The Future Of Social Media

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It’s not enough to just be working with Social Media for most brands, they’re also looking to build community… but then what?

It’s a fair question. The net result for many of the bigger brands is a thought that somehow links a vibrant community to loyalty and spending (hopefully beyond reason). If that is, indeed, the reason that many brands are interested in Social Media Marketing and in building an online community, then what happens after all of this works out? What if you have as many people as possible either following you on Twitter or friending you on Facebook?

What happens next?

For many, the fear is that they will cannibalize the relationship by eventually giving in to their past addictions as they begin spamming the network with promotional offers, discounts and other very traditional mass media marketing tactics. They just wont be able to help themselves. The keepers of the community and the conversation (be it the Marketing, Communications, Public Relations or Business Development departments) need to have some kind of serious game plan. They have to be thinking not only about how they’re going to find their next followers and engaged community members, but the direction and conversation that is evolving and how it might, ultimately, end. 

All good things must come to an end.

Something else will come along. The tools, channels and platforms will both evolve and dissolve. Nobody likes to talk about it (and it might sound a little sombre and sobering), but it’s true. There will come a point where everyone (companies, brands, individuals) is publishing content, rating content, and pushing information out there in text, images, audio and video to the point that it won’t be noise, but rather something much busier and messier than noise. Even the best of the aggregators and editors (both humans and technology-powered options) won’t help. At the best filtered moment in time, it will still be like trying to drink from a fire hose.

It’s not that big of a deal.

Human beings are amazingly resilient and adaptable. As hard as change is, we manage to grapple through it, innovate and deliver some pretty spectacular things. So now, the time has come to start thinking about innovation in Social Media, to start thinking about what happens after we build a loyal (and valuable) community. What does it look like? What’s the point of it? How does it meet our business objectives? And – more importantly – how do we keep this community engaged, enthused and excited about being a community?

Sorry, no answers. 

This concept is still fresh. It’s something we should all grapple with (I am). If we don’t start asking these questions, experimenting with the platforms and channels and pushing out our thoughts about where this is all going, then all we’ll ever do is rest on our laurels.

Where is all of this going? What do you think?


  1. I think that it is an undeniable fact that Social Media has cast a very bright light on the fact that companies small and large have and will forever be shaped by their customers feedback, preferences and possibly demands. Social Media in whatever form it does take as we move forward will continue to move the customer closer to the company, creating more and more niched creations for smaller and smaller niched groups as the “noise” becomes a mess as you put it.
    More to your point, it’s these very communities that once deeply engaged will become more vocal evangelists for the brands and communities that those brands represent. Those brands and companies with consistent openness, transparency, and community will win the very long marathon that is competition for life long fans.
    I may not have said anything new here, but it’s what came to my mind with your question.
    Thanks Mitch.

  2. Thank god. Thank you, Mitch, for this blog post and for pushing the conversation up a notch. Social media is like a relationship between a man and a woman (or a man and a man, or a woman and a woman … oh you know what I mean). During the courting phase, things are new, fresh, we have our best game face on and we aim to please. Then as time passes we (often … even generally) get lazy and start to let things slide. The relationship becomes stale. We become bored, get boring or, worse, annoying.
    I think that it’s easy to think in terms of numbers (number of followers etc) when we think about social media. It becomes a game and we lose sight of the fact that the importance lies in the quality of the relationship.
    The goal isn’t to build up a database of people we can broadcast to. It’s to engage, to listen, to hear and to respond in a way that is meaningful.
    Like in all good relationships, social media works best when it’s part of a two way conversation.
    What’s next? You’re absolutely right. It’s high time we started discussing it.

  3. I am very curious to read the answers.
    My take on it: there are only 24yrs in a day. I can only have as many preferred social media networks / aggregators to join and follow. So I am not worried about overexposure and noise.
    Niche social media will still survive. I think brands should open channels to communicate with their clients, wherever they exist. This should happen regardless of the faith of social media frenzy.
    The biggest challenge for the next 5 years is still the monetization of content and of social media. Without a clearly profitable business model the excitement will wind down. We are still in the wild west trying to occupy as much territory and users as possible. Not really sure what to do with it. Once that is found it will spread like wild fire.
    In the meantime, I think users will stick closer together creating stronger interest and personal niches /tribes.
    Also, I think the concept of privacy will completely be changed, by accepting our virtual persona as we accept our physical one. Not sure how to solve the spamming issue though yet.

  4. That’s funny that you’re already talking about it ending. But we’ve only just begun, Mitch!
    First off, if social networks get too spammy, don’t you just unfollow people? Where exactly does the spam come from? Maybe I’m naive, but I don’t see it. I like my social networks. And guess what – as far as I can tell, my friends like me. That’s why they don’t spam me. And brands would do well to follow that rule as well.
    As far as what happens next — Ok, pie in the sky thinking here. Go ahead, poke holes in this scenario, or call me an idiot, or whatever. But I think this *could* happen.
    What if in the not too distant future, everyone has a website. A blog, or….whatever. The same way everyone has a TV in their house, and a car in their garage. Surely you can create a website these days for the cost of a TV.
    Now, imagine everyone sells their favorite products on their websites. Micropayments work, so you get a percentage of dollars for every product you sell.
    Social networks drive traffic to the websites, same as they do now.
    You are your own private media channel. And your own private store. With only the products you actually want to sell.
    It’s up to you to create content that’s compelling and doesn’t feel like spam.
    It’s up to you to sell the products that you think have the most actual value and thus the most potential for sale.
    I am sure most of you will think OMG not only is that INSANE, but that’s AWFUL!!!!
    But…is it? Is it so bad to cut advertising out of the picture altogether?
    Is it so bad to give people a chance to make money from the products, services and brands that they actually like?
    I mean, what if the jobs we lost in the recession don’t come back?
    Would it be so aweful to change the economics, in an economy that sucks?

  5. Sorry, one more thing. (Besides the fact that I spelled awful wrong in my last sentence, ugh!)
    A buzz word these days is people who “curate content”. I guess in my scenario, you’d “curate products”. And then sell them.

  6. Mitch –
    Excellent teed up discussion. I too, do not have the answer, but more food for thought. When asked …
    “So now, the time has come to start thinking about innovation in Social Media, to start thinking about what happens after we build a loyal (and valuable) community. What does it look like? What’s the point of it? How does it meet our business objectives? And – more importantly – how do we keep this community engaged, enthused and excited about being a community?”
    I think the evolution and noticeable outcome will be a new definition of super communities and super brands. Not so much a social media evolution, but an evolution of new brand power. It is like the emergence of super conglomerates in times of immense (positive) financial restructure.
    Some brands will build fantastic and loyal communities and they will ask themselves, how do we leverage this. The outcome, I postulate, will be emergence into new product/service areas we would not picture today. It is almost like what Richard Bronson has accomplished with Virgin (based on his financial success), but not the brand will leverage customer equity as opposed to financial equity.
    Not a definite, but food for thought … if nothing else, it gets my mojo going (as an old boss use to day to me).
    Always enjoy your perspective and thought leadership.
    Social Steve

  7. Excellent post Mitch and great discussion so far. I sincerely think the tools will continue to merge and fuse, where only one or two or three will become the major players (and no, I don’t think Facebook will still be in the top three). I still consider Buzz a ghost that will re-emerge as a big contender since the future belongs to content filters, not content portals. And Buzz, even though it failed miserably at first, got the point that we’re human with only so much attention span possible.
    We’re getting tired of visiting Facebook, then Tweetdeck, then go check our RSS reader, then back to Facebook (which by this time already has 68 new updates)… and hubs like Buzz are like Howard Hughes would say: “The way of the future”. At least IMHO.
    See you back soon! –Paul

  8. excellent topic, Mitch, thanks a lot for bring it to the table.
    I’m really aware of this kind of situation, and I think all “strategies” in social media tend to die because of their lack of truly engagement. Maybe we can hire those agencies to have thousands of fans or followers in a rush, or maybe we can get those numbers organically, but if we lack of a clear and long term community plan, we’re doomed.
    Here’s where we see the importance of “Architecture” phase in Community planning.
    I’m talking about the structure, procedures, roles and more (repeat: much more), clearly defined since the begining. We cannot start a marketing project (specially with Social Media), if we don’t have a long term value vision of Community.
    thanks a lot again,

  9. Mitch. I appreciate the fact you focus on the thought process and not the tools. Tools and platforms will and do change. Technologies change the path to hopefully make real connections with people that want what we have to offer and then allow us to build better relationships. Most things were so dependent on proximity where as now we focus on relevance. It will be interesting to see how emerging was to interact will shape how we accomplish “high touch”
    Thanks for all you do.

  10. Such a key question, and stimulating discussion!
    The response that springs to my little mind is this: I wonder if a big part of the meaning of the web is that we are slowly positioning to create a healthy world economy: one in which enterprise actually fuels society, instead of draining it.
    Because if marketing is based in community-building, the organization becomes beholden to the community, and wants to support it.
    But it’s a long way from simply gathering the community to actually working in a socially responsible way. The relationship that’s now possible between demand and supply is no simple trick; it will be a long time before we can take it for granted.

  11. I am thinking it will become easier to connect to your ‘loyal’ community than it is with this noise snowball. It’s almost getting to the point where everyone’s head is spinning because they’re online trying to accomplish things, but there is just so much going on, nothing gets done. Right now, for the most part, it’s so new everyone and their Grandma wants to see what the buzz is about. But I think once this noise plateaus and people have had enough of the 1,000 mph noise production, networks will become ever more niched. I am thinking folks are going to start sorting through their followers/friends and start to shed the ones where there is no value or consistent communication taking place (I am actually starting to see a little of this now amongst my community). It’s going to start to become more cliquey pursue. You won’t be seeing the 30K followers for example. Quality will be far more important than quantity. This I think is where brands are going to score big time. Creating communities where their most beloved, ideal, and loyal customers reside. These are the ones that keep your business afloat in the first place, so this is when your brand ambassadors will be pampered and taken care of. They will spread your word for you to their own individual cliques. But there will be great pressure to produce game changing products, giving them something to look forward to or talk about will be key.
    It’s definitely interesting to think about but I do think there will be a plateau where people will have had enough and will take a step back to analyze where the true value is within their current communities.
    Thanks for the post.

  12. Too many marketers marry their brands and construct communities with the brand as the central proposition. If a community is built around meeting a community member’s purpose for networking it is more likely to have greater traction.
    That said, there are different kinds of brands and this dictates how we should think about community building.
    Lots of brands are life stage brands, for example nappies (diapers) are only going to appeal to certain women while they have small babies, so they need to enable conversations with women in that life stage, their purpose for networking will be to share anecdotes around babies, discuss the best medication for croup etc. These brands will have transient communities and as such constantly need to look for new ways to acquire new community members, as babies grow up.
    Other brands are situational brands. I am only likely to engage with a plumbing company when I have a leak or am building a house. The purpose of this community is to provide support during a crisis. Once again, this is a transient community. In this instance, it is probably more acceptable to advertise to the community directly
    We also get lifestyle brands, for example an art community, this community should have greater longevity and will probably mature differently. Here we need to become an active part of the community, a thought leader or a wise advisor.
    The point I am trying to make is that it is the community’s purpose which dictates its future of the social network and how it should be measured and nurtured.
    – Kate Elphick

  13. If what you are “about” is “building community”, then instead of wondering about what you will do after you build the community you should instead just remain focused on what your original mantra was: “building community”.
    Some things in life you can accomplish, put a check box next to as “done”, and then move on to the next thing. Other things in life don’t really have check boxes; some things in life just go on perpetually. Building community is one of those things that goes on perpetually.
    And you are right, the current iteration of social media tools will morph and change … but, it should still just be about the original mantra: build community.
    If you have achieved reaching all the followers you think you can with Twitter, put a check box in that column, and then set another goal of building community with another tool.
    And when you run out of social media tools to build community with, try and come up with the next community building tool yourself!

  14. I think Eric Ungs sums it up nicely: “folks are going to start sorting through their followers/friends and start to shed the ones where there is no value”.
    I’m sure this will be the future. On the other hand, if you’re trying to monetize your community, this will also be the reason why no brand (with the possible exception of a few mega-brands) will be able to survive ONLY within its community.
    You DO have to find customers outside your community. You DO have to get your message out there for others to see except just your community (yikes, push marketing).
    I think the whole social media fuss is an example of the usual pendulum: when something new appears, the pendulum swings to one extreme. When information overload begins to settle in, it swings to the other extreme. In a couple of years, we will probably see it leveling off and SM becoming what it actually is: another platform for marketing efforts.

  15. The word “community” gets bandied about far too lightly here. The phrase “monetizing your community” should be a clear enough cue. Don’t let “community” continue to erode into a blithe euphemism for the understandable view that “markets” are necessarily becoming more communicative and interactive. These aren’t the same things. Markets end because that’s the nature of capitalism.
    You probably don’t even “build” a community. If you’re lucky, you grow into one. And if you love it, if it’s a real community, you sustain it—which means suffering with it, enduring frictions and tragedy and loss. And unlike a market, it doesn’t need rapacious growth or new models of how to exploit it.

  16. Does the formula for a successful relationship change with or without social media?
    I think the answer is no.
    If you agree, then we know where this is going! We are developing relationships to levels that we have never seen before. Why? We never had this 40 year old web infrastructure that never sleeps. Once you get to this type of relationship everyone wants to participate to fulfill their personal needs and the community needs. Think about your last major purchase. Why did you buy? Necessity? Need? Want? How were you influenced to feel good about the purchase? Check with friends or family? Somewhere in the process you accepted that the price was worth the value and bought into the product or community. That is a form of commitment. Since you have now made an investment in the community you may want to participate. Why? You have time and money invested and now you have an opportunity to add your mark/flavor. This last point is why social media has just begun. What is happening in the corporate world? What is the morale of a typical employee? Do they feel appreciated? Does the company show their appreciation? How’s the relationship today between employers and employees? Using social media channels corporations can begin to repair the damage going on with the gap between executives and entry level workers. The closer we can bring CEO’s to employers the better the products/services will become for our customers/community.

  17. Great talk… and a fun way to start the day.
    I like Lisa’s view with a twist (no pun intended Mitch). I generally view large companies as cities these days, with thousands of corporate and customer citizens. I don’t think that the traditional ad/promotion machine will make much sense given the nature of the networks. What I do think makes sense is for these cities or brands to become enablers – Helping their evangelist network develop deeper ties to their brand, and then like Lisa explains use them to pitch the products to their individual HOT (real) networks. I think this could work well since it opens millions of individual conversations that can be about applications rather than attributes.
    I believe in the idea of individual incentives for people who can convert their network into (leads, customers, evangelists) through describing micro applications. ex: A group of mechanics online could be banging around ideas on a blog in the not to distant future – One posts to the others that he is now using white Heinz vinegar to get the grease off his pants. All the people on his networks have their cards updated with the recommendation (In the future credit cards or debit or loyalty or the cash chips in our hands will be connected via our online profiles). And if over the next 2 days someone from that network buys some White vinegar outside of their normal purchasing pattern the recommend-er will get a few 10ths of a cent from Heinz or the exact store if they happen to recommend it.
    Lot’s of problems with this idea but in essence I see the future of social media as an opportunity for these huge brands to reach out to customers they already have and enable them to build mini-marketing campaigns to promote their stuff. Who cares if it matches or it’s fancy – At least it will be effective. A clear message about stuff you are interested in from someone you know and trust – Enabled by Pepsi!
    Sorry for the rambling… Off to work.

  18. If social media continues to be primarily an electronic projection and extension of a person or company, then, for better or worse, key personalities behind a brand will increasingly become part of that brand’s perceived value. It’s already becoming that way. I know far more about the personal lives and politics of the key figures within many of the companies I deal with than I did when I was growing up.
    I’m reminded of an old Bill Cosby skit in which he recalls individuals encouraging him to take cocaine because it “amplifies, expands and increases” one’s personality. To which Cosby responded. “Yeah, but what if you’re a jerk? (Actually he used another word beside jerk.) Have you noticed that about social media? People who were crude and angry before SM, now have a platform to expand their crudeness and anger.
    Hopefully, less privacy and more transparency will allow great companies with a love for their employees and customers to use whatever iteration of social media tools to expand. Those currently hiding their less than stellar people, products and services behind clever marketing gimmicks will become more exposed.

  19. Great post Mitch! It’s true that we need to start thinking about the next steps. What is kind of scary is that a lot of companies are still just scratching the surface, trying to find their voice. I’m guessing that next step will come pretty soon!

  20. We are already seeing the distinction between those brands looking to authentically build community and those just seeing this as the new TV ad/flyer/direct mail piece/cold call etc. The difference is that as consumers we do not have to even bother asking them to stop, getting on a do not call list etc – we just Unfollow and Unfriend.
    Far too many brands, corporate and personal, are jumping in to social media without a clear plan or reason for doing it, other than its the next big thing. The agencies and millions of social media gurus have a responsibility to steer their clients in the right direction to ensure their brands integrity is maintained. Going back to the basics of brand foundation would be a good place to start for many.
    Greed and ‘boredom’ with slower ROI (or at least perceived/measured) will mean some resorting faster to the ‘old ways’ and losing. Those that get it and continue to build community and offer value will win out.
    Just my toonies worth!

  21. Awesome, thought-provoking post, Mitch…
    Communities built through social-media will become little mini-corporations that will use the collected buying power to overturn the current market system and destroy the supplier-driven economy.
    Time will be currency and with suppliers will develop newer, faster ways of delivering products and services to near-instant turnaround time-demands. And marketers will be touted demi-gods as companies seek for closest-to-the-bullseye marketing campaigns to give them the edge in this high-ooctane environment.
    Finally, Paris Hilton will inherit the earth and the words “THAT’S HAWT” will become the global motto.
    Quite frankly, I’m looking forward to it…

  22. Mitch,
    This outlines something we said in Waiting For Your Cat to Bark. As we experience evolutions in technology, communication, and financial innovations it creates less and less friction for our customers, but that friction can’t disappear it needs to show up elsewhere. That means it will continue to get harder and harder for us as business stakeholders while everything gets easier for the customer with increased choice, flexibilty, and control.

  23. For the second time, I find myself commenting on Mitch’s work with the same theme in mind. Many of the posts to date have revolved around ways to keep communities engaged with your message, ways to reach potential customers at the right time, or abstract notions of monetizing communities. It still has the feel of traditional mediums, where people find/build/curate/cultivate an audience, then send messages. The level of engagement, the degree to which it feel human, and the immediacy of information have changed, but it’s still marketing communications at the end of the day. It’s still a company delivering a message to a consumer, and it will quickly begin to suffer all of the hindrances of traditional MarCom (clutter, credibility, care, etc)
    The talk wanders around accumulating followers, attracting community members, and otherwise looking for quantifiable elements. I’m sure there is some value in having more people listening, in the sames sense that an advertiser benefits from more people watching the show in which their spot airs. But for all the quantitative stuff, there was limited talk of the qualitative value created by the community. When you have a group of people talking about your brand, product, service, etc, you have a group of people giving you live, up to date, honest feedback, insight and information. That information is a real chunk of value in my mind, since it should be used to support business decision making, and help you to innovate and improve your product, service, brand, etc.
    This information supports the idea of an offering-first philosophy, where a company puts more focus on delivering an amazing offering. When social media has shown you exactly what your customers want, and you deliver it to them exactly that way, the hurdle of making others aware becomes a lot smaller. A few people have used social media to do just this, and have had a lot of success. Instead of worrying about their own community, they made amazing products, then let other communities spread the word for them.
    Nevermind social media for a second, this concept has existed and worked well before we even had the Internet. Think of your favourite non-chain locally owned restaurant (Schwartz’s in Montreal, for example), and how they managed to not only survive, but grow into massively popular destinations. They make spectacular products, then customers share through their own networks (electronic or otherwise).
    I think this offering-first philosophy is becoming more and more relevant. Just as a social network can recommend your offering, it can also turn against you if your offering is not on par with your communications. Keep in mind that at the end of the day our customers will evaluate your offering based on the benefits it brought them, and not the vibrancy of the community, freshness of content, or any other scheme. The scope of your community is meaningless compared to the scope of every customer’s individual community, and the power that they have to make or break your company.

  24. Interesting article and comments!
    What I’m seeing is the development of two distinct groups of people; those that use social media and those that do not.
    A variety of reasons for both. But I would say that the majority of people that I know (small town southern Ontario, Canada) not only do not use social media, but have absolutely no interest in doing so. They may have signed up to Facebook to get someone’s wedding pictures, but they aren’t using it. The technology has outpaced them, or they have privacy concerns, or they just don’t get why they would want to develop relationships on-line with people they don’t know.
    They want to be able to view a website to learn information, but they also want to be able to call and talk to a live person, or go into a store and have a face to face conversation. Hate may be too strong a word, but they have a real dislike and discomfort surrounding most social media. If you’re addicted to your crackberry and twittering, they likely think you’re a big city jerk and heance likely don’t want to do business with you.
    This is not just my friends over 50, but my teenagers as well. They say that they are tired of MySpace and Facebook. They want their privacy back, and want to talk to their friends again instead of having to check their status. For them, the honeymoon is already over.
    So, I think it is more important than ever for companies to truly understand their customers, and not just the squeaky wheels using Twitter or some other platform to voice their opinions, but the (I suspect) much greater number of silent consumers. We can’t ignore those customers or stop other forms of communication just because we are using social media.
    Just my random thoughts.

  25. I don’t usually rant in public, ok, not in writting 😉 but I just couldn’t resist. So here goes…
    Personnally I don’t think “social media” has a future per say – and no, I’m not an almost retired newspaper executive that refuses change.
    To be quite frank, I don’t feel social media is that much of an inovation, simply a new way of using technology – when they invented the telegraph, the phone, the radio or even the cell phone I’ll bet everyone used it as often as they could. I mean, not too long ago people used to gather around in church basements (many still do) to play bingo or participate in the Lion’s club, even sunday mass for that matter was somekind of social media where everyone would get together and share thoughts.
    Now, we simply have the capacity to do it with MANY more people, MUCH faster and it’s evolving at the speed of light. But, back to my opening remark, I think we (as a society) will get over swamped, bored and eventually move on.
    Yes as business people we need to listen to our customers, but this isn’t because of Facebook, twitter or any other new tool; It’s simply good business sense.
    To me, it’s actually no different from a really big focus group (the first focus group dating back to 1937…).
    Will tools like facebook, twitter and so on disappear? NO. Will it change media and our lives in general? sure (could you imagine no cell phones?). Does our FUTURE depend on it: of course not. Eventually we’ll all get fet up of heering about our hundreds of “friends”, their kids and the fact they found a gold nugget in farmville. We’ll turn around and concentrate on our immediate surroundings: our wives, husbands, kids, nephew’s, etc…simply because we’ll have gone overboard and been exposed to too much noise. Just like that 14yr old boy (and many grown men for that matter) gets when he buys that new video game – he plays it day in and day out for a while, then he gets bored and hopefully goes outside to play ball or go for a bike ride.

  26. Patrick and Heather, what you’re both saying—from different angles—is heartening. Since people often use social media as avoidance—as tools to *avoid* the emotional messiness of direct personal contact—it’s heartening to hear stories, especially of young people, who find themselves craving face-to-face contact again. Our tools need to bounce us back into actual sensate existence and relationships again. When they do that, they can be helpful. When they become totalizing and surrogate, they only feed subliminally fear and discomfort with intimacy.

  27. Hi Mitch,
    Great discussion…
    I think brands and entrepreneurs just really need to start implementing social initiatives based on their business objectives and strategy (i.e gaining customer insights, marketing, sales, service & support, innovation, collaboration, customer experience).
    Specifically, are they planning to build an social application or campaign to collaborate with their best customers in order innovate and evangelize others? Listen to their customers or to talk with them? Based on their listening research, if their customers are commenters, allow them to comment. If they rely on friends, encourage sharing. If they are trusted by others, highlight them as advocates in front of their community.
    Brands need to first decide on what they want to accomplish. Do they want to get people talking about their products? Do they want a permanent focus group for testing product ideas and generating new ones? How will things be different afterwards? Once brands know who the people are, their objectives, and strategy, the next steps will naturally unfold once their community is thriving.
    On a side note, just finished reading your book…good stuff…gives a great framework with tools and actions to make any entrepreneur or business person who implements them a potential candidate for becoming the next social media rock star.
    Mitch Fanning

  28. There is only one word I can think of to aptly summarize the future saturated in social media: Transparency.
    We’ve gone from taglines, to status updates, to tweets – and now services like Buzz and are in place to track our minute-by-minute whereabouts and purchases. The current culture of social media is one of WANTING to share where you are, what you’re doing, and what you ate for lunch this afternoon. For those who would argue that the desire for privacy will cause this kind of play-by-play social reporting to taper off, I say quite the opposite… For the most part, we are becoming desensitized to our own blather. It seems more and more appropriate to share the inane details and we’re gaining more and more ways to conveniently do so. Even my friends who prefer to think of themselves as “off the grid” still realize that the age of personal broadcasting is here to stay.
    The next generation of social media innovations (and ways businesses utilize them) will not be about community building but rather community engagement. All of this information about individual consumers has become suddenly more available than ever: where they go, what they buy, and ultimately what they think. It seems to me like there is an abundance of dots and not enough people trying to meaningfully connect them.
    Did you hear Starbucks is now offering discounts to people who frequently “check in”? Just think of the incentives that early adopter companies could develop for ‘frequent purchase points’ and legitimate ‘friend referrals’…
    The possibilities are exciting.

  29. Mitch,
    I think we all grapple with this question, because there aren’t any clear cut rules. Everyone wants to follow the few simple steps to Social Media success. Many “experts” have published articles, posts, and eBooks about creating a community, growing followership, and attracting fans, but there isn’t (and may never be) a clear cut way to embrace and engage that audience.
    Too many companies, as you say, are deep-rooted in old marketing techniques and once they are satisfied with their follower/fan numbers, they’ll regress to spamming them. I mean, what else is there to do?
    I think the most interesting innovations now are not the technologies themselves, although they are impressive, but the ingenious ways that brands are using them to offer value to their fans. Sacrificing their Facebook friends for a whopper (Burger King), coordinating a flash mob to earn a Swarm Badge on FourSquare (AJ Bombers), or the Fiskateers (Fiskars).

  30. Great article + commentary.
    Interesting also to see all this talk of aggregation and integration. Recent topics w/ clients include how the brand site + FB + Twitter + blog + etc. all live together.
    From a marketing perspective thisMoment has taken a stab at stitching some of the social hotspots together, and adding UGC. They just did a “channel” (their term of choice) for the new movie “Kick-Ass”. Interesting.
    Gotta also tip the cap to the “transparency” notion mentioned above. If this, in and of itself, is the end result of the SOCIAL MEDIA PHENOMENON, let’s at least the goodness therein.

  31. Jon Thomas:
    I get what you’re saying, but… There is a vague path or set of variables that need to be fulfilled to see success with your company through social media. The biggest unspoken rule is that you need to forget about “selling” to your audience. The net is so polluted with people hard-selling their audiences that it is sort of funny. Successful social media campaigns are driven by a good foundation that gives something very valuable to the user. Take a look at any of the successful videos that were created by companies. They gave something to their viewer (not just a “go buy from me” message.)

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