Much has been written recently about the purported strategic problems at Google:
- Facebook is eating Google's lunch and a threat to replace Google as the leading search site
- Google does not generate content; it only compiles it
- Google has no real strategy in social media
The underlying premise in all these arguments is that content generation drives the web and that this user generated content has value.
When I look at my own experience I reach the following conclusions:
- The content from my blog is the only content I generate that may have any real value...to anybody. Twitter and Facebook are just distribution systems for the content
- 85% of the time I spend on the web is in consuming content--reading blogs, news and article links on Twitter (from a small group of people)
- Most of the content on Facebook and Twitter is drivel low value or blatantly self-promoting (which also applies to my recent flurry of book promotion tweets)
- I do not need validation from "friends" on product purchases, restaurants or articles to read; I doubt many of my friends have a deep enough understanding of my needs to opine accurately
- I am increasingly using chat on Facebook, Skype and Google; this suggests to me that people find the quality of content on Twitter and Facebook lacking and want a more focused communication; 80% of my chats are people (usually students) seeking advice
I think that social media is in its very early stages and that user generated content such as Twitter and Facebook is an early stage phenomena that may not last, except as a distribution channel. I think most people consume content rather than generate it. The success of the iPad is perhaps the proof of this point. The iPad is designed to consume content and not to produce it. The functionality is really too restricted to constantly generate high quality content. According to ReadWriteWeb,
"Kevin Thau, Twitter's VP for business and corporate development, announced during a presentation at Nokia World 2010 ... that everyone's favorite micro-blogging network is not actually a social network. No, says Thau: Twitter is for news. Twitter is for content. Twitter is for information."
I think Thau agrees with me and sees Twitter as a distribution network.
I think that where the web will evolve is toward a model where all your content will be generated from a single web-based app and you will merely choose what distribution channels you want to use (public, private, group, company, etc.), similar to the Google Reader feature "share". As soon as you can choose easily where content is distributed, Facebook and Twitter become much less valuable.
In such an environment I forsee aggregating and curating content will be the more valuable app. Google is clearly the leader today in aggregating content and much of their development in Gmail, Buzz, Rapportive features, etc. points toward improving their ability to aggregate and curate content. As long as most of us focus on using content, Google's focus on aggregating content is a good strategy.