John Pientka
John Pientka

Have You Spotted the Turn?

You are hammered to be ready for the latest technologies. But all of them have lifecycles. It is just as important to identify when they’re diminishing, maybe even dying. Look for the turn or risk a millstone around your neck.

They seem like they will be there forever: technologies that are so taken for granted they are part of the background. We depend upon them; build whole businesses around them but then they seem to suddenly implode. Film died as digital cameras arose. Kodak missed it and is gone. Digital cameras were hot and then came the iPhone. The digital camera market went into free fall.

Navigating the future is a balancing act. Not only do you need to determine which “new-new” will be important but also how do you avoid staying hitched to potential boat anchors?

The early warning signs are always there. It’s just a question of whether we believe them. Let’s explore a potential set. It’s hard to grasp but could it be that just as we are bemoaning the nasty effects of social media, the platforms themselves are beginning to decline? Facebook’s users in its key and most lucrative markets have plateaued. Twitter actual subscriber base has shrunk. Think about it; are you dependent in anyway on either of these social medias? Maybe you advertise on FB.

So, let’s dig a little deeper into Facebook. Not only is subscriber growth in the U.S. flat but also the amount of time spent by users engaged in the platform is declining. In 2016, FB reported that the average user spent an hour a day engaged with the platform. By January of 2018, this had dropped to just 41 minutes. Less time spent looking at FB and its ads mean less value to advertisers.

There are more potentially ominous signals. We know user growth is flat and they are spending less time engaged with FB. Add on top that the upcoming generation who do use FB are the wrong demographic for advertisers. They are from lower income families: 70% of the teens that do use Facebook are from families earning $30K or less. The research is just beginning as to why this is so but if you are an advertiser this is not who you want to spend money reaching.

“Rich” teens don’t like FB. They are using Instagram (an FB property), Snapchat and YouTube. OK, no problemo – you’ll just shift your advertising budget to a mix of them. Be careful, Snapchat user growth has slowed too, and some view its base as actually shrinking.

Wow, are these the canaries in the coalmine? Is our relationship with social media changing? Many pundits argue we are reaching an exhaustion point, or that we should take self imposed “vacations” from them, or adopt other disciplines to reduce usage. If social media lost its value to reach consumers and you are dependent upon it – what do you do?

The purpose of this exercise is not to predict the demise of social media (although you must admit the facts are worrying and you might want to keep an eye on them) but to heighten your sensitivity to your dependency on technologies that might be hitting their shelf life.

What technologies and tools are you dependent on? Which ones are part of the wallpaper that if gone would be a real hurt? There is a good chance neither you nor your IT department even knows. Most organizations use a ton of shadow IT – apps implemented by users without management’s knowledge or approval. Might be a good idea to do some digging of those you know and don’t know about.

By John Pientka

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John Pientka Contributor
Principal of Pientka and Associates
John is currently the principal of Pientka and Associates which specializes in IT and Cloud Computing. Over the years John has been vice president at CGI Federal, where he lead their cloud computing division. He founded and served as CEO of GigEpath, which provided communication solutions to major corporations. He has also served as president of British Telecom’s outsourcing arm Syncordia, vice president and general manager of a division at Motorola. John has earned his M.B.A. from Harvard University as well as a bachelor’s degree from the State University in Buffalo, New York.
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