Social Media’s Fade-Out (and Why That’s a Good Thing)

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Wave goodbye to all those social media gurus. They’re about to head off into the sunset. And that’s a good thing.

By all indications, this is the year that social media will fade into the background. All those social media gurus and social media ninjas and social media experts’ volume level will no longer be perma-set at 11. It’s not that social media is going away. It’s just that it’s fading into the background. Which is a really good thing.

Social media is the new wallpaper, a highly predicable moment many of us have been waiting for. It’s an important and very distinct historical pattern.

Whenever a significant new digital channel develops, it inevitably begins its lifespan as a Bright Shiny Object. The turn of this century was all email, all the time.  Email marketing was the new new thing that dominated the digital marketing conversation for close to 10 years.

Then, oooh! Search! Paid search! SEO! Search engine conferences were the industry’s largest events. The one I was formerly involved with, the biggest one there was, recently rebranded twice: first as a “search and social media” conference, then as a “digital marketing” event.

See where this is going? Email and search now both enjoy wallpaper status. They’ve faded into the background. This is absolutely not meant to diminish the importance or significance of either as a marketing channel. Search and email still are significant, impactful and effective. “Wallpapering” is a sign of maturity and of essential integration into the larger marketing organization. Really, it’s what all those experts and gurus and pundits are fighting for.

Social media is now following search and email into the background. It’s finally mainstream, not a novelty (like having a website once was – remember?). Social media has been departmentalized, strategized, budgetized – all of which are very good things.

We’re seeing the industry shifts that corroborate this. It’s not just conferences that are rebranding and shifting their go to market strategies. Social media software vendors, SEOs, and email providers are all scrambling to reposition as content marketing purveyors. Their offerings are essentially the same as they were before, but this new positioning is more topical, and more broadly relevant.

Content marketing is the new term on everyone’s lips. As an analyst, I’m seeing (and hearing) that it’s top-of-mind with clients, technology vendors, at conferences and seminars, trade publications – everywhere, in fact, digital marketing is discussed.  There’s a sudden plethora of “content marketing experts” blathering on about the topic who you never heard of two weeks ago (a source of great amusement to those of us who have been undertaking serious work in the sector for years). “Content is king” is new all over again, even if that trope was tired as far back as when I still worked in television.

Sound familiar? It should. Content is where email was. It’s where search was, and one day, it will be where social media is headed: fully integrated into marketing, not a nice-to-have but a must-have.

Wallpaper. Really, it’s kind of the goal, isn’t it?

This post originally published on iMedia.

Image: “Sunset at sea” by Jan-Pieter Nap


When the conversation stops - stephen ellis's picture

[…] in social media have consequences for business. Rebecca Lieb recently wrote social media is the new wallpaper. In other words, like email marketing and search engine optimisation before, social media is just […]

John McTigue's picture

Rebecca, I think we're already there on content. Mark Schaeffer's post on Content Shock was a good leading indicator. I would say both social media and content marketing have become ho-hum, and we marketers are struggling with how to make any communications "sing" again. It really means that we have to concentrate on creating really remarkable content, not the same old stuff we've been cranking out for years. Mobile will be the next battlefield, followed by wearables. Really good marketers will get the attention they deserve because, regardless of channel, they publish the best content.

Rebecca Lieb's picture

I appreciate what you're saying, John, but bear in mind that social media, wearables and mobile are _platforms_.

Content (good, bad or indifferent - but preferably singing!) applies across all marketing platforms, digital or otherwise.

John McTigue's picture

Good point, but we're reaching saturation quickly! Done with email, tweets and blogs? What's next?

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Again, these are tactics (as opposed to platforms, cited in your earlier comment). Content is both broader and deeper. Its manifestations will go in and out of vogue, but without content you got nothing to put on the platforms or push out through various channels.

The Relentless Evolution of Content Marketing's picture

[…] the Social Media “Guru” (39:32): Rebecca Lieb, an analyst with The Altimeter Group, has written a thoughtful blog post on why social media has faded from being seen as a “bright, shiny object,” to being a […]

Bill Roth's picture

Rebecca, what I hear you saying is that the bright shiny object(s) we run to - have historically been 'platforms'. Radio, Television, Cable, internet / websites, email, search, social media, mobile, etc. - platforms all.

Great *content however - is the through line on all of them. And will continue to be so (until we figure out something more interesting than *great content to garner attention).

Now that we've moved to the wallpaper stage for social, attention has shifted from platform - back to substance - on all of these platforms.

I do think that newer social platforms will still have 'hype cycles' - but will likely be shorter lived - as the question will quickly move to how to make use of them with new types of content.

All this to say, your article has been substantive and I've shared it - thanks!

social media expert's picture

This is great post. I would love to see more interesting tips on this site!.im working in social media expert in chennai

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><pre>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Enter the characters shown in the image.

Blog Categories

Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca Lieb is a strategic advisor, consultant, research analyst, keynote speaker, author, and columnist.


Get in touch