The Social Shiny Object
Part of the growth of various social networks at the moment is the "new shiny object" aspect.
Online social networks as we know them today are relatively new. They are what the World Wide Web was to the 1990's or fax to the 1980's: you just gotta have it, you gotta be there.
Back To Reality
That "wow, look at this!" will subside, is slowly but surely starting to subside.
Some call it "social media fatigue". It's not.
After splurging and gorging on social networks -- tons of fiends! 5000 friends limit too low! -- saturation sets in. An "is this all there is?"
The New Social Reality
The true new online social core will be a group of select friends and family members together with being a fan of a handful of people we want to hear from (think Oprah, for example). Maybe there's place for a brand or two (think NASCAR, or a car brand).
Large networks aren't going anywhere but their importance will
decline change as people connect with but don't pay attention to these connections.
This "one person, two networks" model looks like this. One is the trusted circle, listened to, followed. The other is a collection of contacts, inquired or polled when needed.
Both of these networks can provide brand or marketing value. When the collection of contacts is polled it's obviously of value if it responds with your brand.
But the primary network, the trusted circle, is to be coveted. Positive brand mentions here are the equivalent of brand evangelism: people listen and are ready to convert. You're at the heart of the group with a fair amount of implicit trust.
Intimate, Quiet, Less
The core circle of trust is smaller, more intimate. Less noise. The value is higher because updates between members matter more to each member.
To be in the circle as a brand means to rely on individuals in your company. John can join a circle of trust; ACME can't.
Compare it with traditional advertising. It's not dead but the nature of the game has changed as people have wizened up and consume advertisement with a different mindset than they did 40 years ago.
How To Prepare
First, whatever works today will by and large work tomorrow too -- in the collection of contacts network.
To be in that network, make and take your place today. People add easily but let go hardly.
The ease with which a "friend" or "follower" can be had today will be looked back at with an age of innocence wonder. Use your time wisely.
To be in the much smaller circles of trust, prepare personal relations.
Large companies can rely on their large human resources. Smaller companies can achieve personalization by being present in different circles with different, individual messages.
What To Do Right Now
*be* social. Be present. Be there. Continue your social efforts -- but keep your ears to the ground as the nature of the game is about to change.