This is a forward looking opinion post on the potential future of digital marketing.

The future of digital media is social. With the far-reaching tentacles of Google and Facebook, no digital marketer will be able to approach marketing without engaging in some form of social media.

Today, companies can choose to ignore social media. Although they cannot stop the conversation, they can ignore the conversation that is happening elsewhere.

In the future, social media will be harder to ignore. Social media will not be integrated into marketing, it will be integrated into our experience as individuals. As social media is integrated into the applications we use, marketers will no longer be able to ignore it or choose not to integrate it. Marketers will lose even more control than they already have.

Here are three predictions for what this future may include.

A NEW INTERACTION LAYER

Rather than tweet buttons and comment boxes on each page, sharing and commenting will be integrated into browsers or OSs. Any page can be commented on or shared, with universal functions available to nearly every visitor. Companies will promote interaction with call outs and reminders, or also integrating the functionality into their site, making it clear what action visitors should take. But it can’t be removed, simply highlighted.

Just like companies learned to develop custom landing pages to promote Likes on Facebook,corporate sites will direct visitors to engage. As visitors, we will choose the platform based on our own network (Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, etc) and purpose for interacting.

A NEW ACCESS LAYER

When we visit web pages or view content, we will see both the underlying content and the social interaction that has happened. Companies can choose to highlight comments, LinkedIn shares or other social activity to increase engagement or credibility, but they will not be able to hide it. Both digital content and the social media interactions will be presented together.

A NEW DISCOVERY LAYER

Not only is social media influencing search results, social media is already directly powering the discovery of new content. With tools like Summify or LinkedIn Signal, it is already possible to discover information from your network without ever looking at individual updates or shares.

Delicious is a powerful discovery engine today. Starting with an influential user or a combination of tags, it is possible to uncover targeted sites through Delicious that cannot be easily discovered through search.

As these discovery elements are layered into search, social media will become a key discovery layer and quality filter on the content that is available today.

SUMMARY

As social media and digital merge, social will become a part of the underlying fabric of the internet. When the conversation and functionality is brought to a company’s site, completely ignoring social interaction will no longer be an option for companies.

Some of this functionality has made its way into social browsers and plugins, but it has not made the jump to mainstream browsers and usage. When it does, all digital media will become social media.

YOUR TURN

Will social media be integrated into the way we consume everything online? Or will there continue to be lines between sites and social media that each site owner can choose to cross? Share your view in the comments below or with me on Twitter (@wittlake).