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Looking back, 2013 was good for small talk

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2013 is the year social media embraced small talk to a new level. Successful ventures in 2013 featured quick viewing time, making it necessary to get to the point as soon as possible. These capabilities won widespread adoption by teenagers, whose activities tend to predict the next big thing in advertising and from there, the larger marketing world.

In 2013, you could get lots of attention without writing 500+ words and worrying about SEO. Saying as little as possible, focusing on small talk, is the current big thing, at least where pure communications is involved. Optimize that, Google!

Time-Consuming, Talkative Sites Got Knocked Down a Notch in Favor of Small Talk
Here are a few examples where being concise—what we used to call oversimplified—won the popularity game in 2013:

  • Teens rejected Facebook en masse and named Twitter their favorite social media site, reducing Facebook to a pastime used by their parents and grandparents.
  • Instagram, Snapchat, and Vine captivated teens in particular, paving the way for a big payout as Facebook purchased Instagram.
  • YouTube’s Borg-like absorption into Google pushed it even further into the background.
  • Google+ rolled out numerous new functions in a struggle to be noticed.

Twitter, of course, is famous for limiting conversation to 140 characters of small talk. When Twitter first launched back in 2006, this was quite a challenge. Today it’s practically overkill.

Instagram’s videos last for 15 seconds, which seemed like a really short time until Vine and its 6.5-second long videos burst on the scene. (Actually, you can watch video loops on Vine endlessly, or at least until your Smartphone battery dies.)

Snapchat videos fall in the middle of the time spectrum, at about 10 seconds, before they disappear entirely.

Why did these sites become so popular with teens? One word: school. It takes up much of their time, but anyone can tweet in between classes, even if some responses won’t come until lunch or after school. Instagram and Snapchat started out as photo-sharing sites; taking a photo with an iPhone or god forbid, an Android phone, and posting to a site takes just seconds. Videos require maybe a minute or three of their time.

The Limits of Compacting Communications
Many businesses have used Instagram, Snapchat, and Vine creatively and produced slick, impressive mini-commercials on these sites. These tend to be from companies that sell mass-market products and services like fashion, food, and entertainment. A few nonprofits have created very moving and effective messages as well on these sites.

While it’s true that Twitter purchased Vine last year--possibly to hedge against the end of the written word--few expect blogging, Facebook, or even YouTube to go away. They will continue to be major social media tools. There will always be a need for more than 10 or 15 seconds to learn about something new, whether by watching a few minutes of video, reading a well-written article or blog post, or posting a question on Facebook.

Even Snapchat, which snubbed Facebook’s $3 billion buyout offer, has recognized that time isn’t necessarily an enemy. On December 3, it announced a new tool, Snapchat Stories, which allows narratives to be created and given a 24-hour lifecycle. Of course, the stories can live indefinitely on users’ websites, which also aren't about to melt away. Snapchat is just one way to spread a message.

Will Facebook have a comeback? Its purchase of Instagram is certainly a sign that it will be more than just a nice app. It doesn't view Vine as a competitor, but more as a distraction that can be easily embedded into its world, hopefully with more success than Google+.

What B2B companies and professionals should look for in 2014 are sites that cater to them and their clients or customers. Video sites are fun distractions but may have limited use for them outside of short testimonials, product pitches or public service messaging along the lines of what we’re currently seeing on Twitter.

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