The Future of Social Media
One of my favorite fiction books, Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story, speculates about a future so shaped by social media networking that most young people can't speak in complete sentences. Social media profiles are literally public lists of an individual's credit score and crowd sourced ratings of physical attractiveness. I know social media is fundamentally changing the way we connect with people and brands, but I hope the future doesn't resemble Super Sad True Love Story. No one knows how social media can shape the future, but we can speculate about real trends that are shaping the way we connect:
We're in the middle of a dramatic shift from text to visual content on social media. Pinterest is now the #3 social network in the US after just a year online, and Facebook's timeline has changed the way companies should promote their content. Youtube is now the #2 search engine worldwide, while Instagram and Tumblr are experiencing real growth. The cliche that images are worth a thousand words seems to have shaped the latest trend in social media. Graphic design, photography and videography will become crucial components of social media marketing.
Social media arguably started as a way to connect with your college buddies, and has quickly grown to encompass marketing and networking. Balancing brand promotion and personal life is tough, and the circles feature of Google+ offers a solution the real issue of what to share. CrushIQ CEO Tim Moore states that the networks that continue to thrive will allow their readers to share selectively.
1/3 of American adults own smartphones, and these devices have affected the way we use social media. Among smartphone owners, mobile apps have replaced computers as the main way to navigate networks. Facebook recently launched a mobile-only ad network, and Instagram is a real, successful example of a social media network exclusively designed to ease social sharing among smartphone users. Failing to invest in a user-friendly mobile platform could mean the end of some social media networks. Internet-enabled mobile devices could outnumber personal computers in the future, making a portable experience a necessity.
Word of mouth referrals and recommendations from friends have always mattered to consumers. The lines between social media and search will become increasingly blurred to provide people with access to opinions they can trust. The Google +1 button can sway clicks among first-page search results, and Bing incorporates Facebook likes into their search algorithm. A future in which search results are increasingly swayed by popular opinion or the reactions of your friends can seem mind-blowing, but it's really a matter of search becoming smarter by incorporating good, old-fashioned emotional intelligence.
Social media networking will likely have an increasing influence on purchase decisions made by consumers, as social media for businesses continues to grow rapidly. Marketing will become an increasingly social experience focused on engagement with fans. When combined with selective sharing and the age-old concept of buyer personas, marketing messages will likely become increasingly targeted.
Social media networking is a rapidly changing landscape that evolves dramatically from year to year. The top ways people connect and share today looks quite different than it did a year ago, due to changes in which networks matter and the user experience on each platform. Looking years into the future of social media networking is impossible, but speculating about the way the biggest new trends affect businesses and their consumers is a best practice for inbound marketing. While I hope that social media networking never replaces good, spoken sentence structure, I'm particularly excited for a world in which search is smarter by incorporating social elements.
What do you see as the future of social media?
Image Credit: freedigitalphotos.net/Sujin Jetkasettakom