Thursday, July 22, 2010

Social media and the hype cycle

I've long been an advocate for thinking practically about social media. While it's always interesting to follow the latest trends and how leading consultants apply them to higher education, the bottom line is that we all have limited resources, and we have to use them judiciously.

Enter the Gartner life cycle, a (pretty accurate) model developed by an IT research firm of the same name:

Social media is still seen by many as a trend, and some skeptics go so far to argue that it's a fad. The hype cycle helps provide some context for how new technologies are often perceived, as well as hints on when organizations should adopt them. Here are my takeaways from this model:
  • Don't get caught up in the hype. It's tempting to ride the hype wave, only to suffer some damage to your credibility when disillusionment sets in. Manage your client's expectations (as well as your own) when working in new media environments.
  • Be prepared to address the uncertainties. Do your homework before recommending new tools, and think of how you might deal with potential pitfalls. If you don't know what those pitfalls might be, hold back.
  • Watch the adoption rates. As technologies become more mainstream, time will tell if they are worth adopting. Not every technology will coast through the enlightenment/productivity curve, but as more people in your audiences adopt them you'll have a better idea of which ones will fit into your media mix.