It’s that time of the year. When the days are short and the nights are long and dark. When the winds of blow and the calendar prepares to pivot into a new year. It’s also when techno seers and digital gurus the world over cast the runes, gaze into the crystal ball and come out with predictions for the year ahead. The focus here is on social media, so let’s take a look at what one of our favourite experts has to say, and then offer some of our own ideas.
Brian Solis is an expert in social media engagement. In a recent interview, he opines that the year ahead will see social media becoming more and more a part of everyday life. Social media is life, not lifestyle. People will see their social updates increasingly as a normal part of their routine rather than as a sort of extra novelty.
He goes on to say that curation is becoming more and more central to how the social web operates. If you can’t create, curate. While not everyone can create great content, people are increasingly using tools like paper.li to create streams of content linked to subjects they care about and which they deem to be of high value. Curation is a way though which more voices can be added to the conversation and helps people amass influence and status as reliable aggregators of specialized content.
The socialization of business is another key thread. Solis argues that businesses have traditionally been anti-social in their public relations, keeping their thoughts close to their chests, so to speak, and often hiving off engagement to outside agencies. In the new social sphere, businesses will have to learn to be more transparent and responsive, becoming part of the larger conversation rather than relying on the old-school mass media podium to transmit their messages.
Another important factor is the power of the crowd. In the past few years, politicians and businesses have learned the power of engaging with a vast online audience. The momentum of online engagement has the potential to drive offline success, powering it with a vast fund of energy, ideas and word of mouth advocacy.
A few more thoughts from the team here at iVista:
1) Cross-media initiatives are going to become more and more important. Streams of online commentary displayed on television screens, offline touchpoints that let you beam your location back to the cloud and so on. The lines between different media – indoor, outdoor, digital, audio, video and print – will begin to blur.
2) Influence will become more measurable. Most entities that go online with a definite agenda have come to accept influence – the number of people that you reach and have an impact on – as a key vector on which to grade online success. While organizations like Klout offer fairly simple but useful rubrics to gauge your reach on networking sites, we foresee that the year ahead will see more nuanced and analytical methods of assessing influence.
3) People will share more and more. Everytime a new concept of social sharing is introduced, people start to gravitate towards it. Who would have foreseen, a decade back, that people would be checking into hotels in both the real world and Foursquare? Or that they would tweet about their wedding virtually between exchanging vows? Brands will learn to harness the immense appeal of social sharing in ways that encourage consumers to build conversations around their offerings.
4) Microfunding, macro reach. Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter show a pattern. This pattern is based on how independent creators of content or art or technology can reach out to niche markets for the funding of projects. These projects may or may not have the mass appeal that more commercial pitches would. With all the denizens of the internet watching, it’s possible to get sufficient funding for a number of projects through the accumulation of micro payments from a macro crowd. Even if the concept is one with mass appeal, the originator may prefer to go the crowdfunding route to retain more control. This concept is going to gain more traction and we’ll see more and more specialized platforms emerging.
Last of all, one sure-shot prediction: the unexpected will happen. Social media is a deeply disruptive phenomena, and that disruption can’t be fully predicted. What is sure is that each new wave of change will offer great opportunities to those who are prepared to go with the flow and adapt.