First came the question, "what is this social media stuff, anyway?" In the recent past, the big social media question we all needed to answer was, "How do you do social media?" This question produced a flood of tool experts--people who were savvy in the apps, the platforms, and could set up great Facebook pages and editorial calendars and dashboards. But evolution marches on, and to make the next jump we're going to have to answer a deeper question: "What can social media do for you?"
This question will produce a smaller flood--let's call it a wave--of people who will understand how to match a business goal with a metric, and in turn,a tool that will help reach that goal. They will understand how to help businesses keep fans and their social connections on their websites, and create what Jeremiah Owyang called a "viral loop" at the opening keynote for the 2011 Social Media Success Summit. To see a preview of what this could look like, go ahead and login to Trip Advisor using Facebook Connect.
The answers to that question will include ways that businesses use social to prospect leads, increase sales, enhance customer experience, hire top-notch people, and create time-saving social applications that help us connect quicker and deeper than ever before around the brands we value.
It will also produce a creative group of programmers that take the social graph and create ways to transport data from one platform to another keeping privacy secure and business value high to create an extreme social experience wherever you go. This same group will find cheaper and better ways to do mobile apps and innovative ways to use social check-in.
But don't fear--if you can't quite answer the question yet, there's still time. Can you answer the next big question?