Social Media is a Fad

Social Media is a Fad

Sorry folks. As it turns out, social media is just another fad. It’s true. I checked it out on the Internet. Wallowing in my misery, I started thinking about and researching other silly passing trends in the history of humankind – you know – cars, television, computers, etc. Here’s what I found…

“The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty, a fad.”

This was the advice of the President of Michigan Savings Bank to Horace Rackham, lawyer for Henry Ford, in 1903. He wasn’t alone in his beliefs. At that time, people were using trolleys, horses, bicycles and their own feet for transportation. As such, the concept of car ownership was meaningless, especially since people either lived very close together or rather far apart.

Today, it is estimated that over 600 million cars are on the road! This means that billions were produced since Ford revolutionized the industry long ago. So why did people it eventually give in, allowing cars to become so popular? Simply put – large scale manufacturing made autos affordable, and they couldn’t resist the convenience. People bought them and moved farther apart, and were able to connect with people that were greater distances away. Cars changed humanity as it was. Can you imagine life today with one?

Ironically, Ford’s lawyer Rackham ignored his own advice and invested $5,000 in Ford stock early on – selling it later for $12.5 million.

“Television won’t last because people will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.”

These wise words were uttered in 1946 by Darryl Zanuck, a movie producer for 20th Century Fox. Keep in mind, when TV sets started to become widely available in the 1940’s, they only spat out sputtering black and white images – nothing compared to the captivating 3D technology or crisp vibrant flat screens we have today. Older generations certainly resisted, muttering, “Why would you gaze at that rather than talk and interact with loved ones? Or read a book?” Movie production companies, as illustrated by Zanuck’s quote, clearly had the most to lose and fought the trend.

Regardless, folks couldn’t resist the allure of television. The luxury of enjoying quality entertainment at home with friends, neighbors and loved ones took society by storm. Soon, the country would be addicted to Lucille Ball, the Honeymooners and many others. Today, roughly 1.5 billion TV’s are in service worldwide according to Nationmaster.com! Try to imagine life without one.

People never got tired of staring at that box (though it is flatter and more rectangular now.) As such, 20th Century Fox went on to produce thousands of shows, movies, documentaries, specials and more thus generating billions if not more in total revenue. My apologies to Zanuck.

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”

What’s scarier than this quote is the source – IBM’s former chairman Thomas Watson. He shared this wisdom in 1943. Granted, computers were unthinkably gigantic in the early years, and not particularly productive. As they got smaller and more powerful, governments and businesses invested since they understood the value – but people still generally resisted since they didn’t understand what they could do or how to use them. Slowly, computers became more affordable, feature rich and easier to use. Now, even my mom has one, and a Gmail account too. Maybe she’s even reading this. Hi Mom! According to Gartner research, over a billion computers existed were used worldwide in 2008, forecasted to double to 2 billion within 7 years.

As for IBM, no need for explanation. We all know that they were the pioneers of business and personal computers, selling millions of computers since they started making them. Quite a few more that the 5 Watson predicted the world would need.

The Social Phenomena

So, let’s look at some numbers for social media, the next big “fad”:

  • Facebook has over 800 million users
  • LinkedIn, over 150 million
  • Twitter boasts over 400 million monthly active users
  • Unimaginable, but Google+ signed over 600,000 new users PER DAY last December!

These quantities certainly indicate that social isn’t going anywhere but up.

Further, the industrial purchasing community is socially active – researching brands, products, capabilities and more on social sites. According to a recent survey by Thomas Industrial Network, seven out of 10 small and midsize suppliers (68 percent) are already engaging with prospects through these channels, gaining a competitive advantage over those who have yet to start.

It’s human nature to resist change. But those that embrace social as a tool to improve communication, increase targeted exposure, promote brand awareness and generate leads will be in a better position to compete in a global marketplace. For those that choose to ignore its enormous reach, power and potential – not to worry – social media will go away. Just like cars, televisions and computers did…


Image: phanlop88 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Phil Paranicas

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About Phil Paranicas

Industrial Digital Marketing Specialist View all posts by Phil Paranicas

2 responses to “Social Media is a Fad

  • Sarah Abraham Sturtevant

    Nice post, Phil! Lessons from history certainly would indicate that social media is not going away, is not a “fad”, and is definitely here to stay. My work with industrial clients indicates that B2B companies are just starting to understand and optimize social media’s reach and power in supporting their brands. But I agree the past 12-18 months have brought us well past the early adoption stage now that 7 out of 10 of industrial companies are actively engaged in social media marketing. Companies can choose to get more “connected” on these channels or, in the words of Brian Solis, face “Digital Darwinism” http://www.briansolis.com/2011/09/end-of-business/

  • Christian Bonawandt (@cbonawandt)

    One thing that needs to be said about social media is that is not said enough about social media is that it is no less social than real life. Sure, the tactics and rules are different, but the brain understands them the same way it understands new cultures, and can adapt just as quickly using the same techniques of observation and imitation.

    One scientist, Dr. Paul J. Zak, has said that the brain does not distinguish between online social activity and offline social activity as far as chemical and emotional reactions are concerned. Social is social, whether its on the Internet or in person.

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