The next big social media thing? Here are the likely winners.

Social media is king these days. All of us, government and the public alike, are doing our best to try and cover our social media bases. The GCN Lab guys (that’s me and Greg) even have a Twitter feed now, so follow us if you want to see all the crazy happenings in the lab.

But do you feel like you are always playing catch-up with your social media presence? If you join Facebook these days, you are literally one of nearly a billion who have already come to the party. Fashionably late is one thing, but it makes gathering followers and friends a bit more difficult.

Wouldn’t it be nice to plant your flag in the earlier days of a social media outlet — to be in front of the next trend?

Sure it would, but predicting the next big thing is not an easy task. For every social media outlet that makes it, there are many that don’t, or that languish with so few users that it’s doubtful anyone within your specific group of people will come by to visit. Investing time in one of those underperformers means you aren’t working elsewhere.

Everyone is saying that Pinterest is the next big thing, and that may be true, but I don’t really see it as helpful for most federal agencies or workers. Looking around the site, it seems to be place where users, mostly women, share pictures and recipes of their great-aunt’s cheesecake, or photos of new shoes they bought. That’s fine, and quite pretty, but it's not really for our crowd.

And for different reasons, both Google+ and LinkedIn seem to be struggling to gain any sort of real traction.

In the case of Google+, I think it’s too similar to Facebook, so people are reluctant to invest a lot of time in what 900 million of them already are doing on the other site. In the case of LinkedIn, it’s simply that it has the worst of the worst social media extensions of any service I’ve ever seen.

It’s obvious that LinkedIn added the social media aspects to its site as an afterthought and hasn’t put any real effort into it, so why should anyone else? I was recently able to contact someone important via LinkedIn, but the site did absolutely everything it could to prevent me from doing so, and even tried to charge me money for the privilege of sending an e-mail to that person. My advice is to post your resume on LinkedIn if you’re looking for a job, and leave it alone for anything else.

No, I think the next big thing will be video sharing. Unlike YouTube, the new video sharing sites seem to really place an emphasis on the community. The video is actually kind of a secondary thing.

Of these new sites, my favorite is Color, which lets you post live video directly to the page. A recent deal with Verizon will let 4G users on that carrier put up 30-second clips directly from their phones. Think about that. You see news happening and you share it with the world immediately. Nobody can stop you. The video is published as it’s happening. That’s pretty darn powerful.

Government would have to be careful how it uses such a service, but in terms of instantly informing citizens what is going on, you really can’t beat it. It’s still kind of a new concept, but the cast of “Saturday Night Live,” for instance, is using it to show what is going on backstage at their shows, so I think it may really catch on soon.

Another service with video is Socialcam, which takes a more traditional approach to video sharing. Like on YouTube, videos can be of any length, but there are a lot of post-processing effects that can be added to make them look really interesting. And it’s tightly integrated with Facebook and other social media sites, so sharing your videos there and on your other sites is pretty easy. You can be up and running on Socialcam in minutes with no formal training needed.

The one that is getting all the attention right now, though, is Viddy, which is kind of a cross between Twitter and YouTube. Viddy lets users post 15-second clips, with some video editing and musical effects, onto their pages and share them with other social media sites. The 15-second time limit seems a bit short to me. It does make it harder for a snoozer video to get through, but it’s also not easy to post anything of consequence in 15 seconds. Then again, 140-character limits haven’t slowed down Twitter.

So if you want to catch the next social media wave, think in terms of moving pictures. Choose your next site wisely. It’s pretty much a given than at least one of the video sharing sites — Color, Viddy or Socialcam — will make it big, perhaps more than one of them.

The live aspects of Color are the most intriguing to me personally, but I love a live shoot. Socialcam is probably the one that would be easiest for a government group to use with ease, though it would be amazing if an agency with a lot of video, such as NASA or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, could create a huge following with cool, quick clips on Viddy.

Good luck. The tools are there. Plant your flag now and become a pioneer in the social media frontier. 

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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