The future of social – my contribution to a panel at #cnmac13

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I’ve only ever made one accurate social media prediction and that was two years ago when I predicted that the next big thing was that social was going to be all about the image – this came true with the rise of things like Instagram, Pinterest and the changing of the Facebook algorithm that gave greater weight to pictures than text. So I feel a bit like I might be Professor Trelawney from Harry Potter with only one true prophecy to my name!

So what’s next?

There are two trends that I have observed:

Diversification

Something I have noticed is that more and more niche groups are forming online. Now that it is possible to create content extremely easily and quickly, people can respond to events with lightning speed. Remember a few years back when Gordon Brown called that woman a bigot whilst still on air on Sky News during the election campaign? I remember seeing that unfold live and within 10 minutes, someone had created a fake twitter account called ‘Bigoted Woman’. That kind of thing happens all the time now. Some of you will know that I run a comedy website called Anglican Memes. Lots of the jokes on there are extremely niche but we still have 3,500 fans on our Facebook page! With the increased ability to create content quickly has come the increased ability to share ‘in jokes’. You thought you were the only one who finds jokes about Richard Hooker’s theology funny – not any more – there are lots of others out there who do too! Running Anglican Memes I have found similar sites for United Methodists, British Methodists, Russian Orthodox (including Grumpy Orthodox Cat – a further play on Grumpy Cat) and Jewish Memes too. So I think we will find increasingly niche groups popping up online that occasionally have overlaps.

I think the web is moving more towards diversification again. A few years ago you had sites like Geocities and MySpace where each profile was very personalised – everyone’s myspace looked completely different. What was different about sites like Facebook and Twitter is that the basic nuts and bolts of the site are exactly the same for everyone. I think we might see a move towards more diversification and personalisation and away from everything looking the same. At the moment, to quote a Blur lyric, ‘all the high streets look the same’ – I think we’ll move more to a boutique market stall feel – with a lot of personalisation and individuality.

Email will die

Just last week I got an email from Prezi – that provide presentation software entitled ‘this is the last email we will ever send you’, it read:

Be honest, you don’t read our emails. In fact, you’re probably not reading this email, and since we don’t want to annoy you, this is the last Marketing email we’ll send you

The death will be slow and drawn out but email for marketing purposes will die out. We may still use it as literally ‘electronic mail’ – to keep in touch with people, but marketers will abandon it all together. Over recent years people’s attitudes to door-to-door sales and telesales have shifted – these things are far less common and mostly frowned upon. Earlier this year Gmail changed its format so that it automatically filters your emails into folders – I’ve loved this as now on my phone I only get a notification when I have an email that I know I’ll want to read – I don’t get notifications for emails that are marketing messages. Email will die as a tool for marketers and we will see the decline of email as a social tool.

So they are my two observations, what do you think?

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