One more guest post by Lindsey Paho. Today, she asks what’s next for social media

The rapid proliferation of social media sites has led to some speculation lately that we may be facing a sort of social media bubble. That’s not an unreasonable kind of conjecture to engage in, and the uncanny similarities to the tech bubble of the late 1990’s makes caution logical. Embracing the positive effects of heavy social media saturation while taking steps to ensure that it remains relevant and sustainable for the long term seems eminently sensible.

Beyond the Buzz
Social media enjoys a cool factor. That’s part of its appeal. Nearly every new social media platform garners some level of buzz just because newness equals novelty. But beyond the initial novelty-driven buzz, the reason that social media is so exciting is that it has the ability to fundamentally change human institutions and communication patterns. When the true potential of social media is tapped, it provides the ability to dramatically change longstanding, underlying, structural norms.

Skype in the Classroom
Most of us use Skype for personal and business use so frequently that it’s easy to lose sight of its potential for other applications. With the rapidly increasing popularity of online university options, Skype’s video chat and videoconferencing abilities are adding appeal to a telecommuting approach to education.

And though this started primarily at the undergraduate and graduate level, Skype’s new initiative, “Skype in the Classroom” came out of beta in March with 4,000 teachers signed up. That has already grown to include more than 15,000 teachers who are using it to collaborate effectively. Ensuring that social media technologies continue to impact untapped segments of the population in a positive way will go a long way to making the social media boom last.

Facebook and the Feature Conundrum
Facebook has been the golden success story of social media in the last decade. Whether it can continue its success in the next decade depends on the tactical choices they make in the near future. With user satisfaction down to an all-time low of 64%, Facebook needs to get its house in order quickly—MySpace in comparison only rated one point lower than Facebook in the same survey. Facebook’s strategy to continue its dominance of the social media landscape so far has been just to continually add more features.

They’re integrating Skype into their site and Spotify as well. This seems mystifying considering that a user can already have Spotify and Skype running on their desktop while interfacing with Facebook on their already open browser. It seems likely that Facebook is merely adding features to ensure that a user spends more of their daily computer time on Facebook.

The Future of Social Media
Because the social media landscape continues to populate, users continue to have more choice about where they spend their social media time. That means that social media sites will have to continue to get better to ensure their survival. Google+ has entered the arena in a big way, and a new open source social media site called Diaspora is in the process of issuing invites. Because Diaspora is open source, the potential for an infinite number of specialized apps means that it may have huge potential for business. If the social media boom is going to be sustainable for the long haul, these are the kinds of innovations that will help it happen.

Lindsay Paho
Lindsey Paho lives near Chicago. She divides her time among work, writing and family life.

She writes on behalf of Colorado Technical University and has a keen interest in small business blogging and social media.