On Monday I was lucky enough to speak to students and business owners from across the state of Alabama at the PRCA State Conference in Birmingham. During my second session (here’s the slides), an attendee asked me ‘What’s next? What will be hot in 5 years, or the hot tool in 5 months?‘
I answered by saying that she shouldn’t be focusing on the tools, but on how we use the tools.
Why did blogs rise in popularity? Because they gave us a quick and easy way to create initially text-based content. Then, over time, the platforms evolved and new functionality was added. Then we could more easily add pictures, and video, and then widgets. The concept of the blog itself evolved, now businesses could use the tool as a more traditional blog, or as a website. Or some could combine elements of the two.
But at its heart, the blog gave us a tool to more easily create content. That content might be our thoughts and opinions on a personal blog, or it could be our marketing and promotions on a business blog. Or a combination of the two.
Then add in things like RSS (Really Simple Syndication) and ReTweets on Twitter, and Facebook Like buttons, and all these ways we have to more easily distribute our content.
So that presents a new consideration: If everyone now can easily create and distribute their content, that means we all have a lot more information accessible to us, right? Maybe even too much, so maybe we now need filters and ways to better organize that information. We need sites like AllTop that will organize all this blog content by topic so we can find what we are looking for.
Then what about technology? Smartphones and continuing to become more sophisticated, as mobile networks are trying to meet users’ demands for more bandwidth. As the networks become more robust and even faster, that will change how we consume and interact with content while on the go.
So if you want to know what is next in social media, don’t focus on the tools, focus on why your customers are using the tools. Why do they like Facebook now, where they used to love MySpace? What is it about the experience or functionality of Twitter that they love? Don’t think about what the tools offer your customers, but think about what your customers get from using those tools.
For example, 3 years ago if I had a major customer service issue with a company and wanted to get their attention, past traditional channels (contact them via website, toll-free number, etc), I might blog about my issue. Now, I would go to Twitter. Why? Because I know that I can probably get their attention quicker via Twitter. But if another channel existed that would let me get a quicker response and resolution to my problem, I would go with that channel.
Because I don’t care about the tool, I care about getting my problem solved as quickly, easily and satisfactorily as possible. Whatever tool helps facilitate those outcomes, is the one I will use.
What do YOU think is next in social media?
Insightful and spot-on! When businesses listen to their customers, they’d know how to improve on their products and services, and know how to move forward.
Gabriele Maidecchi says
From my standpoint, I believe the next evolution in social media will be related to cooperative work, something along the lines of what Google Docs is doing, but applied to more fields. I think about cooperative editing in programs traditionally “closed” to this, like graphics or 3D design, even website editing/programming, something that uses social media power to tap into a new side of its business part. Imagine LinkedIn would offer not just a way for professionals to engage but also to cooperate actively in projects, in a more integrated way, across various applications.
I launch Photoshop, fill-in my LinkedIn or Twitter credentials and work along others in a logo design, or something like that.
Mack Collier says
Interesting thoughts, Gabriele. I could definitely see the implications of internal systems like this for companies, what do you think the uses could be from external programs?
Cheri Allbritton (ArveyColumbus) says
I am interested in generational preferences of contact within my own customer base. I’ve had the unique (in this day and age) priviledge of managing the same retail/wholesale location for the company I work for since 1984. Within that time I have seen how technology has effected not only how I do business but how it has effected those I do business with. Our customer niches are unique but remain the same with some evolving within the niche again because of technology. Within all of the niches, however, I’ve seen my original customers retire and their children take over. Or older employees retire and new young professionals man the helm. Depending upon the niche, we as a business deal with Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y and are being introduced to the next workforce Gen Z as their parents bring them along for a day at work with mom or dad. When we are asked to communicate critical information, each generation expects to receive that information via the tool they are most comfortable with. However only one tool is readily accepted and used by each, the smartphone. Call (Boomers) text (Gen X) email (Gen Y) all from the same tool. So going forward I believe smartphone apps designs that can make a business “available” to customers in the manner they wish to communicate is the business to be in. And since Boomers are the largest group of the three spanning twenty years from 1946 to 1964 (ages 47-65), any application(s) a business chooses to use will need to be designed with that group’s communication preference(s) in mind… at least until 2029 or so when the last of them turn 65.
Maybe I’m getting off course here a bit, but really going forward as tools become easier to navigate it’s communication applications that will drive business.
Mack Collier says
Cheri please connect with @SherryLowry on Twitter. She is very passionate about studying how each generation uses technology differently to communicate. She’s fascinating and has a wealth of information and ideas.
Cheri Allbritton (ArveyColumbus) says
Thank you Mack, I will connect with Sherry today.
Jim Mitchem says
I kind of wish everyone would quit wondering what’s next. Can that be next? No expectations? Just be?
Lisa Genosky says
I agree Jim, there is so much to learn and to teach that I am just trying to keep up with whats going on now!
Great article, and excellent points. Social media has allowed communication streams that didn’t exist 5 years ago between brands and consumers. Now that precedent has been set, consumers will continue to expect authenticity, transparency and access to brands – but the “how” will evolve with the tools that emerge. We’ll get smarter about this, as will the brands, while the economy improves. It gives me goosebumps to think about the possibilities of the next five years. Exciting times!
Moosa Hemani says
I have a bit different approach on this… in my opinion, to know what next in social media we have to look into the wants instead of what people/customers are using…
let me explain, lets take a look at facebook only, we are using it on daily basis or at least several times a week and see updates on it from time to time they make changes according to what their users want… Facebook added application feature because users *want* to share their creativity with the people through facebook and now we see funny apps, business apps and others…
i think to see whats next in social media we need to get in to the peoples mind and see what they *really* want to go batter with social media.
Mack Collier says
Moosa I do think wants drive how people communicate and use technology. However to some degree companies will give us things we don’t know we want. 10 years ago we didn’t know we wanted an iPod, for example.