This is a guest post from Jesse Langley.

Nobody involved in social media even wants to hear the word bubble mentioned. It’s almost as if the mere mention of this rapidly approaching reality is perceived by social media insiders as potentially self-fulfilling prophecy. But just because social media is experiencing rapid expansion isn’t necessarily an indicator that there’s a bubble that’s about to burst. Is there a risk of slight decline? You bet. But if social media sites operate intelligently and tap into market segments which stand to benefit immensely from the value that social media can offer, they can ensure continued relevance and a slow solidification of the social media bubble.

Moving Beyond the Cool Factor

Social media is inherently cool. And cool produces buzz. But the danger of a social media bubble bursting grows when buzz isn’t supported by usefulness. And even more importantly, that usefulness has to be intuitively understood to exist by users. Any good social media site experiences success less because of its features than by users understanding how useful and relevant those features are.

Skype in the Classroom

Skype may be an old technology, but even they understand that their growth depends on untapped market segments realizing how Skype’s features can
revolutionize the workplace. An example of this is in Skype’s “Skype in the Classroom” program which, for the first time, is encountering a good measure of success in penetrating the education space. Students getting a degree online have relied on Skype for a long time. But Skype had never been successful in gaining a foothold in the realm of public education. But the “Skype in the Classroom” program came out of beta in March with 4,000 teachers on board and has already grown to more than 14,000. It is rapidly becoming a vehicle for enhanced teacher-to-teacher collaboration and project sharing. This is the kind of appeal that social media networking sites like Facebook are going to need if they want to survive.

Facebook and the Feature Fight

Facebook may have more to fear than what you might think in the rapidly populating social media space. Even though they still have the lion’s share of social media users, they seem to have a serious problem in terms of strategy. A recent survey of Facebook users found that only 64% of users were satisfied with Facebook. That’s troubling, especially when MySpace came in at 63%, just one point lower. A large part of this has to do with their apparent inability to hit on a feature formula that pleases users. Facebook has invested heavily in integrating Skype, as well as the digital streaming service Spotify into their platform. I have yet to find a Facebook user that wants these features. A user can already easily use Skype and Spotify both while checking their Facebook page. If these features aren’t for the user, what is Facebook’s end game?

The Competition for Your Time

What Facebook seems to realize is that with the rapid proliferation of social media sites, the average time someone will spend on Facebook is very likely to decrease. Instead of ensuring that they’re adding value for the user, Facebook’s strategy seems to be the integration of other features to ensure that the finite amount of time a user has for computer time is spent on Facebook. That’s a dangerous strategy. If Facebook and other social media platforms want to see the social media bubble solidify, they need to continually improve their platforms and ensure their permanent relevance by expansion into new untapped market segments.

This is a guest post from Jesse Langley. Jesse lives near Chicago with his family of four. He works as an IT consultant and writes for Technected.