10 Provocations for our Social Future


The only constant is change, and that’s all the more evident in the social media landscape.

Only recently, all that chatter was about Pinterest and Instagram; today it’s moved on to WeChat and Vine.

But beyond these platform trends, what does the future of social media look like?

That was the topic of my presentation at The Internet Show 2013 a few weeks ago, where I shared We Are Social’s ‘provocations’ on the key things that will, or should, define and shape the future of our social and digital world in the months to come.

You’ll find my full presentation in the SlideShare deck embedded above, but here’s a quick summary of what our provocations are all about:

01. Simultaneous Social Transmedia Experiences (That’s a mouthful!)
The phenomenon of ‘second screen’ and the user’s ability to multitask across devices simultaneously present an opportunity for brands to create interconnected experiences, where a brand’s story is told across various mediums. The prologue could start on television through a commercial, carry the story into a digital destination, before letting the audience take ownership and contribute to the storytelling through social networks.

02. Communities vs. Platforms
The network effect has taught us that people go where their friends are and where the action is. Case in point, MySpace. They came, they left, and they’re trickling in again. Brands should create communities around their audiences’ shared passions, not around platforms. We’ve said it before, it’s about social – people and the relationships or interactions they have with others; not necessarily about the media. For MySpace, it’s rebranded itself as a community of music lovers. Just so happens it’s a platform in itself too.

03. Mobile Life vs. Mobile Phone
The devices in our pockets and our bags, which we carry about everywhere and keep by our side at all times, are the ‘most important’ medium to us. In the 50s, it was the TV. Mobile was a big topic in 2012, and similarly, if you’re not thinking about mobile as part of your bigger communications strategy, you’re missing out on capturing your audience’s attention as they’re on the go. Beyond creating mobile-optimised platforms, it’s also about understanding your audience’s mobile habits.

04. Content Tapas
Let’s admit it, not everyone can pull off a Gangnam Style, or Grumpy Cat. Everyone wants a piece of ‘viral’ action, but epic content isn’t the only way to engage people. What brands can work towards is creating ‘content snacks’ – bite-sized, easily digestible, unknowingly addictive – and leverage the window of opportunity in the moments ‘in-between’ when people can consume these while on the go. Refer to 03.

05. Commitments, not Campaigns
Many brands still use social media to run short-term campaigns in bursts and spurts. There’s a greater opportunity in forging enduring relationships with your audience through committed, consistent interactions. Like with any relationship, it could have started off with a pick up line, and sweetened with one-off celebrations throughout the year, but there is also the everyday conversations that allow you to understand each other better.

06. Socially Interactive Customer Service
People demand for and expect customer service whenever they want it. Brands can’t expect to get away with posting “Only open 9.00am – 5.00pm” on their Facebook page or Twitter account, especially when actions are dramatically amplified on social media and there’s no opening hours for that. There’s no reason why brands can’t extend their extensive CRM system online, in real-time, to cater to online customers. Brands already doing so with dedicated customer service accounts on social include Best Buy’s TwelpForce and e-retailer ASOS.

07. Social Buying
People struggle with the plethora of brands and choices available to them, and often look to reviews and friends’ recommendations for help. Social recommendations will become the key driver of referrals that brands have to facilitate, in order to leverage word-of-mouth, and peer-to-peer recommendations.

08. Social Sharing as Currency
I personally love services like ‘Pay with a Tweet’. With services such as these and bitcoin, the power to valuate what a piece of content or item is worth lies in the consumer’s hand. By incentivising social sharing, the brand gets a social stamp of approval from the consumers, which is a more credible form of endorsement.

09. Social Inside
Rather than just being a brand that does social, be a brand that is social. There’s no better way to do so than inculcating this attitude within the organisation, and facilitate collaboration via social networking. Platforms like Yammer, Facebook Groups and LinkedIn Groups already exist. You’ll have succeeded when your employees become ambassadors of the brand on their own social networks.

10. Crisis and Opportunity Management
Events and news spread like wildfire through social media. Apart from mapping out a comprehensive social media crisis plan, brands can do more by monitoring real-time activity to react to or assert their stand on certain current events or news. This could help reinforce the brand’s mission or association. Brands like Oreo during the Superbowl blackout, or Google setting its Person Finder page during the recent Boston Marathon incident, are examples to draw from.

Which ones do you think will be the biggest priorities? Did we miss any? We’d love to hear your thoughts – let us know in the comments.