After the depressingly predictable social media goldrush seen this year, it appears that questions are starting to be asked of social media and its actual commercial impact.
It's probably about time that some of the heat was taken out of the social media sector. For example just take a look at the starting salaries for social media jobs, the number of self titled social media consultants cropping up around the place, and training courses available. An offshore SEO company contacted me the other day about their services, including what they now call SMO (social media optimisation).
However I recently learnt of a social media debate at Marketing Week, in which Mark Ritson challenges whether Twitter is really a relevant online space for commercial brands to occupy, or instead the preserve of celebrity driven personality culture. As Ritson puts it, social media is a "new and relatively insignificant communications tool that has limited potential for a very small proportion of brands". Ouch.
Then this morning I just read a very good post by Joe Hughes about social media ROI, which illustrates the different ways in which the value to be gained from Social Media could and should be measured. However, Hughes does conclude that Social Media can be very valuable as a brand reputation management tool.
Personally, I can see some value in social media, and feel it is worth participating in. But I am yet to find a good example of a website which has been able to transform social media activity into a core promotional tool that generates value. Twitter followers don't always mean revenue!