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Digerati Ponder Next Steps in Social Media

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube will remain the driving forces on the Web and in social media, even as a stream of other sites come online.

NEW YORK — Participants at the O’Reilly Web 2.0 conference here last week said publishers, retailers and brands will deepen their use of three key social media platforms — Facebook, Twitter and YouTube — in the next several years even as they face a constant onslaught of new ones.

“There is a frustration level with trying to chase everything,” said Baratunde Thurston, Web editor for satirical newspaper The Onion, referring to the high number of new social platforms and technology coming out every quarter. Yet, he continued, “if you use a new medium to drive people back to the old medium, people can smell it, it looks desperate.”

The publisher’s strategy is to keep current with trends but make sure every platform and channel it adopts has a revenue stream.

“Is there room for another network?” asked Ruben Quinones, director of sales and social media for digital agency Path Interactive. “Right now, the jury is still out. What is the unique value proposition of Google+?”

The Facebook competitor does not yet allow brand profiles but will soon.

Google said nothing about Google+ at the conference but unveiled a 3-D enhancement to Google Maps that lets viewers virtually visit world monuments such as the Colosseum in Rome.

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are the places to be now, and mobile and cloud computing are where everything is heading, speakers agreed.

“Facebook is the largest two-way communication platform in the history of the world,” said Michael Lazerow, chief executive officer of Buddy Media, which makes social media tools for brand managers. “It’s larger than every region in the world except Asia.”

He also reeled off some other surprising facts. For instance, the daily audience on Facebook is four times larger than the Super Bowl. In the U.S., there are more “likes” and comments on Facebook than Google searches monthly, and 37 percent of all advertising impressions occur on Facebook. What’s more, in the seven years of Facebook’s existence, the number of hours members have spent on it already equal half the time that has ever been spent watching television. “Publishers, retailers, brands — this is your battleground,” Lazerow said.

He showed two futuristic Facebook scenarios. One of these is using your automobile as a Facebook app to automatically share a trip or check in to a location.

Another idea is merging Facebook with online ticket sales. So, for example, if you are buying tickets to a concert, you can see which of your friends has already purchased tickets and buy seats next to theirs.

If the first phase of social media was about people, fans, and followers, then the next phase will be about engagement, influencers, location, loyalty, context, identity and access, according to entrepreneur and social media strategist Wayne Sutton. “Know what sites your users are most active on and where they are most likely to share content,” he said. Brands will dive deep into analytics to identify their customers and influencers. Set up filters and tools to maximize efficiency and save time, he advised. “You don’t have to jump onto Google+ and you don’t have to be on Facebook 24 hours a day,” Sutton said.

Speakers and attendees gave the thumbs up to Facebook’s new news ticker. “It enables social commerce,” said Lazerow.

“Early results show fewer impressions but higher engagement,” said Quinones.

New sites and apps continue to launch. Some of the hot new startups everyone was talking about included TV check-in network GetGlue, photo sharing app Instagram, question and answer site Quora, social network Namesake, mobile loyalty startup Tapit and image-sharing site Pinterest.

Clothia founder Elena Silenok predicted that e-commerce will comprise 20 to 25 percent of all clothing sales in about five years. Her startup, which has not yet opened for business, is a virtual closet with augmented reality for virtual try-on.

Attendee Barry Hott, social media director for online-only eyeglass retailer 39DollarGlasses.com of Ronkonkoma, N.Y., suggests that retailers should not look for a direct correlation between sales and social media. “We don’t measure it that way. We care that there is interaction on our page and people are talking about our brand,” said Hott. The company has more than 6,600 “likes” on Facebook, a blog, cross posts to Tumblr, and it recently started posting videos to YouTube.

“Our first YouTube video got 420 views in one week. We’re happy about it,” he said.

The conference organizer, technology book publisher O’Reilly Media, played a key role in the development of the open-source software movement and social media. (O’Reilly founder Tim O’Reilly coined the term “Web 2.0.”) Its conferences are known for predicting what will be next in technology before it hits the mainstream.

This year’s conference celebrated New York tech and focused on New York-based entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, and New York industries such as media, retail and fashion.

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