Here's the great paradox of social media:
- Great insights and effective communications create social celebrity.
- The larger ones audience and the more advanced ones engagement with many popular social platforms, the less "regular" their engagement in social media.
- As these thought leader's engagement with social media becomes increasingly irregular, their perspectives becomes less relevant to the masses.
- Platforms rarely take off and reach the masses without first attracting early adopter praise.
Early-adopter thought leaders are hardly in a position to determine the utility or predict the success of social platforms because they don't interact with these environments like regular people do.
There is a grain of truth to the running joke that Robert Scoble breaks social media. This isn't because Scoble is evil (he isn't). It's simply because Scoble dives into new platforms headfirst, exploring and explaining the latest and greatest. Scoble's legions of fans accompany him to the newest platform, often overwhelming the platform design and capacity. This does not represent the "normal" or "intended" user experience, it's an anomaly brought about by celebrity.
I greatly value the perspective of thought leaders. I'm addicted to TechMeme and read ReadWriteWeb, TechCrunch and AllThingsD (among others) on a daily basis. I listen to half a dozen industry podcasts (This Is My Next, TWiT, TWiG, For Immediate Release and others) religiously. These platforms and their contributors are brilliant. And there is a clear trend emerging.
Thought leaders are increasingly looking at their own, advanced social networking as the norm. This colors the perspective of their listeners and by extension the broader industry . The mainstream perspective is colored by the early adopted point of view. However, these markets have very different needs. Most "regular" people aren't concerned about the Facebook Timeline or Google+ as a blogging substitute because most "regular" people have no interest in blogging. The same goes for cross-platform functionality (ex FriendFeed), advanced privacy filtering, data portability and advanced data privacy settings: most regular people simply don't care.
Regular people use social media to keep in touch with friends both real and virtual. They want an easy solution that simply works. They expect their private information to remain private. That's all.
Do not judge a platform designed for the masses by the expert reviews. Judge it by the way your parents and neighbors would use it. Ask that teeen in your life what they think. The less informed and advanced have a great deal to offer the rest of. I can't wait for the day when TechCrunch creates an advisory panel of technology impaired moms. They are our future.