My friend asked me the other day, "what do you think will be the next big social media influence? I'm hoping to find the next Facebook before it gets big."
After more consideration, I thought that the question we should be asking ourselves is how well we use the networks we already inhabit. You see, the well established networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ -- all of which have well over 100 million subscribers) are vital to business and media communication strategies. If we fail to use these tools well, then seeking out the 'next hot platform' will not work any better. The endeavor simply dooms us to being participants in the "Red Queen's Race."
Vital questions to ask are:
1) On LinkedIn, do I have my profile up to date and accurate? Do I have a reasonable number of contacts (over 120) or have I connected there to absolutely everyone with whom I should be connected? Do I have endorsements from others, and have I written endorsements for people? Do I check there regularly (at least weekly, better if twice a week) to see people with whom I should be connected? Do I make sure that when I generate news of professional interest that I post it here so that my professional network can find it?
2) With Facebook - If I have a business, program, or a media property, do I have a Fan Page established for it? Is it up to date, accurate, and attractive? Do I make sure that there's something new in it at least 3 times a week (better if it's two times a day)? Have I connected to everyone on FB with whom I should be connected? Do I routinely make sure to ask my friends, colleagues, and family to connect to my fan page and contribute content? Do I understand the strategies for calling forth contributions and engagement from my fans and friends? Do I regularly interact with the people who do contribute? Do I have media from my property (business, show, films) attached there so that someone researching me can see what's going on with us?
3) With Twitter - Do I have a well groomed and accurate profile page? Do I regularly look at the stream from my last 6 upates to see what sort of impression it leaves? Do I tweet about other people's events, or only about my own? Do I re-tweet and respond to others? Do I understand the higher-level tools like TweetDeck, HootSuite, or Seesmic? Do I regularly check the trending tags and participate in the discussions related to them? Do I regularly groom my following/follower base to weed out the dead accounts and add interesting new ones? Do I have an RSS snippet from my updates on my main website? Do I remember to encourage participation on this platform by my listeners, fans, and within my influence base?
4) With Google+ - Do I have an accurate profile there and is it up to date? Do I have a regular update pattern that demonstrates engagement and interesting progress? Have I circled as many people who are influential in my industry/field as possible and taken actions to have them circle me back? Do I have media from my property evident as shared photos, videos, or other content? Do I understand how Hangouts work and am I prepared to be able to enter one, or host one on short notice? Do I have my business page set up and ready to publish when the facility is fully ready for use? Do I understand how to read more content than just what is in my stream (using hashtags, circle filters, and more)?
Overall - if I don't understand any of these questions or don't have a good idea about how to cause the 'right answer,' do I know someone who can answer my questions or guide me to having the right stuff in place.
There are some other platforms that need to be considered as well. Some of these have narrower focus but they have specific focus that may be of interest:
YouTube - Often overlooked in social media discussions, very important. Most of us have cluttered personal channels, create a curated and attractive one for your brand
Tumblr - Halfway between Twitter and Google+ in functionality, stronger adoption in the demographic under 30.
ReverbNation - Musicians
Pinterest - Growing like wildfire, looks to me like adoption is strongest in the Blogger Mom set
Kickstarter - Growing like wildfire, new laws passed this month will empower it further, this should be near top of the list for "hot new platforms"
Vimeo - Popular with indie cinematographers, Vimeo Music Store and their new VOD offerings will probably take good hold
Dropbox - If you think this is only a file sharing utility, think again. It's a connection network.
MySpace - ummmm, yeah
Yahoo - the company isn't going away any time soon, but don't expect it to evolve in a way that catches fire again
Delicious - Yahoo buying it won't make a difference
Plaxo - Sorry, but not the right stuff
That's my viewpoint at the moment. Things change of course, I've been wrong one or two times about this stuff (Google Wave is a good example) but in general, I base my opinions on what I hear the experts saying that makes sense.