Social media sites chosen like music, not like cell phones

Yesterday I read this article, “I’m 13 and None of My Friends Use Facebook.” There have been many of its ilk. I’m wondering though if people select social media sites less like how you choose a cell phone, and more like how you choose music.

Conversations about social network providers all seem to be about which One True Service is the correct service for all users, very much like cell phones: you like iPhones, Android phones, or a couple of other types–but you are going to be on a recent version of one of these types. Very few people stick with their old vendors–they migrate (&/or are forced to migrate) to the latest options. With this thinking, a new social media site could usurp Facebook immediately–its fate determined like Blackberry’s (sorry Blackberry).

But what if this is the wrong mode of thinking for social media? Think about how people choose the music they like. The music you like is an extremely personal decision, and people tend to be very caught up in identifying themselves by the music they like. Your friends are the other people who also like They Might Be Giants, for example (holla!). We may stick with the bands we like from a long time ago, regardless of what they’re doing now.

Social media selection, like music selection, could also be generational. Lauren was telling me about a study showing that people tend to listen for their whole life to the music they listened to in their teens. Maybe the people who identify with Facebook right now will always use it, but the next generation will use a different site (or set of sites). And their identity may be caught up in the service(s) they use being different than their parents’ site.

Is Facebook like the Beatles (and Google+ either like Elvis, or the Monkees, depending on your bias)? We are at such an early stage of social media, just as how Rock and Roll was at an early stage of development with the Beatles, that Facebook like the Beatles could have swept away a generation.

I have to think that as new generations take for granted the platforms we have, it will be more and more likely for them to use have a large number of social media profiles the same way that younger people tend to be on many chat services at the same time. Then services (a la Adium/Pidgin/HootSuite) will exist to let you bulk-manage profiles. Services will need to enable automated APIs to attract users, rather than disabling them to keep from losing users.