I recently had a discussion about social media with a co-worker. CBC Radio reported that usage of social media is on a decline. Granted, this is second-hand news, but it did get me thinking about the where all this is going and what the future may hold for social media.
Right now there are quite a few choices around: Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Google Buzz, LinkedIn and many other smaller players. You may have already noticed an increase in social media fragmentation very similar to what transpired with TV. We have literally thousands of channels to choose from, making it an interesting game for marketers, consumers and everyone else in between.
This could be considered an advantage because it really forces marketers to drill down into consumer intelligence, targeting and customer profiling. Due to the channel fragmentation, you are able to reach a specific subset of the overall market, while possibly keeping costs lower than before.
Same fragmentation phenomenon is starting to happen with social media channels, although with a slight twist. There is a rising number of social media services all competing for a mindshare, each with its own specialty or appeal. Foursquare, for example, is a great location-based service where Twitter is a fantastic micro-publishing platform for headline format updates. MySpace is, in my opinion dying a slow death but has managed to carve out a niche with a music focus.
What I see happening, and perhaps very soon, is a major consolidation of services. Once place to rule them all. Live geo-tagging, chat, contact convergence, threaded conversations, status updates, one-to-many and many-to-one, a place to give and receive recommendations and feedback in real time and probably a few other things we don’t even know are possible at this time. And all this will be driven by a fully mobile, living in a cloud, syncing seamlessly with all your technology kind of a platform.
I recently came across an interesting notion: 80-year economic cycle theory. According to our current place in this cycle, we are swinging towards community thinking. If you were to overlay that notion with the current technology development, it’s quite evident we will seek ways to be and stay connected with each other. Social media will, at least at this time, be the engine that allows us to do just that. Technology and names may change, which is what I see happening with this coming consolidation, but principles will remain the same.
Social Media is here to stay!
So how can you best prepare for this coming evolution? Embrace the super-connected age and be willing to release control. Your customers are already defining your business for you through blogs, reviews, and check-ins. Give them a story to tell about your brand. Reward them for the digital branding they are doing for you. This also means you should be aware of what your customers are doing, how and where they are communicating, in order to best support them. Hop on Twitter and search what people are saying about your city, your industry, your business. Find a way to connect with them.
Embrace and be willing to change. Because it’s coming.