As we round the bend to the end of another term of learning and applying the principles of social media marketing, I wonder what the future will bring to the social media world. I have spoken to my classes about the history of Marketing, the emergence of social media, and how we utilize social platforms and tools for B2C and B2B. But, now we need to consider what new tools, processes, trends, and gaps could appear as social media becomes more pervasive, effective, and required in business.
In the future, I think we will see a further evolution of how we produce and consume marketing messages as well an increase in the value of information produced via social (for business and consumers). Some points to consider:
I believe the future of social media can be seen by looking to the past. Humans by nature are social creatures, however we have spent years relying on mass media. As time has passed, we are now relying less on mass media and more on our peers: we are once again turning to one another. Consider your friends on Facebook or those you follow on Twitter. Via social, I have surrounded myself with like minded people that I can have a symbiotic relationship with. Many of the folks I follow on Twitter I follow because I can learn from them and I value the content they produce.
Relevant connections, content, and communications will remain increasingly important in order to cancel out the “noise”. As consumers continue to be bombarded with tweets, status updates, mobile marketing messages and the like, it will be paramount for these communications to be relevant, timely, and personalized. This is true for the business as well. I see the future of social including smaller more niche social groups organized by brands to further identify consumer needs, research, and for crowdsourcing purposes.
If your business is on a social platform and engaging, good for you. If you are not utilizing it to facilitate customer service, shame on you. Obviously, this will take some planning on your part to prepare staff and get processes in place for customer service inquiries. Nevertheless, the benefits far outweigh the costs in this situation. Consider the company who is “on Twitter” and ignores customer inquiries made via tweets. This is the equivalent of having a customer at your business, asking you a question (with a store full of other customers and potential customers) while you stand there not listening with your hands covering your ears. Potentially disastrous in real life; it would be online as well.
By far the biggest and most exciting area of social will most likely be SoMo (social mobile). Mobile phones have become an every day item that are utilized multiple times throughout the day. Smartphones hold more information on the user than ever before; we rely on them to remind us of doctors appointments, to take and store photos, to stay in contact with our friends and family, to do searches, and to sometimes even make phone calls. New and exciting possibilities abound surrounding smart phones and equipping them to better know the user, anticipate needs, and meet those needs. However, with more people using smart phones as their primary tool for Internet searches, businesses will need to make changes to webpages and more to accommodate slower connections and/or smaller screens.
Mass media and social media will become more integrated across devices (such as laptop, tablets, smart phones) and platforms (such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) to offer more relevant and personalized experiences. Similarly, we will also see further integration with local and SoMo: SoLoMo. Consumers will utilize social media via mobile technology to include point of purchase and point of consumption.
The future of social media is my students, myself, and you….
Each of my students (and you the reader) have created personal digital brands via blogging, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and/or Pinterest. As we all leave our digital footprints, we are not only representing ourselves, we are representing the brands we work for and the brands we ‘talk’ about via social. Likewise, the individuals that make up brands are creating engaged company personas with both personality and transparency. These folks are the future of social media.
Individuals will shape the future of social media. What steps are you taking to do the most good with your digital footprint!?