The rise of social media is stunning. Back in 2004 sites like MySpace were emerging but Twitter and Facebook hadn’t yet appeared. Blogs were around but few read them. Today Facebook and Twitter are household names and every consumer brand has some form of social media strategy. So is social media a permanent part of the sales and marketing landscape moving forward? It seems hard to imagine that people will stop wanting to interact online unless of course they find something else more interesting to do. This is key though. The rise of social media is like the rise of the TV that it has usurped. Social media, it turns out, is interesting, entertaining and somewhat addictive. Yet if you had asked people back in the 1980s if they thought they’d spend more time on computers in the evening than they do watching TV, they’d have laughed. That’s because computers back then were… rubbish by today’s standards. They had no such thing as Internet connectivity and had monitors that were mainly monochrome. Fun eh? So assuming social media is a permanent fixture may be premature. Of course it’s unlikely that social media will go away any time soon. But to assume its place in our lives and our children’s lives is assured would seem potentially naive.
That said it seems certain that the likes of Twitter and Facebook will dominate for some time to come as more and more people find ways to use these technologies. But let’s be really clear, the idea that in 10 years time you will be looking at 140 character Tweets and four line Facebook updates seems unlikely. Surely we will have moved on to a very different world? I can still see people wanting to interact and get perspectives, ideas and thoughts. But the idea that this will be a largely text-based environment is hard to imagine. Video/pure audio will surely play a larger role and it would seem logical that the way we access today’s equivalent of social media will change. Right now we access sites like Facebook from PCs, notebooks, smartphones and of course tablets. In the near future accessing them through TVs will become commonplace. Now imagine Facebook on a 50″ flat screen TV. Surely you’d want to use it differently to the way you do today on a handheld device? For one thing you have so much space to play with and the potential to use video in interesting ways is obvious. Yes it seems clear that Facebook and Twitter (assuming they are still around) in 2020 will be VERY different and will get used in ways that seem hard to imagine today. Of course it could be that they get usurped by another social media technology in way that MySpace did. Regardless it seems logical to expect social media to continue to grow as new opportunities arise for people to use the technology.
The only cloud on the horizon for social media would seem to be ‘the next big thing.’ By that I mean the equivalent of TV coming along in the 1950s and changing society in ways nobody had envisioned. I’m hardly the one to predict the next big thing but I certainly wouldn’t bet against there being one. Until that happens, have a sound social media/digital strategy would seem essential.