The future of social media is all about Engaging the Community.
Still here? Excellent. Let’s cut the cliche BS and have a real chat, you and I.
This article is a culmination of many conversations, late night reading and research. It’s what I believe is a realistic view of the things to come. When your local social media expert / guru / ninja says “Social Media is here to stay“, they are inadvertently… *gasp*… right. We will never again have a world without it. That said, what we perceive as social media today will evolve into something completely different over the course of next few years. So, here’s my take on it (as of April, 2011):
It’s about to get all Ad Hoc in here.
How do you re-invent social media? By approaching it from a different angle. Rather then YOU having to choose / approve / follow friends, why wouldn’t the application (or network) do that for you? This new generation of connections would be based on similarities in behaviour, location, aspirations and other “soft” attributes. So… connections would be made on an ad hoc basis depending on your physical location, what you were up to at the time and perhaps what kind of mood you were in. Imagine how many amazing, interesting are all around us, but we just never have a chance to connect. Imagine sitting down in a coffee shop and being able to wax philosophy with someone you’ve never met before that moment AND it not being weird. These kind of networks are bound to spring up as developers gear up to take on Facebook and Twitter. Color is already exploring this direction and it might just be on the right track.
Everyone, meet HAL
Remember the movie 2001? Well… that didn’t happen. And with any luck, same thing will not happen with the Mayan calendar. Assuming we’ll all be alive next year, I see the coming of a learning network. As computers get more intelligent and capable, we’ll see a shift from a primitive learning model into a more astute, predictive one. The seeds have already been planted with apps such as Zite which modifies its feed based on a simple like / dislike system. This can only lead to more complex learning models where the application (or a device, or a network, or both) learns about your behaviour, likes and aspirations and over time adapts itself to you. Think your very own, personal IBM Watson with a quirky personality seamlessly integrated in everything you do.
Better, Faster Decisions
There are already billions of data points out there for each one of us (including the stealthy Apple iPhone tracker). It’s only a matter of time before someone figures out a way to enhance our everyday life by turning those points into something useful. And just how powerful would this system be if ALL your data points were to coverage into one (all your Amazon purchases, music buys on iTunes, who your friends are on Facebook, what bands you listen to on Pandora, places you checked in on FourSquare, things you bought through GroupOn, images you commented on, etc, etc)? Imagine walking down a street and up pops a notification that says you should check out the new organic market two blocks to the left because three of your close friends have bought stuff there, the owners buy from local producers, they carry the type of goat milk (gross) you like AND you just happen to be almost out of it at home. These kind of networks will enable us to make better, faster decisions based on predictive analysis of billions of points of data collected over years of engaging online.
The Battle of Ownership
Most of us don’t really think about it… but have you ever considered who owns your data? All the photos you uploaded to Facebook, conversations you had on Twitter, comments you posted, links you shared… Pretty much anything you’ve done online in the last 7 years or so. We are posting images straight to Facebook or Instagr.am, utilizing Disqus and having entire conversations on Twitter. That’s great and all, but have you considered what you would do if one or all of those suddenly disappeared? As much as we, as a society, are in this sharing mode right now, I have a feeling there will be a societal shift backwards meaning that we’ll actually want to own and control all our data again. Kind of like having an online vault that chronicles your life as it happens, independent of particular social networks, yet connected to all of them. Think about it… we are already chronicling our lives online by almost any action (from a google search to a book purchase). Wouldn’t you rather be aware of all the ways you are being tracked and change the rules of engagement so you’re back in control of who sees and knows details about what you do online?
Death of Facebook
It’s a giant Behemoth today, with well over 500 Million users. Facebook has become such an integrated part of our lives that phrases such as “I’ll facebook you later” are part of our daily speech. But guess what? As soon as your mom, crazy uncle Paul and 4000 of your local realtors / dentists / plumbers / lawyers / whatever are on the same network as you, it starts to lose some of its lustre and appeal. AOL was once a Behemoth, so was Yahoo…. and MySpace…
With an upcoming IPO, we might see a beginning of the end for one of the greats. These networks are created, grown and popularized by the Innovators and Early Adopters. When we start hitting the meaty part of the adoption curve, these driving forces are ready to move on to the next thing. What that may look like, I don’t know. But I’m pretty sure we’ll see the end of Facebook (at least in its current form) within the next 10 years or so.
What do you think is next for Social Media? Do you think we’ll see a wild change of the current landscape in the next couple of years?
Ernest Barbaric is a professional keynote speaker and social media consultant. He helps clients engage customers, reach new markets, launch products and transition into digital marketing. Sounds interesting? Get in touch today.