Seesmic founder Loic Le Meur on the future of social networking

This week I’ve been attending the World Blogging Forum inBucharest, Romania and the comments of San Francisco-based French entrepreneurLoic Le Meur should certainly interest those organizations pondering the meritsof an investment in social networking.

An Internet entrepreneur and blogger, Le Meur is the founderof Seesmic, a popular Twitter-reading application that also aggregates othersocial networking services, such as Facebook.

Le Meur told the conference attendees in Bucharest bloggingseems to have largely peaked as a medium and hasn’t reached as many people orgotten as large as he’d hoped it would. He sees micro-blogging and Twitter become bigger because it’s easier todo and its open application programming interface (API) allows for easythird-party development.

Twitter is setting the tend, confirmed by Facebook’sTwitter-inspired redesign and LinkedIn’s move this week to add status updates,but Le Meur said the future will be less about Twitter specifically more abouteasily sharing on the social network regardless of the entry-point. We’llaccess the social network from one location, and will laugh at how today we goto so many different sites.

Whatever form the social network takes though, at the centreit’s about people, and it’s about communities.

“If Facebook is the new MySpace and Twitter is the new Facebook,what’s the new Twitter?” asked Le Meur. “I don’t know, but what will stay thesame is you.”

Communities, not ads

Businesses need to change the way they brand and market,said Le Meur. While a full-page ad in a major daily newspaper may be good for aCEO’s ego, it’s more effective to build a community around your brand. If youcan have 10 new people each day supporting your brand and joining yourcommunity, he said that’s more effective than any advertisement.

A brand, said Le Meur, needs 1000 fans or members for itscommunity. From that critical mass, companies can market and have it spiral outfor mass reach.

People want brand updates and news, and social networking isan effective way to get that information to motivated people who will act on itand spread it as trusted advisers to their friends. Le Meur said he sees moreretail stores and restaurants getting on Twitter.

For example, in San Francisco many food carts such as @sfstreetfoodare on Twitter, and have thousands of followers. A Crème Brule cart has 4000followers, and will tweet it will be at a certain intersection at a certaintime. Over 100 people will show-up and he quickly sells out his stock, havingspent nothing on marketing.

“Anyone can create a business with a small community,” saidLe Meur. “I want to be able to tweet ‘this dish sucks’ and have the chefanswer.”

Future predictions

* Location will be big in social networking. Google Latitudehas added location history, that’s scary but it becomes a powerful tool. Peoplecan see which of their friends have been to a city, or even a restaurant, andtap them for advice. Multiple visits can make one a trusted expert on thenetwork.

* The Twitter vs. Facebook battle is one of an openphilosophy vs. a closed one. He doesn’t know which will prevail, but he prefersthe open model.

* E-commerce updates on social networking won’t work. Peopledon’t want the world to know how much they just dropped on a new pair of shoes.It’s a guilty pleasure.

* Dating won’t work on Twitter or social networking. Peopledon’t want their dating history or reputation out there in public.

* If Twitter ever tries ads in the feed it will be too annoyingand the users will force them to stop. Monetization will be through premium andbusiness accounts with advanced features.

* Google won’t buy Twitter. The founders already have moneyso it’s not about that for them, and they don’t want to deal with Googleanyways. So Google will start its own micro-blogging service, he predicts.

* We’re going to see more vertical Twitterapplications in the future, such as an app for stock information.

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