Previous ◁ | ▷ Next

Minutes of Y's Men Meeting of January 12, 2017

Jerry Shereshewsky

Some of the central questions regarding social media are why it’s so powerful and so important and how should we view it.   To approach these questions we have to realize that now everyone is a publisher and we are all social creatures.  We also have to be familiar with Metcalfe’s Law, which is: “The value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of nodes on the network.”

Metcalfe’s Law explains why Facebook is so valuable.  Considering that it started at Harvard just a few years ago as a way for students to be informed about their fellow students, it has risen to a 250 billion dollar valuation in record time.  Facebook now generates eleven dollars per year per user on the basis of its advertising and it has 1.65 billion users across the globe.  Similarly, if on a smaller scale, Linkedin with its 106 million users generates 3 billion in annual revenue, or $28 per user per year.

Obviously, following Metcalfe’s Law, size matters.  Bearing on size is the simultaneous trend towards duopoly.  In the fields of technology consumer interests have proven to support no more than three companies.  For example in the search engine field there were many companies a very few years ago.  These rapidly reduced in number to just two, Yahoo and Google and soon there will only be Google.  Similarly, in the e-commerce field, it started with thousands of companies and Amazon.  Then it quickly reduced to hundreds of companies and Amazon.  Now it is basically, Amazon except for a few specialty fields.

Why do people use social media?  There are two fundamental reasons; to keep up to date and the possibility of virality.

Keeping up covers a number of areas.  These include:

·       Milestones

·       Events of the moment

·       Rants

Social media is now the number one distributor of this information.

Virality is totally unpredictable and there are no rules to assure that something will go viral.  When it happens be grateful, but don’t depend on it.  There is no secret sauce to assure that it will occur, but it does depend to a degree on network size.

Q&A

Q.  How are news stories vetted on social-media to assure their accuracy?

A.  They aren’t vetted.  The staff it would take would be prohibitive.

Q.  Can you comment on a political cartoon that showed a large Tweet symbol bird and described it as Airforce One?

A.  It just demonstrates that the American people have an incredibly short attention span.  Trump recognized that people will pay more attention to a short tweet than a long paper, or news story.

Q.  What can be done to get truth and facts in social-media?

A.  Nothing except to exercise your own common sense.

Q.  Where does social-media go from here?

A.  I don’t have a clue.  If I did, I could get to be very rich.

Q.  Can false news sites be deprived of advertising?

A.  Advertisers are very sensitive to angry consumers.  If you complain they will respond with action.