Review: Exploring Cutting Edge Social Media (Idealware)

3 Comments 29 May 2013

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Idealware has just released its latest report, “Exploring Cutting Edge Social Media” in an attempt to answer the questions “when should an organization use new social media tools and channels, why, and for what use?” That’s quite a tall order to fill, really. I applaud Idealware’s attempt to respond to the question that every digital media consultant is repeatedly asked:

“Which new social media channels and tools are really worth investing our time in?”

The best parts of the report deal with why an organization should use “cutting edge” social media, determining the best time in the life cycle of a social media channel to adopt new tools and channels, and descriptions of some of the newest sites. One note: I’m not a fan of the term “cutting edge,” and from now on I’ll use “new and developing” in its place.

When and why? Idealware suggests that organizations consider new and developing social media if they want to reach a narrow or specialized segment, to share specific types of content (articles only, slide shows only, etc.), and if it is mission-related. Adoption, however, depends on organizational culture. Even the most appropriate new tools and media can be sidelined if the organization culture is slow to adopt new technology.

At what point in the life cycle of a social media channel should an organization adopt it? Great question, and Idealware offers a stellar explanation, based on Gartner’s “hype cycle” of technology (see diagram below). Idealware suggests trying it out either during the early adoption period (ed note: possibly offering early adoption advantage when/if a channel gains a large user base) or after the tool has shown its usefulness. I couldn’t agree more. There is always a lot of hype around a new tool or social media channel, and organizations are understandably wary of investing energy into one, only to see it die (RIP Posterous). Near the beginning of this report, Idealware strongly urges organizations considering adopting new and developing tools to consider both what the audience is likely to use and organizational SMART communication goals.

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The tools! The shiny new tools! Oh yes, there’s a lot of space devoted to the tools. There is also a case study or two in each section highlighting an organization that has used one of these tools successfully. Idealware reviews them by category:

  • Social media that engages youth: Pheed, Tumblr, Snapchat, and Instagram
  • Geolocation and mobile apps: FourSquare, Moveable Feast, Google’s Field Trip
  • Tools that curate content streams: Reddit, StumbleUpon, Pinterest

I personally love that the report also includes a section on that curate content streams, such as Reddit, StumbleUpon, and Pinterest, because finding content “through the noise,” so to speak is a constant challenge for time-strapped social media staffers. A personal favorite of mine for doing just that is I also often use Twitter to listen for great content based on hashtags.

  • Connecting locally: DeHood (for neighborhoods) and blasterous (send local update blasts)
  • Connecting internationally: Qzone (China), NetLog (Europe, young audiences), Orkut (India and Brazil). While some of these are not new and developing tools, they are important for connecting internationally.

At the beginning of the report, Idealware states that these tools are best used for specific uses, like sharing multimedia. To support this, the report devotes a lot of time to photo, video, and audio sharing tools.

The discussion about when to adopt these tools is never-ending, and this report begins to offer a framework for the “why, when, and what” of new and developing social media. You may download the report from Idealware here.

  • @askdebra:twitter Thanks for this post

    I agree with nearly everything you say but I also believe some risks we just have to live with.

    Remember in 2010 Posterous went on a recruiting drive to get those from ‘dying platforms’ to upload their stuff (they offered 15 importers).
    By Spring 2012 Twitter took them over…. but the company remained unprofitable and closed its door for good May 31, 2013.
    This is a platform where more than 60,000 people updated their content daily (remember the e-mail feature it had for updating your blog).

    Similarly, we do not know if others such as or will survive nor if Tumblr is making it as a Yahoo! division.
    So we have to take risks and see what happens. The cruncher is that even if people are active on a platform or using certain social media, this does not mean they want to interact with you on that platform.

    For instance, we just finished a study with teenagers (Austria, Germany and Switzerland) about recruiting and searching for work. Amongst other things, Facebook career pages were not used, even though most repsondents admitted being quite active on the platform (e.g., chatting with friends, family members, etc.).
    ==> (Infographic)

    @askdebra:disqus Thanks for sharing.
    Urs @ComMetrics:twitter


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Urs, I was also thinking about Posterous while reading the report. In fact, there is a whole other “beware of shiny new social media tools” blog post that one could write with a long list of platforms that have come and gone…including big names such as MySpace and Google Reader.

    Your point about activity not equaling interest in engagement is interesting and important to note. I believe the most important considerations in to testing out a new and developing platform are to 1. figure out what you have time to experiment with 2. why you want to try a new platform and 3. how you will use it. It really does come down to experimentation with everything, especially the “shiny new tools,” doesn’t it? The study you just concluded supports this nicely; thanks for sharing it with us.


    Urs E. Gattiker Reply:

    Dear @askdebra:disqus
    Thanks so much for replying. Good point I need to remember

    1 – do I have the time
    2 – why I want to use
    3 – how I will use
    Maybe we need a number 4 as well:
    4 – do our clients want to engage/interact/ consume our content on this “shiny new social media tool”

    And for 4 to be sure I have to try it out…. Have a great week
    Urs @ComMetrics:twitter



Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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