Web 2.0’s growth is fueled by REGULAR PEOPLE, not profit-driven companies. You'd be amazed how many professionals do not understand this fundamental principle--so please tell all your friends.
Other media, through their offerings and services, target regular people, but social media is comprised of them. In fact, Web 2.0 is the only set of media that places the dynamic tools of creation and communications in everyone's hands.
Sure, twitter is growing by leaps and bounds. But even more extraordinary, as pointed out in last week's Time article, is this:
"In short, the most fascinating thing about Twitter is not what it's doing to us. It's what we're doing to it." (The exact same thing applies to Facebook and other platforms.)
More to the point, when companies launch Web 2.0 initiatives the success of them rests on whether they can engage enough regular people to contribute to their platforms, and tell others to get involved with them. Those audiences might be consumers or professionals but, I assure you, they are by and largely regular people.
And, as I've said again and again (and yes, again):
The story is not that social media enables us to connect to the world. The story is that, given access to one another, the world is now actively connecting (and swapping stories).
Regular people. The vast majority of them using FREE tools. To freely voice their likes, dislikes, rants, raves, passions, preferences, pain points... and, yes, a lot of what they're doing/eating/watching on TV at that exact moment.
Think of it this way: just as there would be no television networks without programming created by studios and no magazines without columnists and reporters, there would be no social media if not for the people using these tools to (1) create, innovate and share content and (2) building communities and networks around their interests.
So where we needed CBS to fuel broadcast TV, Life Magazine to fuel print magazines and Amazon/eBay/Google to fuel Web 1.0, we need the everyday tweeters, diggers, MySpacers, Facebookers, commenters and bloggers to fuel social media. Ergo, unlike all other media, every day folks (regular people) don't just consume this space's content, they create it... and in turn, power this space.
Now, will companies lose money in this space? Yep. Many will falter at their first attempt and a bunch of offerings will never get off the ground. But this notion of a "Web 2.0 bubble bursting and dying!!" would mean that people, like, millions and millions of them, would suddenly *poof* burst--and worse, die.
Do we think that all of a sudden everyone will decide, "Well, I've said all I've had to say for one lifetime; that was fun while it lasted, but now I'm reverting back to a passive not active role." If so, we're forgetting what is core to human nature and that's the need to communicate, express and, most essential, to connect with other humans.
I'm well aware that Web 2.0 is not the be-all and end-all. Folks, I've been in marketing for 15+ years and working in social media for but a handful of that time. But I well understand what social media is, how it changes culture and business, the extraordinary opportunities it poses and most important of all, who fuels its growth.
And I find it arrogant to otherwise assume that companies are to credit for this space's growth. Nope, I credit people. Regular ol' humans. Lots and lots of them. And more power to them. Why? Because 99% of them do not use social media for a profit motive. Nope, they use these media because of their passion and their need to connect. Don't believe me? Then believe this:
Facebook would be face-less without regular people posting, commenting, friending and fan-grouping. Twitter would not tweet without regular people following others (and out of the millions following Ashton Kutcher and Oprah on Twitter, I promise that the vast majority of them are not celebs and diplomats but regular people). A forum is not truly a forum when all message boards are empty, save perhaps the posts of the community manager.
And the majority of bloggers, who avidly produce authentic content about this, that and a zillion other topics, do so for love of the content that they share, not because they secretly have a business model brewing. Heck, many of the most famous bloggers didn't even know they would one day make a living at the craft. They just really liked connecting with other regular folks.
As to this notion that the novelty of social media tools will wear off? Hey, some platforms will be irrelevant and some will be replaced, but won't you answer me this:
When humans have found new ways to connect with others, identified new vehicles in which to express themselves, and been given greater levels of freedom and power, when have they ever given those freedoms back?
It seems to me they never have. (Well, at least not willingly.)
So keep innovating and keep sharing. Heck, keep being skeptical. But let's at least remember not to forget who gets the credit for social media's growth. And that's not profit-driven companies. Unlike all other media, it's regular ol' folks... which just happens to make social media all the more special.