12 Provocations on The Future of Social

Simon Kemp

The team here at We Are Social spends a lot of time tracking the latest developments in social media.

A large part of that investigation is designed to help us put together an accurate and up-to-date picture of social media platforms and their audiences around the world.

However, in addition to mapping out today’s social media behaviour, we also spend a lot of time thinking about what’s going to happen next – understanding how social media are likely to evolve, and identifying the next big opportunities for brands and organisations to connect with their audiences.

We’ve been working with a number of brands around the world over the past few months to explore that future, and those explorations helped inform a presentation we gave this morning at the Internet Show in Singapore.

The focus of our session was ’12 Provocations’ on the things that we believe will determine the next wave of success in social media.

It’s important to note that these aren’t ‘predictions’ in the classic sense; rather, they’re the areas we believe brands should be thinking about and bringing to life if they want to stay at the forefront of social media excellence.

Some of the underlying trends will (hopefully) sound familiar, but the key takeaways from this session were the implications for brands and marketers within these trends.

You’ll find the full context for these 12 provocations in the SlideShare deck above, but here’s a convenient overview:

1. Mobile Social
The future of social will be mobile, so marketers need to adapt their approach and content for smaller screens and slower connections.

2. SoLoMo Takes Over
With that shift to mobile, location-specific mobile platforms (SoLoMo) will move to the core of our audiences’ social media activities. As a consequence, marketers need to work out how they can bring their brands’ social promises to life wherever they have relevance.

3. Search-Social Crossover
People will increasingly turn to their social networks to get more personally relevant answers to their searches. As a result, conversations will become a central component of SEO – one reason why we believe Google is banking on Google+.

4. Social Baked-In
Social media experiences are no longer confined to host platforms. The Like, Tweet and +1 buttons are now ubiquitous across the web, and this trend towards ‘social everywhere’ functionality will only accelerate in the coming months.

5. Social CRM
There’s much more value to be earned from a conversation than there is when you simply talk at someone. As a result, brands need to shift the focus of social media activities away from an advertising mentality and into a more supportive, interactive approach.

6. Inclusive Content
People are more engaged when they are actually part of the action. As a result, brands need to explore ways to create content that features everyone in the audience, rather than simply delivering one-size-fits-all broadcast messaging.

7. Interface Innovation
The way we interact with internet-powered devices is changing all the time, and that change is accelerating. Brands need to rethink the ‘point-and-click’ paradigm of traditional web experiences, and start exploring multi-sensory social media experiences.

8. Curation and Funnelling
People are struggling to keep up with all the activity in their various social streams, and are turning to aggregation services like Flipboard and Zite to help manage that flow. However, there is currently no place on these platforms for platform-specific display advertising (e.g. Facebook banner ads) or hosted apps, so brands need to identify better ways to use core content to engage people organically.

9. Social ‘Nicheworks’
Brands are realising that huge fan bases mean little if no-one’s engaged. The savviest brands will begin to build small, highly engaged communities where they can learn more about what their audiences want, need, and desire.

10. Corporate Social Proactivity
Beyond just making great products, people expect brands to make a meaningful impact on their world. As a result, brands need to explore ways to actively build their broader communities, and use social media to celebrate these activities.

11. Influencer Measurement
A brand’s promise is much more credible when a third party endorses it. As a result, influencer activity will form a key part of brands’ social media strategies, but in order for that to be effective, we need more sophisticated and reliable ways to measure meaningful influence (beyond generic measures like reach). We fully expect to see the big monitoring companies push this area in the coming months.

12. End-to-End Measurement
Any marketer who says that they still don’t know which half of their marketing dollars is wasted is clearly not investing enough in measurement. Simple techniques like UTM tracking (for online purchase) and control group research (for offline purchase) can help reveal highly meaningful indications on the dollar value delivered by each specific social media activity.

This is not intended to be a comprehensive list, so we’d love to hear your thoughts on the trends that are shaping the future of social media too – why not let us know in the comments?

And if you’d like a more tailored view of the implications these ‘12 provocations’ will have for your brand, just drop us an email and we’ll be happy to explore the future with you.