Everyone’s making predictions for 2007, but I’m going to go one step beyond and make a prediction for the remainder of this decade: social media is the new email.
Interestingly, I was very pleasantly beaten to the punch in posting about this by one Rod Boothby. The discussion started on the Social Media Collective Google group – I was making the point that a lot of us who are very active in the social media space seem to frequently forget that the enterprise decision makers (the ones who will entrench social media as the latest “version” or “layer” of the Internet – and that’s a when, not an if) really don’t have a good understanding of what social media is – sure, they’ve heard of blogs, MySpace and YouTube, but their kids are far more likely to really “get” it than they are. I will now quote myself:
When it comes to enterprise (and I am on the ground, doing this every day) a tiny fraction of those occupying the executive suite actually understand what a blog is, let alone how such a thing as social media could fit into their marketing and communications plans. Certainly they’ve heard of such things, but the detail? Not absorbed.
Why is this distinction (vs. the general public) important? Because the minute that business really starts to embrace social media it will be truly “mainstream” and not just some kooky hobby. The day you can interact with any of your favourite brands via a corporate blog (or whatever) – that will be the day that everyone acknowledges that “social media” is, like email before it, the latest version of human interaction as facilitated by the Internet (I view it as an evolutionary process – more on this later).
We haven’t hit critical mass yet – widespread adoption has not taken place, no matter how awesome and promising we think this new layer of Internet is. That’s to come – likely in 2007, and it will be entrenched by enterprise.
Individual communication will still be important, but “mass” communications to a narrowcasted segment of our social network will be the norm. That’s what organically happens with many blogs – instead of sending emails to my friends about a trip or something crazy that happened, I post pictures and words, and we all have a conversation about it (like the time my friend David said my Mom was “kinda hot”. My mom reads my blog, much hilarity ensued and David’s been avoiding her ever since. That interaction would not have been so “real” with simple email).
Other platforms and methods not yet imagined will streamline this process so that we no longer “push” messages to each other, but rather the messages will “pull”. Of course, if something is of immediate importance, we will send messages directly (just as now, if you really want to get ahold of someone, you often pick up the phone instead of sending an email). Wait – maybe I should say that social media is the new telephone?
Anyway – that’s my line in the sand. Social media is the new email – more to come on this later, I’m sure.
Now, I’m supposed to be on vacation this week – so that’s it until 2007. Happy New Year!
Email is more like the telephone than current forms of social media are like email. Email’s and the telephone’s rules of engagement are symmetric. If I know your telephone number or your email address, I can call you or email you, and vice versa. Calling or emailing also typically discloses the originating address, so any excess power I enjoy as originator dissolves pretty quickly at the first exchange.
Not so with blogs. The blogger retains absolute power over commenters. Granted, anyone is free to create a blog of their own, but doing so does not really reinforce existing conversations. It creates a another forum competing for participants’ attention in a distinct space.
However, social media have an inherent advantage beyond both the telephone and email. (Email inherited the telephone’s fatal flaw by equating physical and logical addresses, but that’s another story). The Internet’s distributed authority accommodates arbitrary rules of engagement. Blogs demonstrate the potential by inverting the periodical publishing hierarchy. The platform you allude to above will disperse control even further towards the periphery, enabling end users to engage fully and transparently with each other, under their own rules of engagement.
The user-disclosed “Mom and David Show” proves the currency.