For starters, a disclaimer: I’m not an economist. I’m not a stock market wonk. I didn’t go to business school. So from that perspective my comfort with commenting on the economy is … well … not. That said the roller coaster state of the economy (or perhaps better described as Mr. Toad’s Wild ride) presents interesting opportunities when paired with the explosive growth of social media.
“The only constant, is change.” Credited to ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, this statement is perhaps more true today than ever before. In our digitally saturated world no sooner do we set our feet on what feels to be solid ground than that seemingly solid presence underfoot shifts. By Moore’s Law, the metric that for years has driven the advancement of Silicon Valley, there’s an 18-month cycle through which technologies accelerate. At the same time while use of the technologies has exploded, the ability of companies to monetize all those eyeballs and traffic has, for the most part, been limited.
That is changing.
The calendar pages have turned and we are now staring down the barrel of a new decade in a world more technologically linked than ever before. What does this mean? It means that technologies like social media platforms, once considered whimsical playgrounds for students, have now become de rigueur for serious use; and this means opportunity.
For starters, let’s look at the 800-pound gorilla that was started by a 98-pound geek who will probably be carded until he’s 40. Facebook boasts more users than there are residents of the United States. That’s a lot of eyeballs, but it’s more than that. These are people who are engaged, connected, sharing information and increasingly … doing business. There is much scrutiny and suspicion about Facebook, but people with whom I’ve spoken seem to feel Zuckerberg and his posse have some ideas up their sleeves. I believe them.
Everyone joked about the race to 1 million users on Twitter sparked by actor-turned-entrepreneur Ashton Kutcher. Then the US State Department asked the fledgling San Francisco start-up to delay a planned down time for maintenance so the platform could continue to serve as an information stream from the streets of Iran after the June 2009 election. Suddenly Tweeting wasn’t just for the birds. In fall of 2009 Twitter signed deals with tech titans Google and Microsoft – a deal that by year’s end had pushed them into the black.
The ravaging of the economy has created an opportunity for new models of business and the new businesses to fulfill them. Silicon Valley, long a bastion of revolutionary ideas that then had to seek a business model, may finally be learning its lesson in this new era.
Time will tell, but one thing is for certain, the chains of the past will be broken.