Thursday, 3 November 2016

Social Media 2025 | The Connected Society


Today, the term “media” can mean different things to different people.  Ultimately, however, media is mass communication regarded collectively. Media today can be the message, the medium, or the messenger; and to complicate things, the lines between them are becoming very blurry. 

Social Media is participatory and connected media.  One might argue that once all media is participatory and connected that the term ‘social’ is redundant.  Media is simply media.  The future of social media, therefore, is a discussion on the future of media itself. To that end, social will just be folded into the broader marketing discipline.

Social Media today is focused on driving real-time engagement, (unedited and unfiltered) live streaming video, Virtual Reality (VR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR), Internet of Things (IoT), social commerce, mobile wallets, metadata, search/visibility, data-driven decisions, content marketing and mobile devices.

Moving into 2017, more and more users are using messenger apps (e.g. Facebook Messenger, Slack, and WhatsApp) but there’s still a lot of growing happening for social networks. Social platforms, social customs, and communication standards are all in a constant process of evolution. Transparency is the new black and there is a clear shift from talking at the world to making the world talk. To wit, most branded content in the next years will come from consumers and user generated content will far exceed branded content.  The next wave of media apps will help filter the clutter.

Ultimately, everything that can be connected to the Internet will be by 2025 (i.e. homes, humans/ wearable tech, TVs, cars, jet engines, locomotives, lights, appliances, etc.) That said, people will care increasingly more about culture than products.  
 

MOVING AHEAD
The future of media is inextricably linked to technology. The promise of technology was always to improve the way people live and to make our lives simpler and easier.  Around the world, people are utilising technology to create new communities, engage across boundaries, make the world more inclusive, and change the way we interact.  This transformation is happening everywhere and in every culture, country, and industry. 

Integrated mobile devices like Google Glass and the Apple Watch are already taking major steps to eliminate the gap between “technology” and “life.”  What is clear is that we have quickly evolved from the age of industrialisation to the connected society.

The connected society transforms everything. Information and communications technology (ICT) and big data are also fueling the rise of a new economy in which new market actors – commercial, "indiepreneurial," and crowd-sourced – are empowered with new models of production and exchange, as well as automated, frictionless and highly personalised consumption. 

In this new economy, consumers become curators rather than receivers, products give way to services, and consumers adopt more and more complex roles as citizens, users, co-creators, specialists, and actors.  Collaboration, crowdfunding, crafting and sharing are just some of the hallmarks of the modern, involved consumer. 

The connected society encourages a rise of meritocracy and the formation of a creative elite.  Within this order, merit is increasingly defined by a new set of emerging values, such as knowledge, transparency, fairness, quality of experience, authenticity, sociality, healthiness, and simplicity.  The ability to make informed choices, to a very large extent, will drive the consumers of the connected society.

Fast-forward to the future and we should see global media usage continue on its upward trajectory.  By 2020, eMarketer projects that 2.44 billion of the world's population will be on connected networks. Media usage will be ubiquitous, seamless, and integrated into our daily lives in a multitude of ways.

The ways we both input and observe media will also shift. Holographic displays will be shifting into the mainstream and keyboards on desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones will become increasingly irrelevant, as interactions on what was once called social media will largely be voice-controlled.

Driven by continued advancements in technology and rapid rollouts of commercial products, the future will be shaped by an information ecosystem that’s increasingly more intuitive, anticipatory, transparent and personalised. Some very fundamental human activities like learning, thinking, working, and being “present” with others will be transformed by these changes.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies such as machine learning and natural language processing will also play an integral role in shaping the future. Over time, the computer itself - whatever its form factor - will be an intelligent assistant helping you through your day. Your phone, for example, will proactively bring up the right documents, schedule and map your meetings, let people know if you are late, suggest responses to messages, handle your payments and expenses. Technology won’t just serve as tools for you, but they’ll even serve as your stand-in in some cases.

Even today, Google’s new messaging app, Allo, scans your texts; understand the context and supplies readymade human-like responses for you (“Cute dog!” and “That’s good!”). Not just when you were sent words, but even when you were sent pictures.  Just imagine how much more dynamic and robust these technologies will become.

As a result, Social Media will become far more specialised and personalised to the actual needs and interests of each audience member. By 2025, social media sites will have adapted their platform for each user so that it would appear by today’s standards that people live in their own universe.

Social Media platforms will compete to maintain their share of the audience.  Users of social media will gradually only expose themselves to news that affects them. Future platforms will be even more equipped to predict exactly what users will need to keep them engaged.

Social media platforms will connect advertisers with potential customers by using multiple regression analysis and correlation analysis.  When a consumer behaves differently then the formula predicted, the formula will automatically adjust.  The connected society will know when you are tired, hungry, thirsty, stressed, or even low on Vitamin C. 

In the connected society envisioned in 2025 people will increasingly seek out a sense of belonging and social media platforms will provide “fireplaces” for people to gather around and topics for interaction, conversation and relationship building.  Products, services and brands will be instilled with meaning more through the crowd than through branding and marketing efforts.

Products and services infused with a social component of some kind can more easily move from product/service status to an experience. For the 2025 consumer, an experience will always be more original than the actual product or service. This means that consumers will be looking for original experiences delivered by humans and which are embedded in a social context, rather than searching for specific products and services. Subsequently, value will be grafted onto products and services by how a network of users – or a network of peers – decides to use them.

Human beings are inherently social animals and we are ultimately at the centre of our own universes. On average, people spend 60 percent of conversations talking about themselves—and this figure jumps to 80 percent when communicating via social media platforms.  As a result, our social media platforms will increasingly place us at the centre of our unique, personalised ecosystem. Parents in 2025 won’t be complaining about their children spending too much time texting but complaining that their son or daughter seldom steps out of their own self-made virtual-world.

Social Media in 2025 will be a ubiquitous enabler, producer and facilitator that shift the consumer from receiver to curator.  This is a natural evolution to a sharing economy and change in values, preferring services and access to function, rather than ownership. This means that businesses will have to engage and collaborate with users in different roles rather than as simply passive consumers.

Social Media will continue to create and connect new communities, engage across boundaries, make the world more inclusive and fundamentally change the way we live. As William Gibson espoused, (Neuromancer, 1984) this brave new world will be “a consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation.”

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Written by Andrew B. Giles. Andrew is the head of digital innovation and strategy at Goodbuzz Inc. You can follow him @Goodbuzz and on Facebook
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Goodbuzz is a digital agency based in Toronto, Canada. We help brands create and capture value from emerging trends in technology, society and the workplace. We prototype the future - and believe the best way to predict it - is to create it.  Follow us on Facebook or Twitter or if you have any questions contact us directly.