I don't get the enthusiasm about Facebook or Twitter either. Is the drop off rate analogous to that of blogging? I.e., anyone can start, and lots of folks do, and the prospect of connecting and sharing your thoughts with countless people over the Internet is enticing. And then most people find out that no one is listening to them.
It seems that active (i.e., roughly daily) blogging is becoming mostly the province of a relative handful of professional bloggers or bloggers who (like Fred) see a value in blogging related to their business. Might the same be happening with Facebook and Twitter?
Public Access television, too, gave regular folks a chance to broadcast their content. For a small handful of them, it led to bigger and better things (I can only think of
two, bothone, which happens to be food-related, off the top of my head -- Rachel Ray2 andIsa Chandra Moskowitz1, of the Post Punk Kitchen -- but I wouldn't be surprised if there are a few others). But for everyone else, the deafening silence mocking them from the aether caused them to drop off.
I'm reading a book now (The Social Network Business Plan) by an angel investor in social media named David Silver, who has a take on this that seems to be orthogonal to those of Wilson and Heffernan. Silver is enthusiastic about social media, but not about general purpose sites such as Facebook and Twitter. He writes,
You can forget about the sustainability of MySpace, Facebook, and other general-purpose online social networks. They aren't sustainable businesses. Their business model, based on advertising, is not demonstrably economically justifiable. Very few of their members look at the ads, and billions of dollars are being wasted trying to reach them. These social networks will continue to attract younger people who, ironically, lack spending power.
Silver's thesis, in a nutshell, is that the real revenue opportunities are in communities geared toward a particular product, service, or interest. E.g., a community that rates airlines on service, reliability, cleanliness of their planes, etc. Airlines might pay for access to anonymized conversations from this forum, to use as a means of quality control.
1I don't know if Rachel Ray's public access shows are available online, but ICM's are. Here is the first episode of her Brooklyn-based public access show with her pal Terry Romero (HT: Cheryl). ICM has since moved out to Portland, OR, where she has become something of a local celeb there, appearing on the local morning show. She's also published a few vegan cookbooks.
2My crack research staff informs me that Rachel Ray's first shows were on a local TV station, not public access.