signal to Google that Mark was inching closer to its arch rival Microsoft by settling for a Facebook Skype tie-up. Some say that Mark’s trying to play the role of king maker between the two, but as users what could be more exciting than be loaded with free gifts as a result of the fight.
Some say Facebook can never be what Microsoft or Google really is. I say does it matter? In this world of dog-eat-dog, big businesses need to depend on the smaller ones to reign supreme. We all know that Google gets its revenue through Adsense while Microsoft through its software and Google have reigned supreme as an advertising mogul but Facebook has shown its mettle by opening its pages for a far superior platform of advertising. Reason for this is the profiling of its users. Facebook has taken the masses by storm.
In reality it is Google that needs the services of Facebook or come up with an equally powerful social networking platform that can attract the advertisers through its own version of ‘profiling’. Can it do that? Will Google stand up to the pressures of the wily Facebook? Only time can tell. But Google is aware that Facebook lacks the enterprise appeal, as it has no software or utility value as such. It is now a wait, watch and reap time for us users while the giants battle it out.