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?