Perhaps Google’s stiffest competition in the immediate future isn’t Bing and Yahoo, but rather it’s the likes of Wikipedia, Twitter, and Facebook. Just as we no longer search for the news (24 of the top 25 newspapers have shown record declines in circulation), in the future we will no longer search for products and services; rather they will find us via social media.
— Is Google a Social Media Company? (via Fred Wilson, Bijan Sabet)
I hope not. That sounds awful.
Fortunately, I think this is one of those new-media thought extrapolations where we’re so far into the clouds that we can’t even see reality anymore.
I’m sure products and services (or “brands”, as they like to call themselves) will continue trying to find us on social networks. That doesn’t mean that we’ll welcome them in many contexts. People are already annoyed that they can’t rant about their local cable monopoly’s awful service on Twitter without receiving a cheerful but useless reply from a PR drone with the frustratingly false implication they can do something to improve their employer’s mediocrity.
When you tell your friends that you’re having coffee at Aroma, the last thing you want is to get an at-reply from Starbucks asking you to try their location across the street. When you congratulate your friends for their new baby on Facebook, you don’t want Pampers to auto-message you (or them) about the great features on their new diapers.
Meanwhile, if you search Google for coffee or baby announcements, the chances are much better that you’re interested in seeing commercial offers — or at least won’t be interrupted and offended by them.
Social media, by design, resides in a similar context as socializing in real life. “Brands” can’t interrupt us in the social context without being awkward and unwanted. Imagine the mood if your new father-in-law followed your grandfather’s war story during Thanksgiving dinner with a pitch for his Amway energy drinks and a great investment opportunity for everyone at the table.
Commercial interaction just doesn’t work in that context, and I doubt that it ever could.