All we do here at Ignite Social Media is social media marketing. So we watch it carefully, looking for trends, what's coming next, what's likely to bubble up. And it's got me thinking. I believe that social media is in its infancy. Not everybody does.
But I'm quite sure we don't have it all figured out yet. FriendFeed is a perfect example. What could be an interesting utility is a lengthy stream of noise so far. The design is not very friendly. That's just one example.
So, based on the assumption that we have a long way to go, here are 5 predictions on the future of social media, ranked from shortest time horizon to longest.
1) Ratings will become an expectation. This one is really short-term. I regularly talk to large brands, with deep, consumer-facing websites that don't have rating systems installed. Consumers who are shopping online are shortly going to expect it. The ROI of adding ratings to e-commerce sites is well-established. I believe that we're about to go beyond ROI for sites with ratings. Shoppers will actually penalize sites that don't have consumer rating systems installed by shopping elsewhere.
2) Content aggregation will boom. In the early days of social media marketing, people wanted to do "sexy" things. Viral video contests. Build "our own" social network. But content is king, right? And searching for content takes a lot of time. More and more corporate types are going to figure out that they can benefit from investing in content aggregation. Companies are spending millions creating mediocre stuff with their name on it. For a fraction of that, they could aggregate the most important content in their field, provide a valuable service, and get tremendous brand equity.
3) New tools will replace some of the first movers. Twitter's problems are well documented, but they are not the only social tool to have it only half-right. (I mentioned FriendFeed, but most Ning-based social networks and even Google Reader, among others, could be much better.) Some of these will get fixed, but most likely the next generation of tools will be better, and we'll get new social media buzzwords. Could Twitter be the Friendster of microblogging? Quite possibly.
4) Social networks become portable. Looking out a bit further on the horizon, I see social networks becoming portable. Open Social is a good start, but I think (hope?) it's going to go much further than that. Perhaps building on Open Social, someone will build a persona utility that lets you travel easily among the social networks without re-friending everyone. The power of the network becomes the utility of the network. LinkedIn for jobs, MySpace for entertainment, Facebook for friendship updates, etc.
5) Virtual worlds gain traction. I wrote a long time ago the reasons that Second Life will never work for social media marketing. But virtual worlds aren't going anywhere. Second Life continues to grow slowly, but my children have grown up in a world where Webkinz and Club Penguin are normal. I'm sure it won't be Second Life that we're all logging into, but we'll be bouncing into and out of virtual worlds before too long. It will improve the user experience and increase sales, so it will happen. Likely the longest time horizon on my short list here, but I'm confident in it.
Let's add to this list together. What do you think? What should number 6, 7, 8 be?? What's the future of the social media agency?
Which way is this bus heading? Either way, I'm enjoying the ride so far.
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