The next five social media trends and their impact on marketing
“It’s when a technology becomes normal, then ubiquitous, and finally so pervasive as to be invisible, that the really profound changes happen. “
Remember when we talked about social media and mainstream media as two different things? Not anymore. Today, social media is the mainstream media.
True, on Google + we may be talking about the novelty of Google +. And there may only be a few of us puttering around on Percolate or scrolling up and down on Shuush. But despite the never-ending introduction of new social platforms, social media in one form or another has pretty much become everyone’s primary source of content and interaction.
So what does it mean now that we’ve all joined the conversation, mastered the art of engagement and embraced the concept of transparency? Your guess is as good as mine. But one place to start thinking about it might be the following trends.
Influence gets more influential
Initially I thought that Klout was a superficial measurement of influence. And while it still has a way to go – it needs to add Google +, Instagram and others for a start – it represents the next wave in social media marketing: learning to identify and leverage influencers. Already Klout can pinpont influencers by category (sneakers, beer, social media) and geography and help brands connect with them.
Perhaps more telling is the slew of new tools to measure, promote and identify influence. We’ve always had Hubspot, but just this week Edelman launched Blog Level and will no doubt be encouraging clients to use it.
As marketers begin seeking out such influencers it’s only inevitable that more individuals strive to become one. And why not? It’s easier than ever to share expertise, whether blogging, tweeting or answering questions on Quora. And as marketers covet your connections, you’ll benefit further from the validation.
If you’re a marketer you should be developing relationships with all the influencers who can use your product and invite them to play a role in marketing it. If you’re an individual with any specific area of knowledge, share it, engage, build a following and raise your score. It could help with everything from making a few bucks to getting a job.
Individuals are the new filters
We, as individuals, organize the people we follow into columns on Tweetdeck. We place them into specific circles on Google +. We use them to filter the content that comes into our lives. We create our own magazines with Flipboard and Pulse. And eventually (see below on the stream beyond real time) we’ll search, using our categories of friends, for recommendations from their past likes, shares and posts. The challenge of course is how any brand or marketer maintains some degree of control over what it stands for as it passes through those individual filters. We all remember what happens in the first grade exercise where a message gets whispered from one end of the room to another. It comes out as something entirely different than when it started.
For brands and marketers, it’s more important than ever not only to stand for something clear and simple (Zappos and happiness; Jet Blue and service) but to assure it gets passed on and represented accurately (if that’s even possible) by consumers. Clarity will become more essential, along with behavior and tools that mirror what you claim to stand for.
Content generation and sharing gets even easier
Percolate makes it easier to blog by giving users content based on their interests. Instagram has enabled anyone, including the vocabulary-impaired, to fill the stream and attract attention with quickly generated and easily doctored images. Pinterest, a visual bookmarking service has a social component to it that makes it a little like Tumblr, the latter now more popular than WordPress.
What this means, of course, is that more people will generate more content than ever. As they do the stream will rapidly become a waterfall of never ending, rarely memorable digital bits, making it even harder to stand out, get remembered or inspire enagement. I recently saw someone tweeting about how they had abandoned their nightly hour of television to scroll through their Instagram feed instead. He found the images and imagined stories behind them more interesting than network programming.
For those of us in the business of attention and engagement, we’ll find it harder to be noticed. We might get on the radar for a moment or two, but the real trick will be mastering the network effect and getting more people to generate content for us. Quantity as well as quality may be our friend. Burberry has 55,000 followers on Instagram, but if 25 percent of them also generated content and used a hashtag calling attention to the brand it would be even more valuable.
The stream moves beyond the moment
I don’t know about you, but I miss 90 percent of what flows through my social networks. Going back and filtering or discovering stuff that might be genuinely meaningful is hard right now. I can save a tweet, or throw a link into Trunkly, but what if next month I want to search what the 10 top creative directors have shared as links over the past month? What if I want to know what new books have been liked more times by my trusted Facebook or Google + friends?
These capabilities are coming. New platforms like Postpo.st, while still buggy, could make Twitter a far more valuable resource. I know one company in particular that will soon turn Facebook likes into real social currency. When that happens, we will all have more reasons to encourage social response to our products and content.
Wondering what the value of a “Like” is now? Imagine what happens when it becomes a searchable source of recommendations. Don’t think it matters what someone says about you on Twitter a day or two later? Think again. For marketers it means sharpening your engagement and content strategy with an understanding of the long term value of a Like or a +1 along with learning to earn rather than buy them, ideally from people whose influence is meaningful.
C2C rivals B2C as Mesh-type businesses proliferate
We have too narrow a definition of crowdsourcing if we think it’s about soliciting cheap content. Its real value comes from the new platforms that encourage sharing. Sharing tools, apartments, cars and more. If you haven’t checked out Airbnb, (or read Lisa Gansky’s bookz The Mesh) do so. Sure you can find the exotic igloo in Greenland, but there’s a room with your name on it in just about any city.
Fueled by environmental concerns, economic realities and the possibilities of the web this trend is just starting to take off. It will inevitably grow and affect lots of businesses, from car companies to hotels, bicycle manufacturers and toolmakers. And if my familiarity with Gen Y is any indication, there will be an entire generation more open to this way of living and sharing than either Gen X or Boomers.
Brands should create their own versions of these networks. It may be too late for a credit card company to invent Groupon or for a camera maker to think up Instagram. But if you’re a business paying attention to what social media is doing (care to share your breast milk?) then you’re thinking about how to create new business models yourself.
There’s a consistency across all of these thoughts. And it’s this. The individual –content generator, media force, smartphone toter, uber-connector – is driving the bus. She is influencing, searching, producing, accessing, connecting and deciding with more control than ever before. Time to move beyond the basics of social media and learn to be even more creative in the new spaces.
Thoughts? Other trends – personal data, images, visualization – you think are as or more important? Please share.
Mobile, social media, gaming, big data, the cloud ... it's all coming together, creating the proverbial convergence we've all been hearing since the late 90s as we embrace the opportunities of being always connected. At the same time, we also face challenges by these same things -- from technology and innovation to actual people obstacles as we identify and learn new ways to interact effectively. Social innovation is really about collaboration, but not just between people ... but between people and technology. It's not an all or nothing situation, it's everything. Once again, Edward ... it's a pleasure being connected to you.
And what does everyone think about today's news with Google acquiring Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion? HP and Palm. Microsoft and Nokia. Now this. What's next? And is this all just to battle Apple or is there a bigger picture?
Have a great week everyone ...
Very insightful trends, but I still see an issue with the first 2: 1) People filters is not enough, and not a replacement to keyword/contextual filtering, especially for B2B whose needs are much more precise. 2) There still is a reality gap between social influence and real influence. Social influence is measured by activity and reach, mostly and has a long ways to go to be at par with real influence, unless we just call it "Online influence".
edwardboches did you see the latest Klout update? they just added a load of new social networks but not Google+ yet.
Great post Edward. Just to let you know that it's shortlisted in the vote for Post Of The Month over on Only Dead Fish http://bit.ly/q1udL0
neilperkin I did see that, and I'm a bit reluctant to promote my own content and ask for votes, but secretly I'm hoping it wins. Thanks.
Thank you Edward. A great read as always.
To me, the most important point you made is that 'ring that rules them all' is still the individual. 10 minutes have passed since I started reading this article and comments, and I'm sure 10 new trends have surfaced. But whether technology is now enabling new behaviors, or consumers' latent needs are driving new technologies or models, the business success will continue to rely on how companies orient themselves around the consumer. At the end of the day it comes back to being consumer centric, and identify which of these trends make sense for company. Easier said than done, I know. But staying simple helps me from being overwhelmed by the rate of change.
Great blog. Absolutely agree on the potential Klout brings to marketers. The ability to identify and target influencers by category will make this a must for the CMO's toolbox.
Great article the only thing I would add to this in the 'individuals are the new filters section " would be curation & how important this & perhaps mentioned some of the great new curation tools that have sprung up -storify, twylah, curatedby, paperli -well worth watching this TED video around the filter bubble we find ourselves in and how important curation is in the social media mix http://www.ted.com/talks/view/lang/eng//id/1091
Edward, my first comment on this was a bit incoherent, sorry about that. After re-reading your post and looking through the comments, here's the one thought I would like to add:
The ways to be social are already overwhelming and still mushrooming and there is no way for individuals or businesses to stay on top of what's new. All you can do as a business as social grows and grows is, as you say in your comment to MattChiabotti, place "Behavior over messages". There is no hiding anymore, spin is not really an option, you've got to walk your talk and know that at some point people will hold you to it. To me, this is the greatest -- and best -- trend of all. And maybe the only one that matters.
JeffShattuck Interesting point. I think it's smart to call out the fact that it's virtually impossible to stay on top of advances in technology. But, I do think it's important for businesses to identify areas where they are comfortable playing and stick to them (in order to walk the talk). For example, if I owned a restaurant I would probably want to take advantage of location and food applications such as Foursquare, Foodspotting and SpotOn. It wouldn't be necessary to monitor my Klout score, but it would be important to honor my mayorship special and thank customers for pushing lovely pictures of my dishes.
joebertino Totally agree, pick some stuff, stick with it, keep an eye out for new stuff, but within reason (ie, don't spend so much time sussing social that you take your eye off your business).
Hi Edward, I don't know where the interaction side of it will all end but I do know that most brands are failing to leverage social media and bloggers, mainly because they don't know how to start or what to do. I can't wait to fast forward 10 years and compare the cost of advertising on prime time TV versus the cost on a popular blog. To me advertising (which also includes free publicity like being mentioned) is so much more powerful. It's exciting to be involved in social media:)
Man, I have been thinking and thinking and thinking about this stuff. No confident conclusions yet but I will start with a cliche: your greatest strength is always your greatest weakness. And in social, right now, the strength is choice as is the weakness. Where do you start? It is NOT easy. And as I am not one for centralized control, I have to wonder, is social an area for natural monopolies, like railroads? I think it might be. For example, Facebook is the rail bed and everything else is the train/cargo. I think this because we simply cannot be many places at once, even with the web. We have to have our home base, our starting point, our stammtisch. For better or for worse, today that's Facebook, tomorrow it will be... probably Facebook. It's just too hard -- too "not human" -- to constantly find new places to gather. Instead, we want to make our gathering place better and better. Ack, I'm rambling... gotta think about this more. Sigh...
Happy to see one of my favorite Shirky quotes heading the post. Which is engaging as always. One point I would add is that Shirky's context was more around the kind of mass change that happens when cultures, especially in emerging nations, start to deploy collaborative media for change. Like Egypt. We aren't there yet, (and maybe its lucky that we aren't), but its worth paying attention to the effect of their use of the same basic platforms and streams that we are using to create more social and entertaining applications.Only other thing I would add is that in connecting the Individuals as filters and content sharing sections it may be worth pointing out that one thing brands must also do is provide the great opportunities for sharing. It's one thing to have a brand that stands for something clear an simple, its even better when the brand provides a positive opportunity to enable the sharing through a tool, service or feedback mechanism.And how do you stay on all these networks and platforms without being utterly dazed & confused.
dweingrod I am dazed and confused. And yes on the sharing and community. That's SoMe 101. Or 102.
I linked to your article in a post I wrote about Klout Scores at: https://plus.google.com/107534991451098430533/posts/6pqX4eYpPPt
Sometimes I feel like the bus I'm driving is empty. Like you mentioned in your vacation post, when I step outside of my ad/tech friend circle, no one knows what the hell I'm talking about. I can only hope that at some point during my route I begin to pick up passengers, share ideas and create fun ways to play in new spaces. Otherwise, what the hell am I going to do with all these instagrams and tweets?!
joebertino absorb them and enjoy them for the content they are. Not everyone reads The Economist and most of the WSJ, fiction in The New Yorker, poetry or even visits museums on a regular basis, either.
Sure, for now those things smell better at cocktail parties but they are in fact no better. Increasingly I believe that they're the same.
bradnoble I'm half kidding. I love creating content and there's no way I'm stopping, but it will be nice when I can show my non-techie friends how all this material is influencing the world in a positive, creative way.
joebertino The thing with these "non-techies" you mention (and who we all know) is that they scratch their heads b/c they haven't yet seen the content that would inform and inspire them.
It makes sense for a couple reasons. 1) Leaning forward is hard to do and 2) when you're new to something like Twitter, it's an act of faith.
Takes time and discipline to get there. Too long for most.
joebertino Well, you can always post them on Google +. ;-) Fact is that more and more advertising is invisible (except for the very best) and we (think of your own habits) source content from the stream, perhaps some of influencing your decisions. Certainly what blogs you read.
joebertino I feel you on this. I had a friend of mine tell me that folks like us are already living in the future and I thought about it for a second. Yup, we're darn near are compared to the rest of the population.
joebertino TonyTeegarden I'm too old to be living in the future. I'd rather go back in time.
Thanks for the PostPo.st mention, Edward. Great to see it in this company.
Interesting, too, to see AirBnB in here given that I have thought of it to-date as a travel site and not as a media platform, which could describe the other companies mentioned. Alas, the lines are blurring.
I took a look on PostPo.st to see what my timeline had to say about AirBnB. Not all of it is bullish, but all of it is interesting.
1. my jaw hit the floor when I read the hope in @copia's Tweet about it.
2. would @fredwilson really stay on someone's couch? Perhaps not, but he'll still advocate for it, which is impressive given the sour grapes he could have but doesn't: if you haven't read his piece on passing on AirBnB as an investment, give it a look: http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2011/03/airbnb.html
The story gets even more real in this post from @paulg of Y Combinator, which tracks Fred as he decides not to invest in it (regrettably): http://paulgraham.com/airbnb.html
Here's a look at my timeline about AirBnB:
'course, you can also check it out on yours, too—which is bound to be better for you:
bradnoble You're always selling. Good for you. The AirBNB is simply an example. Of which there are many. Symbolic of a trend for sure.
edwardboches Who? Me? (Someday I better Always Be Closing or the 1100 lbs of servers that just arrived will make for expensive paper weights.)
"The challenge of course is how any brand or marketer maintains some degree of control over what it stands for as it passes through those individual filters. We all remember what happens in the first grade exercise where a message gets whispered from one end of the room to another. It comes out as something entirely different than when it started."
The neat thing about this is that unlike in the telephone game, the digital "pass along" environment ensures the original content remains 100% intact. The context is what becomes malleable. This realm of context is where brands need to be nimble in order to respond to how the public is reacting to their content/message. Let the dance begin.
MattChiabotti Maybe for pass along of a link, yes. But with all the opps to weigh in, post, comment, critique, what gets passed along might not be the original claim or even experience. Which is why brands have to live what they say. Behavior over messages. Content and utility that will get talked about for what they are and do, not for what the brand says they do.
great post, edward. another trend that may emerge to complement these four could be about social kinetic energy -- the (generally positive) kinetic energy (buzz) that the collection of social engagement platforms, apps, and models you refer to is creating. in the same way that the KERS system in F1 cars collects retrograde energy and redistributes it as horsepower, thus making the car go faster, i wonder if it's possible to harness the huge volumes of positive social kinetic energy that people are generating within and among social platforms, apps, and models. capturing social kinetic energy could result in some kind of pay-it-forward model or application that flips what we now experience a bit on its head by rewarding the networks of people touched by referrals, recommendations, likes, +'s comments versus the creator; that the people who read a positive review of a new brand product are the recipients of a value exchange versus the creator of the review. in this view, content creation isn't immediately rewarded, but the network effect of spreading goodness could trigger multiples -- i read your great review of The Mesh, received the offer to download for free, thanks for writing it. sorry for the ramble, maybe there's something to the PIF model.
ScottDoniger Agree. Have you read Simon Mainwaring's new book. I expect us to see all kinds of new digital currencies based on behaviors and contributions to causes. That new kind of digital currency could accumulate on behalf of a brand.
thanks, edward, will do! and i agree, if brands understand the concept of engaging in a social currency that isn't really theirs... edwardboches
Excellent post as always, Edward. I would combine the first two points. Social Media will always be all about the network as much as, if not more than, the individual. Hence: Influence gets more Influential + Individuals are the new filter = people in your network will influence your decision about how to filter. I can only influence you if I penetrated your network. http://twitter.com/SteveS1
SteveS1 Yes, but some of it has to do with how search is done in the future, too. But you are right. If I filter via community, then you have to connect (not penetrate! -- that is an old ad guy word and not very social) with the right community.