2010’s Biggest Social Media Disappointments

For all the excitement and buzz about social media, it’s also healthy to cast a pragmatic eye at the year that was to put some perspective on the landscape. In no particular order, here are the biggest social media disappointments of 2010:

1. Twitter fails to find a a way to make lots of money. So many users, so much venture capital but Twitter is still scrambling to find a viable business model. There was a lot of excitement about advertising after Twitter finally bit the bullet, but there doesn’t seem be much traction or revenue flowing in the door. Twitter is also rolling out analytics services but with so much competition in the market already, you have to wonder about how much revenue potential exists for Twitter.

The big question is what now? If Twitter can’t create a lucrative revenue model, maybe it should buy one. More specifically, Twitter may have to acquire companies making money from offering Twitter-related service. HootSuite could be a candidate given the success of its move into premium services. CoTweet is another option, and TwitPic could certainly be leveraged to generate revenue with premium services.

Then again, Twitter and its investors may just be holding out for the right takeover offer from Google, Microsoft, et al.

2. Facebook’s never-ending privacy woes were disappointing, if not, frustrating. For every two steps Facebook took forward, it took a major step back when it came to privacy. The fundamental problem is Facebook needs more information to be public so it can provide advertisers with enough data to effectively deliver targeted advertising. If Facebook can offer target advertising, it can charge premium prices for its ads. This would get Facebook out of the volume business that has made its popular with advertisers looking for low-cost bulk campaigns.

If Facebook continue to struggles with privacy, it could become its Achilles Heel. At some point, people are getting to get wise to why privacy is important, which could cause them to question their use of Facebook.

3. MySpace’s plummet from social media superstar to has-been (Friendster, anyone?) has to rank as not only a disappointment but a surprise. As Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. positions itself as an online behemoth, MySpace’s eroding user base sticks out like a sore thumb. Even a redesign that has made MySpace look more like Facebook hasn’t seemed to stop the bleeding. At this point, MySpace looks more and more like it’s becoming a niche social network for musicians and music lovers – a far cry from its days as the social network.

4. FourSquare may have a lot of “check-ins” but it’s still a niche service embraced by a small group of users. It is difficult to believe Foursquare was once hyped as the next Twitter. The only problem is, unlike Twitter, Foursquare has never been able to establish a mainstream foothold. Among companies exploring social media, Foursquare is seen as a marketing novelty rather than a core part of a social media arsenal. Note: Compete.com suggests Foursquare’s unique vistors (U.S.) has dropped 40% since it peaked at 1.8 million in the summer.

5. The hype about social media is still alive and well, which has to be seen as a disappointment because the landscape is starting to mature and evolve. There’s still too much buzz about the shiny toys (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) as opposed to the benefits and returns that can be realized by strategically and tactically using social media. Here’s hoping 2011 is the year that the hype surrounding social media starts to fade.

What do you think? What companies or developments ranks as the biggest disappointments of 2010?