5 Thoughts on the Future of Social Media

by Ken Mueller on June 8, 2011 · 22 comments

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Image by smemon87 via Flickr

I feel like Social Media is in a bit of a rut. Or maybe it’s just me.

The big 3 platforms here in the U.S. are Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. This doesn’t mean they are necessarily the “biggest”, though Facebook sure is a behemoth. But they seem to be the three on which most users are focusing their attention.

From a marketing standpoint, it seems like businesses are begin to settle in a bit more as they understand how to leverage these networks.

On a smaller scale we have geolocation platforms like Foursquare, but it seems like the general public is beginning to tire of them. And then there are more narrowly focused networks like Quora or Empire Avenue, but boredom seems to be setting in there as well.

And as for bloggers like me and the gazillion others who cover marketing, business, and the social space, it feels like we’re running out of things to write about. We write the same posts from a variety of angles, and hash through the same issues over and over again. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because I think we still need to beat the Social Media horse at times.

So what’s next? What is the “next” Facebook or Twitter? Is there another platform out there poised to be the next big thing?

I honestly don’t have any answers, but I think this “settling in” phase is a good thing. As these networks grow, the luster of their shine wears off. But that just means we are getting used to them, and they are becoming a more normal, and integral, part of our lives. We use them on a daily basis without really thinking about them. Kind of like telephones, radios, or televisions. They’re not new anymore, and we don’t give them much thought, but they’ve been woven into the fabric of our lives.

What’s Next?

Again, no crystal ball here but I have a few hunches:

First, while there will certainly be new platforms, I think the focus will be on new features within the existing platforms. This includes both new features created by the networks themselves, and 3rd party apps that integrate well within those platforms. I even think that most new social networks will actually be sub-networks that get more use because of how they work within Facebook or Twitter. Ge0location apps like Foursquare owe much of their popularity to how well they’ve integrated within the larger networks.

Second, now that we’ve settled into the current social climate, we’ll see a greater socialization of the non-social web. Facebook opened up the floodgates with their open graph and widespread use of the Facebook Like button. We are already seeing a rather strong move away from static, brochure-like websites, to more interactive, social websites. But there are still a lot of small business sites that need to make the move. Not just in the ability to share socially, but also to make the comments on their blogs more social, with applications like Livefyre. This also has major implications on which web designers will see success in the years to come. I believe that we haven’t really even scratched the surface of the importance of WordPress as a web platform for business. And as for Facebook, I think they will continue their domination of the web and continue to spread and grow well beyond the walls of its own platform.

Third, we are starting to see a greater emphasis on business blogging. There are thousands of bloggers out there writing about business, marketing, and just about everything under the sun. But I believe we’re just on the edge of seeing a real explosion in blogging by individual businesses. Local businesses are starting to wake up to the benefits of blogging, primarily SEO and becoming an authoritative voice in their field and community. And this new found interest in blogging will also be a factor in the future of the web design industry, as very user friendly content management systems become imperative for web sites.

Fourth, as businesses find their “social” comfort level, we’ll begin to see more online/offline integration. QR Codes are just one example of how businesses are driving people to their online properties. Your online social presence is only effective if you can get your existing customers to connect with you there. From the simple “Find us on Facebook” logo on print materials or at the checkout counter, to more tech intensive means, businesses need to integrate their online and offline and stop looking at them as two different realms.

Fifth, continued increase in the importance of mobile. The growth of smart phone adoption is booming, and businesses need to recognize this. It means that more of us our accessing the web from small screens, rather than PCs or laptops. Our websites need to be optimized for mobile, plus we need to make sure we are meeting the needs of mobile customers as they seek out information and deals on the go. Plus, from a customer service standpoint, it means that our customers can either praise us, or trash us, at any time, in any place. We need to remember that every customer has a megaphone at their disposal, and they know how to use it!

What do you think the future holds for Social Media and blogging, particularly in terms of how it applies to small businesses? Do you agree with what I’ve written? Have I missed anything?

Recently I asked a number of my friends to submit their ideas as to what they saw happening in terms of the future of Social Media and blogging. I’ll be sharing their thoughts in tomorrow’s post.

 

 5 Thoughts on the Future of Social Media
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19 comments
myliveplace
myliveplace

I think the whole sharing process in social media is well defined and now with the increase popularity of circles and lists we have better control to target our ads or important messages to the proper subsets of people that may want to view the specific type of content you are sharing. But I see that there needs to be a better way to actually communicate our posts with the right subsets of people. For example when I create a list of people I'm deciding what interest groups I classify people into. To me this is counterintuitive because we are assuming what these people in my lists are interested in. People nowadays are more dynamic in sharing than they've ever been. Why base a list feed stream on factors that change. I know what my interests are but u don't. I believe there is room for improving this aspect of social media. Why not let users not only follow individuals but follow the actual topics that interest them. So instead of sharing my sports article to people in my hischool list why not describe the article with social tags and have users follow the tag topics that interest them most. Instead of putting people into lists let's create mini portals (live pages of common interest topics that can be grouped under a broader topic) of similar sub topics of information. This way as people tag their posts for relevance we can now begin to march interest relevance within the networked community this way my feed streams are built not only on the people I place into a list but in the sub topics we share in common thus eliminating content control by facebook twitter or google but by giving this power to the community. We know what are interest are but we don't know what my friends or the ppl I follow are posting about. So let's bring out interest relevance by matching the topics of interest people are describing their posts with to the topics of interest that people are subscribing to in their interest feed streams.

Mjoshua
Mjoshua

I feel you a bit on that rut.

klawrence7143
klawrence7143

Great post! I am just starting a social media campaign for a local business that is trying to double over the summer. This is exactly what I am trying to explain to my boss! Geolocation applications that link to Twitter and Facebook have been the start of our success so far! I took a Comm. & Tech. course this past year, and I think that was the most beneficial course of my collegiate career due to the fact that social media is the medium of the not-so-distant future; especially for local businesses.

MichaelCulberson
MichaelCulberson

I feel that social media is relly still in the bud form. Looking back at history all Christians were either Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Catholic, as the church had problems groups of people begin to protest, hence the word Protestant and the church split into many demonations.Technology has always been tied to civil unrest, Take the reveloutions in the Middle East as of late, all were driven by the technology of Social Media ie. Google , Facebook, and Twitter just to name a few. I feel just as we are in a world economy social media is also world wide and is far from its full growth. You may be correct with the subplatforms but that too would still mean growth>

Justicewordlaw
Justicewordlaw

Mobile is going to really be the huge break away with things. If you have not mobilized your website and added an easy access QR Code for people to view as well your going to lose out on a lot of potential readers and business.

MarthaGiffen
MarthaGiffen

Nice post! I agree that we will start to see more interaction on FB fan pages and such. I think more companies will start opening group areas where people can congregate and talk. We'll see. It's all such a new and exciting adventure!

maryhruth
maryhruth

I was happy to see this post, and even happier that you interpret the slowing down as a settling in.

I'm curious, though, what your opinion might be regarding a thought I've had recently. Social media seems to allow for only certain attitudes, with controversy being shunned like the plague. Don't ever make the mistake of commenting online if you're not in the best mood. This Pollyanna approach is nice and friendly, but it wears thin on interest very quickly. I'm thinking that we need to be far more honest and up front, sharing more aspects of our lives and not just the niceties. Does this make me a curmudgeon?

Actually, I don't mean to suggest we should be free to curse and moan online; more that there seems to be a narrow range of emotion that's acceptable, and this is to the detriment of social media's meaning in our lives. Anyone out there know what I mean?

It's even daring of you, Ken, to publish this post, which dares to challenge our status quo.

annedreshfield
annedreshfield

Honestly, I can't believe the people (mainly bloggers) who aren't using WordPress. You're absolutely correct that we've barely scratched the surface with that.

Andrew Steeley
Andrew Steeley

I'm hoping that as the dust more or less settles, broadcast media will more effectively embrace social media. As it stands right now, I feel like traditional media outlets just view social as a layer to put on top of their current operations. Having a Facebook page doesn't necessarily make you social...it's more a question of attitude and putting that attitude into practice than anything else. Now that we're starting to see which platforms are withstanding the test of time, hopefully...fingers crossed...we'll see broadcasters integrate more thoroughly and tap into their true potential.

Lisa1LinenLady
Lisa1LinenLady

Until the market settles on certain platforms it will be hard for business' to invest significant dollars in SM. I agree, LinkIn, FB and Twitter seem to have come out on top with most people participating in at least one of these. But, is that the flavor of the day - another passing fad? As long as advertising remains fragmented it is still difficult to address the question: Where is YOUR target market? .

And how to invest those marketing dollars is different for a well-capitalized company versus an independent business. For some the phone or in-house mail works best.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@klawrence7143 It is becoming incredibly important for all businesses, but especially for smaller local businesses. I really think this is going to explode in a good way.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@maryhruth I see a lot of people being controversial, but I think, at least at this point, that it's difficult to do that well. In boiling a hot button issue down to something like Twitter or Facebook, we don't get the verbal or physical cues or nuances. It's very easy for things to escalate in mere text, so we have to be careful. I know that for me, while being nice all the time might wear thin on interest, it seems to work. When I see someone using Facebook to get on a soapbox, it can sound ugly pretty fast.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@annedreshfield I just spent my morning helping one of my clients begin to build a new webpage on Wordpress. I generally don't build webpages because it's not really what I do, but in this case, it seemed to make sense.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@Andrew Steeley I hear ya, Andrew. And I'm glad people like you are working toward making that happen.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@Lisa1LinenLady Clearly there area lot of options that people need to consider. I'm not sure if these platforms are the flavor of the day, but clearly times change, and those changes happen fast. Most important of all, though, is knowing where your audience congregates online, and meeting them there.

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