The Future of Social Media

What Social Media’s Evolution Means For You

While many of us active on social media networks today would like to think it’s a recent phenomenon, the reality is that social media’s been around in various forms since the beginning of the Internet (and before.) Options such as blogs, bulletin boards, reviews and chat rooms are all more than five years old as were Facebook’s predecessors SixDegrees.com, Friendster and MySpace.

Given this evolution, where is social media going and what does it mean for you?

Social media’s key developments over the last five years

To predict the future, it’s useful to examine the recent past. Here are social media’s three key developments in the last five years.

  1. Exponential growth of social media networks across demographics. Since opening to everyone of age 13 and older with a valid email address in 2006, Facebook has expanded beyond its original student base to over 850 million people worldwide. At roughly the same time, Twitter introduced shorter form microblogging, gaining popularity at the 2007 South by Southwest (SXSW) conference.
  2. Apple’s introduction of the iPhone smartphone and the iPad tablet. These wifi-enabled personal devices changed how owners thought about connecting to the web. Smartphone adoption reached a tipping point in July 2011. Meanwhile, two years after the introduction of the iPad, tablets are owned by over 40 million people. While email remains the killer app, smartphones and tablets enable owners to do quick check-ins and other social media related tasks quickly and efficiently. Additionally, these devices provide a lower price alternative to the personal computer.
  3. Social media use has expanded beyond personal networks and communications. Businesses have followed consumers to these platforms as appealing advertising media and engagement forums. While this migration was initially led by the marketing department, it continues to expand across the organization.

How have these social media developments changed the world around us?

During the last five years, social media has had a profound impact on how we engage.

  1. Made the world smaller. Social media has changed how people interact across time zones and borders. Social media enables us to seamlessly connect globally while concurrently boosting local bonds. In the process, it’s altered how we gather and distribute information, especially the news. Among the major events broadcast on Twitter in 2011 were the Japanese Tsunami and the death of Osama Ben Ladin.
  2. Empowered ordinary people. Social media has provided media platforms to create content and distribute ideas. It empowers individuals to create content and contribute to broader conversations that would have required a well-funded media company. Now all that’s needed is a computer, tablet or smartphone connected to the Internet. The Arab Spring uprisings in 2011 reached out beyond the local situation to involve a global audience.
  3. Redistributed media and communications power. Since consumers are no longer tethered to telephone landlines for Internet connectivity, they’ve disrupted the power of telecom monopolies and media companies. For individuals, the cost of communication is near zero with increased convenience. This changes economics and politics.

How will social media change over the next 10 years in social media?

The major challenge for social media networks will be their ability to adapt and remain relevant over time. In part this will not just be about Facebook, Twitter and whatever other platforms gain traction. It’s a matter of how the paradigm will change. Similarly, what does search-focused Google do to remain relevant in a social media centric Internet?

  1. Social media will be more integrated into personal, social and business lives. Without realizing it, these platforms will be a natural part of our lives, streamlining our everyday activities and work.
  2. Social media will have longer-term implications for individuals as a result of a life lived in public. Think of it as George Orwell’s 1984 come to life. Instead of a government documenting our lives, individuals and businesses, of their own freewill, will create these digital footprints from birth.
  3. Social media will translate personal information and data into a form of currency. As a result, privacy and control of personal information will grow in importance.

What are the implications of these social media developments for businesses?

Social media will cause businesses to evolve in order to survive. Here are three salient ways in which they’ll change.

  1. Senior management will have to buy-in to social media and support it. Businesses need senior management buy-in for major changes like social media, especially since it causes fear among management and employees.
  2. Corporations will have to adapt operational processes to accommodate social media. Social media’s technological and social evolution will require change to business processes or there’ll be limited gains.
  3. Business will transform how they source customers and engage with them. While this change has already started, it will result in a decline in advertising and growth in content marketing.

While social media has already caused changes in how we engage individually, socially and politically, it will continue to alter how we communicate.

What do you think of these social media predictions for the future? What do you see happening differently?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen


NOTE: This post was inspired by a research study I participated in earlier this week.

Here are some related articles you may find of interest.

Photo credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/khalidalbaih/5653817859/

 

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  • http://www.central-e-commerce.com/china-the-leading-nation-for-apple-and-android-activations/ Michelle

    Very helpful post here Heidi. There’s so many valid points here. Thanks for the insight!

    • http://twitter.com/heidicohen HeidiCohen

      Michelle–Thank you. I think that it’s important to take a step back every so often and reflect on the world. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • http://twitter.com/GlennyRobinson Glenn Robinson

    Great article

  • http://twitter.com/BigRonnieN Rhonda Marable

    This is my first comment but I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and I absolutely love your insights. I completely agree with this article. The scope of social media changes everyday and it’s too pervasive for anyone to ignore, especially businesses. Content marketing is huge now and we can see that with the emergence of new executive positions like Chief Content Officers, many of whom can make seven figure base salaries. 

    • http://twitter.com/heidicohen HeidiCohen

      Rhonda– Thank you for taking the time to comment. Content marketing is intricately intertwined with social media. As a result, it’s become a critical component in the marketing mix. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • http://www.blake.co.za/blog Sarah

    Hi Heidi, Very insightful post . My opinion on Social Media is that it will become the way of the future, the means of communicating and Marketing. Like you said businesses will have to learn and fit in in order to continue gaining revenue. We can only imagine what the future brings in Social Media. Thank you for your post.  

  • brian montavon

    Hi Heidi, 
    I’ve just begun a career in social media marketing, and have found your posts to be extremely helpful and relevant as I learn the ropes. It seems that content marketing and a 2-way approach will continue to build momentum in the future. We shall see…Thanks for yet another insightful article!

  • http://twitter.com/AvectraCarlos Carlos Restrepo

    Heidi,

    I’m a recent fan and have found your post enlightening. This post in particular stirred up many musings and got me thinking about Social CRMs and the value they will bring to companies as social data develops into a form of currency. Many of my customers, and prospects, ask why invest in Social CRM and this post is the reason. I’m working on a blog entry and will update my comment with it to provide more insights but the key take away is invest in social crm (and a gated community) today, be rich in data tomorrow. Thank you for the info.