posted 1 Oct 2009 in Volume 13 Issue 1
By Lee Hopkins
Each 12-month period seems to bring a new piece of must-know jargon to cool-chasing teenagers. Twenty and 30-somethings, on the other hand, replace their buzzwords less frequently, perhaps reflecting that they have priorities other than being completely up to date with this week’s terminology. But this propensity to replace buzzwords less frequently is also a reflection of their increased loyalty to whatever they do adopt.
For example, Facebook has become a global phenomenon, seemingly sweeping up all in its path. Twenty and 30-somethings make up the majority of its membership, although the fastest growing demographic is 45-plus, as parents and grandparents join to stay in touch with their geographically dispersed extended families.1
Facebook has become a ‘cool’ place to hang out online and the early adopters have been joined by the masses. Naturally, to the early adopters and the innovators before them, this mass popularity is a source of frustration. There is no longer any significant differentiation between them and the ‘great unwashed public’; no one would know they were part of the ‘ultra cool’ set. They have largely left Facebook, keeping their profiles, but rarely visiting. They have moved to newer ‘cool’ places such as Twitter. But as Twitter rapidly becomes the new water cooler, they are already moving away to find new digital watering holes, where only the ‘coolest of the cool’ hang out in relative peace and seclusion. As the country rock band The Eagles sang many years ago: “You call some place
The 3D virtual world, Second Life, was one such oasis – and then the mass media and large corporations blindly rushed in. Second Life’s ‘hype cycle’ has seemingly peaked, the mass media and many of the corporations have left, and it has arguably returned to its former state, the sound of its digital wind only broken by the occasional party or the fevered scratching of academics and librarians penning great treatises on social psychology, sociological technology and how to file and find information in a 3D environment. But the ‘ultra cool’ have probably already moved on.
What is ‘ultra cool’ at the moment? What new oasis should you focus your marketing and PR activities on? Well, as the late great Satchmo once allegedly replied to someone who asked him how to know whether the jazz they were listening to was ‘cool’: “If you have to ask, you’ll never know.”
Like those kids in high school and university who somehow managed to glide through life and ooze ‘cool’ from their pores without trying – those ‘cool’ kids that everyone gravitated around and tried to imitate – ‘coolness’ is not something that can be manufactured nor ‘marketed’ into life. There are far better instant messaging platforms than Twitter, but it is Twitter that has captured the ‘cool’ elite and not better and more robust, fully-featured competitors like Jaiku. Trying to predict what the next ‘cool’ thing will be is like trying to predict which one of a million flies will land on a sugar cube first; the odds are stacked pretty high against you.
Additionally, recent history has shown us nothing if not that giant killers very often come from leftfield, the so-called experts and pundits more often than not caught flat-footed by some new arrival that came, not from the back of the visible pack, but seemingly out of nowhere. For example, YouTube owns the online video space and has done so since January 2006. In October 2005, of the 470 sites in the online video category, YouTube ranked 39th, with only 0.17 per cent of visits to the category. It came out of beta in November 2005. The move from obscurity to ubiquity took just 35 days...”2
1. My own mother reads my blog as a way of keeping up with what I’m up to, even though we live in the same city (yes, I am a naughty son who doesn’t ring his mother enough);
2. Tancer, B., Click, HarperCollins, 2009,
This article is an excerpt from Ark Group’s Social Media: The New Business Communication Landscape report. For more information contact Robyn Macé at firstname.lastname@example.org