Tectonic Shifts is a series of articles on the mega trends that will shape our digital future for years (if not decades) to come.
tl;dr (Executive Summary)
Social – short for Social Media, and a key part of the holy trinity of Social/Mobile/Location-based services – is what happens when users connect: They connect around topics & interest, around products, on platforms, between platforms. It’s ubiquitous conversations as popularized by the Cluetrain Manifesto (2000), and as such maybe one of the oldest (internet-based) tech trends that we still see evolving. Social includes, but goes way beyond platforms like Facebook, Youtube and Twitter, and has impacts on everything from customer relations and marketing to business models & business strategy to customer service and product design.
Social is a development of such ridiculous size that quantifying it wouldn’t get us very far. A few pointers as to just how big anyway just for good measure:
- 74% of adults use social networking sites (Pew Internet 2014)
- 70% of citizens in Iceland actively use social media, 57% in the UK, 35% in Germany, 64% in Taiwan, 46% in China… (Statista 2014)
- Twitter, Whatsapp, Snapchat, and Facebook are als considered “billion dollar companies”.
More important than these numbers is the central role that Social Media has been playing for the last 10-15 years. Used almost synonymously with “the internet”, Social has been the key driver behind the massive user empowerment as well as a whole new way that groups can coordinate online to affect change – politically or in campaigns of more consumption-oriented nature.
What does this mean for society & industries?
Social touches practically all areas of an organization. Marketing & communications, sure. But also customer relationship management and customer service; strategy; product design; product development; internal processes; market research; and many more.
Products and services that smartly leverage Social have a much higher chance to succeed. Those designed without at least consideration for Social are bound to fail in the market. This doesn’t mean everything has to have a Facebook Like button on it, of course. However, not leveraging Social should be a very conscious decisions. There’s almost no internet or media related product that don’t have potential for a Social layer of some sort or another.
Social Media as well as product design with Social elements has been around for more than a decade. It’s a mature field. Don’t do it with amateurs, work with professionals – there’s a whole industry out there. However, be aware that really embracing Social will almost certainly lead to a bias towards more openness and more intense engagement with stakeholder groups inside and outside the organization. Again, set up the infrastructure and team to make and maintain the transition smoothly.
Which industries are expected to be most strongly affected?
Every. Single. One.
The most obvious and direct impact was most certainly seen around communications/marketing, publishing, music & video, as well as campaigning & politics.
If you think your organization or industry isn’t impacted, think again – you’re very likely missing something.
Risks & opportunities
- Social creates a lot of data points both explicitly (conversations, items shared, etc.) and implicitly (usage data). This means lots of intelligence on user behavior and desires, in other words: market research.
- New services and products: Social data and the structure associated with it allows for new business models and product ideas.
- Stakeholder engagement: Social opens new channels and ways to engage with stakeholders (clients, customers, users, current and potential employees, collaborators, media, etc.)
- Privacy implications are huge. Don’t be a creep.
- Implementely haphazardly or bluntly, or without giving the project the necessary love, Social engagement can backfire and create bad publicity at large scale.
- High costs as processes, team structures and infrastructure need to be adapted, and are likely to be in flux for a longer time.
- Lots of snake oil out there. Proceed with care.
Resources, key players, links
- There are too many players, agencies, platforms to name here.
- Facebook’s own business backgrounders are quite useful.
- Otherwise, check what’s already out there in terms of networks and tools.