Social Media Services Your Business will buy in the future…and why.

Excerpt From Sharepocalypse Now: Why Social Media Overload Means New Opportunities for Startups

By Nova Spivack

Social assistance will be the next frontier spawned from social networking, and we’re all going to need it. We’ll require help managing our online relationships, tying our streams together, sifting through the noise, keeping up with what matters personally, finding who and what we need, and remaining productive.

Google+, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Microsoft will all struggle to deliver acceptable signal-to-noise ratios to their users. But they will be focused on solving this problem within their silos, rather than across all platforms. I call this approach “vertical social assistance” because it focuses on assisting people only within particular networks. Because each service is biased toward its own social graph and content, it’s unlikely that any of them will help solve the social overload outside their walls. Understandably, it’s not in their interest to enable users to make better use of competing services.

This world of fragmented messaging systems is akin the early days of email in the 1980s, when users of one network were unable to communicate with another. It was a mess. Eventually, email gateways were created to link these disparate networks. But the problem wasn’t fully solved until everyone adopted a single set of standards, and all the email networks connected into one common fabric.

Unfortunately, the unification of email networks and standards immediately killed of a lot of the smaller email networks and client makers. But through simplification, the world became less complex and more connected.

The question is, will something like this ever happen for social media? Will we see the social networks connect into a common fabric anytime soon? Right now, the major social networks own the content — it’s captive on their platforms. If that were to change, and you could read any social media message anywhere, they would have to compete on features alone — and that’s another can of worms.


What I call “horizontal social assistance” is the opportunity to access and use social media messages in a unified way. This approach is different from the vertical social assistance approach because it would span across all networks. The users of social networks need this capability in the same way they needed email unification. However, until all the social networks agree on standard profiles, messages, contacts, groups and streams, it’s not going to happen. And to be frank, such an agreement is highly unlikely in the near future.

But it could happen if some neutral party takes the initiative.

In the meantime, many other social assistance resources will emerge that target a range of different needs and opportunities, including:

Social Relationship Management (SRM) : Services that help people create, organize and manage sets of social network relationships — for example, sets of people to follow and/or share with on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc.

Social Awareness: Services that help people keep up with their social networks, especially among a user’s friends.

Social Curation: Services that help people organize and make sense of their streams and messages.

Social Personalization: Services that help people sift through the network noise for information most relevant to their particular needs and interests.

Social Analytics: Services that help to measure online social behavior and trends, optimize engagement, monitor activity and communicate more appropriately.

Social Automation: Services that help to automate activity in social networks, like automatically updating your status, helping to increase your influence, suggesting what to share, matchmaking, alerting, and using bots to intelligently interact with and assist users.

Because social assistance will become so necessary, both vertical and horizontal social assistance could mean interesting opportunities for startups. Ventures that provide vertical social assistance for particular networks, like Google+ and Facebook are going to be early build versus buy acquisition targets. These are rapid innovation opportunities for individual developers or small teams.

Ventures that attempt to solve the harder problem of horizontal social assistance will have a chance at building longer-term independent value. Some may become strong stand-alone ventures, or larger exits, but they will also be more technologically challenging, requiring larger teams and more capital.

One thing is certain: The Sharepocalypse is here and, as a result, social assistance will soon be the cutting-edge of social media innovation.





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