Google, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest all became hyper-valued tech companies in a short time span -- to the point that many doomsday prognosticators are today beginning to cry "chicken-little." Comparison to the Dot.com bubble of the late 90s is an easy analogy to draw, even though today's tech expansion differs markedly. Nonetheless, it's enough of a catalyst for the weak-at-heart to second-guess themselves as to whether or not to dump their tech stocks sooner versus later.
One little start-up headed up by two college students who were still pulling "all-nighters" at Stanford University just one year ago -- seems to have flamed the fires from a slow burn to a Survivors' bonfire, in just one week's time.
Spiegel & MurphyFor those living under the proverbial rock, the messaging software application company, Snapchat is at the center of this zeitgeist shift. When the firm's partners Evan Spiegel (23 yrs old) and Bobby Murphy, 25 dissed Mark Zuckerberg's stratospheric buy-out offer of $3 billion, speculation began to cyberventilate the blogosphere exponentially that this was potentially the beginning of the end for tech start-ups.
Could Snapchat Become as Ephemeral as its Top Feature?
In the current Weiner-esque era we live, when x-rated selfies are being caught literally red-handed in viral text messaging, is it any wonder that someone would eventually create an app that would address the undressed? When texting morphed into sexting, many sacrificed public exhibitioinism for momentary titillation.
So, as the saying goes: "there's an app for that," when Spiegel and Murphy developed one that would allow trigger-happy texters to send risqué photos with the caveat they could control the length of time it was visible to the recipient, up to ten seconds. After that, the picture fades into oblivion and can't be seen again, nor recorded or transferred. This hits the privacy issue squarely on the head and makes Snapchat the latest shiny new thing to capture our imagination. . . and yes, allow for billion-dollar offers to start coming in from fellow Silicon Valley-preneurs!
While it does fill a need, it's curious to me if Snapchat will stand the test of time, or whether -- like it's disappearing-act feature -- fade as quickly as it came into awareness? For those who remember -- the Snapchat scenario is very similar to another social media platform that fell on its sword. Even though Chatroulette attracted the attention of such tech luminaries as Sean Parker, the X-rated procilivities of its users was enough to do it in, within the blink of an eye.
Bubbling over, or Booming forward?
Consequently, these sky-rocketing techie valuations with untested business models made some feel they were coming down with a bad case of dot-com deja vu.
In a recent Yahoo Finance report, by Aaron Task, he points to the "bubble" meme picking up steam in the past week in the wake of Twitter’s blockbuster IPO, and the rebuked Snapchat offer. But according to Howard Lindzon, chairman of StockTwits, he thinks otherwise. “We’re living in a boom, not a bubble -- these articles are all focused on reasons to keep you fearful and under-invested,” notes Lindzon.
“Calling something a ‘bubble’ is just as dangerous as someone calling the end of the world,” he continues. “You don’t yell ‘fire’ if there’s no proof."
As for Facebook's offer for Snapchat, Lindzon compares that to ExxonMobil wildcatting in the arctic. "If Exxon spends $2 billion drilling in the arctic but finds no oil, do we hear about it?" he asks. Facebook is "drilling for attention and engagement" and trying to win the battle for "global thermal mobile domination."
"To me, those comparing the current cycle to the late-1990s dot.com mania are missing one critical element: Back then, the conversation was dominated by a view that you 'can’t miss' with tech stocks, a mass delusion which repeated itself in the early 2000s when people said housing prices 'always go up," concluded Lindzon.
The 90's paradigm was based almost entirely on speculation and inflated expectation, versus today's mobile ad revenue model of LinkedIn and Facebook producing a legitimate ROI for their stockholders (and it's only a matter of time before Twitter follows suit, now that they have gone public).
Add China to the Mix
More than boom or bust, we might want to shift our attention to a country that might have more control over whether the fulcrum swings in one direction or the other. Global domination of the Internet is at stake here, and China's foothold with the Internet of Things and semantic technology has already shifted the balance in their favor.
And there are also signs on the digital landscape that indicate Snapchat might help their cause. Chinese tech behemoth Tencent just upped the ante for Snapchat from Zuckerberg's offer to $4 billion. That bid may be a way for this social network's own messaging app WeChat to expand beyond its 236 million monthly Chinese user base to become a global presence.
If we learned anything -- in this Web 2.0 milieu we find ourselves -- we're cognizant social media marketing is all about engaging with customers and building long-term relationships. Boom, or bust, if marketers are to embrace the latest new shiny snappin' & chattin' thing, they are going to have to figure out how to benefit from its' ephemeral nature. Yes, sex still sells, but I don't think there are many brands out there willing to make Mr. Anthony Wiener their next spokesman any time soon.
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