With the possible exception of Google+, most believe that the big dogs have the social media market cornered. Facebook owns networking. Twitter owns news and blabber. YouTube owns video. With the lines drawn, it seems as if everyone else old and new has to settle for attempting to dominate small niches within the industry.
There are four social media sites that are showing promise to explode in 2012 in ways that make them viable for long-term success. One of them is "ancient" in social media terms, launched in 2004 around the same time Facebook started. Two launched recently and are poised to accelerate through 2012 toward greatness. One is unknown but worth mentioning because of the sheer potential it offers.
All four will be talked about in 2012. Are you on them yet?
When we first looked at Pinterest last year, we thought it would make a nice tool for organizing pictures and videos but nothing special that Facebook couldn't do or that Flickr hadn't already done. We were wrong and knew so when we took a second look last month. Now, we're hooked.
What did we miss originally? The site has a strength that we unfortunately didn't recognize. The demographic of the site that "lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web" is the perfect demographic for success—25-35-year-old women. It's not that younger or older people aren't on it, and there are plenty of men on the site as well, but the site possesses an elegance that Facebook lacks and is much easier to socialize on than Flickr.
In many ways, it's Tumblr-lite. You aren't just posting and hoping people see it. You're sharing on a public timeline that is small enough and beautiful enough to keep your interests going. Pinterest will continue to grow through 2012 at an incredible pace and has the potential to insert business-relevancy with ease.
This grandfather of a social media site was a deep competitor with Facebook in the early days, but soon came to the conclusion that Facebook was going to win the battle against everyone, even MySpace. In 2007, they made a famously successful pivot to become the epitome of "Social Discovery."
If Facebook is about keeping track of people you know such as friends, family, and coworkers, Tagged is about finding new people outside your normal circles. It has a look and feel similar to Facebook, but encourages people to connect with others for whatever reason they want.
The most compelling quality the site has is profitability. In social media, turning a profit isn't the easiest thing to do and sustain. Tagged has been doing it for four years and just purchased Hi5, a longtime competitor that brings their user base over the 300 million mark. Not too shabby for a Silicon Valley startup that could have easily gone the way of MySpace.
The greatest ally of ChimeIn is Facebook fatigue. At some point, most people get tired of hearing what their friends and family are doing in their normal lives. The ability to experience the rest of the world through strangers of like interests makes Chime a perfect diversion.
For many, it is becoming the primary social network they use.
Why? Facebook and Twitter, as addictive as they are, are not always in touch with the rest of the world outside of one's own circles. Rather than focus on friends, Chime focuses on building communities around topics and encourages discussion and sharing in ways that Facebook lacks.
Of the companies listed here, SceneChat is the one you're least likely to know. The toolbar/dashboard/advertising module is simple in concept and groundbreaking in application.
Basically, the SceneChat interface acts as an overlay on videos that helps to socialize the viewing experience. Rather than commenting inline below the video, SceneChat allows the social interactions to take place on the video itself with time markers attached to the video timeline. Rather than leaving a comment that says, "At the 7:39 mark, he shoots the charging rhino," one can go to that point in the video and leave a linkable, sharable comment at the 7:39 mark itself. The link created takes visitors from Twitter, Facebook, or anywhere else directly to that point in the video, making it easier to share portions of long videos and interact directly with that particular moment.
That in itself is cool, but the real groundbreaker of SceneChat is the way it interacts with advertisements. Rather than having the dreaded pre-roll ads, a static banner in the corner, or an obtrusive in-video popover, SceneChat allows the advertisement space around the video to be timed to serve the appropriate ad at the appropriate time.
When officially launched, this will change the way many websites present their videos while changing the way that advertisers put out their message.
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Throughout 2011, it appeared that we may, indeed, be near the end of the social media innovation revolution. The players were in their places and there wasn't much room for more. Looking forward, it's encouraging to see that creativity is not only flowing but is being encouraged by the masses that don't want to be stuck in the Facebook box forever.