The Future of Social Media: Identifying the Drivers

Recently, I was asked to write a chapter in a book on digital marketing and business about what’s coming next in social: the future of social media, both from a business and consumer perspective.

It might seem like a challenging task, but it really is not. I’m in the process of writing it and will share my thoughts as I move along. I invite you to comment and thus contribute in a way to the book since collaboration and involvement are key in knowledge and participation a must in a social world. The collective, which includes you, is stronger than the single ego.

Predicting what’s coming next for social media is easy if you look at the underlying changes and evolutions. As a matter of fact, the drivers of the evolutions in the social space are in place since quite some years now. It won’t surprise you that I think they revolve around service, optimized experiences, a holistic touchpoint view, relevance, value and consumer preferences.

Today, these drivers start being recognized. They will continue to emerge and show in how social business is conducted. Indeed, social business, since the way people use social media – and not the social platforms themselves – profoundly impacts several business functions and is certainly not only a matter of marketing.

Identifying those drivers, understanding consumer behavior and analyzing how marketers adapt – but often also keep making the same old mistakes they always have – helps you understand what’s coming next and the future of social media. A key question is what you will do with these insights: follow or anticipate in a pro-active and people-centric way?

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No one can shape the life of the social consumer (including Facebook)

So, is the future of social media a given? Yes and no. Determinism is often a way of denying the potential we have to shape our own futures. And that’s exactly what smart people all over the world are doing, resulting in new networks and disruptive technologies that result in what we did not foresee. However, after they have arisen and become successful or fail, we can understand the why by looking at the underlying reasons.

Take Pinterest, for instance. Although probably over evaluated as so many social networks and platforms are today, few could predict its success. If there is one thing we can say about it, it’s at this: the consumer decides what he likes and there are no certainties in the social media landscape. If it fulfils a need and is user-friendly, fun or plain useful, it works. This is a major challenge for larger players in the industry such as Facebook. It’s not a coincidence the ‘king of social networks’ acquired Instagram.

Some people are growing tired of the self-absorbed efforts of some networks to define how consumers should conduct their ‘lives in the social space’. They want to do it their way. Furthermore, the undeniable power of Madison Avenue in shaping where social advertising, for instance, is going, forces the industry to find revenue models that appeal to advertisers. When trying to understand the evolutions in the ‘industry’, look at where the money goes. However, often these models don’t appeal to the ‘users’ and they will tell so. Sometimes by voicing it and often by jumping on the next fun social network or service.

Social network fatigue, as Brian Solis, who speaks at one of our Fusion Marketing Experience events, calls it, is not a myth. The consumer seeks value, everywhere and always. His preferences shape the future of social media and of social business. Share your thoughts and stay tuned for the next post in this ‘The Future of Social Media’ series.

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