Panel of Social Media Experts Covers Democratization, Mobile, and Competition

“It is better to compete against many clones than innovative market leaders.”

During “The Nine Lives of Social Media” panel, a seasoned group of social media experts contemplated the past, present, and future of social media.  Included were Nick Gruden of Facebook, Jules Maltz of IVP ( a premier later-stage venture capital firm), Emil Michael of Klout, Matt Van Horn of Path, and Kevin Weil of Twitter.

The panel began the discussion by acknowledging the democratizing effects that social media has for the great masses of people who otherwise would not have a medium for wide-spread self-expression.  “There are no longer any silent minorities or majorities,” the panel concurred.

Although some form of self-expression is relatively mundane such as posting what someone will have for dinner that evening or who wore what dress during the Oscars, Gruden noted that “larger trends become much more apparent and significant in the aggregate.”  Indeed social media provided a critical outlet during the Arab Spring and has been an emerging way for the less socially power to connect to politics and “gives users a voice,” according to Weil.

The group reflected upon how social media facilitates connections that would not otherwise exist.  After reading “Jack Welch and The G.E. Way,” Weil asked his Twitter community which book he should read next.  After a colleague suggested “Good Night Moon,” Jack Welch himself chimed in and suggested a few additional reads.  Both the panel and the audience concurred that without social media these sorts of interactions would be impossible.

In addition to unprecedented social connectivity, mobile is also significantly shaping the social media space.  Weil mentioned that “60% of its users are on mobile and in some countries this number is closer to 80%.”

Although mobility lowers barriers to entry for consumers, it also comes with its drawbacks.  For example, games usually played on desktop do not always translate well into the world of mobile.  Moreover, a smaller screen can make consuming media less attractive.

Mobilization can also lead to less revenue as some advertising platforms do not carry over from desktop to mobile.  In spite of these challenges, emerging markets are looking to mobile as a way to engage the global marketplace without incurring the costs associated with desktop computing.

While emerging markets provide consumers, they also provide competition, sometimes in the form of direct imitation.  Maltz encouraged aspiring entrepreneurs to realize that even though some markets such as eBay have a “winner take all model where one model dominates the market, it’s best not to chase clones or even competitors.”  Van Horn pointed out that clones will always be one step behind because they “cannot copy your thoughts.”

In closing, Michael left the audience wisdom to ponder through his observation that it is “better to compete against many clones than innovative market leaders.”

Photo Courtesy Shane O’Neill

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