Scrollmotion’s enterprise sales tool for tablets.
Mobile, social, geolocation, big data, marketing — Socialmedia.biz’s strategists eye the future
The social media landscape has undergone enormous changes since the current Socialmedia.biz team of strategists partnered up in 2009. With the end of the year fast approaching, we thought this would be a good time to offer our forecasts into what the next year may hold in store for social media, mobile, social businesses and more. Here are nine fearless predictions — including a look at the current state, predicted future state and our recommendations.
When in doubt, think mobile — and especially tablets
1While mobile usage has been rising for years and a majority of Americans’ cell phones became smartphones during 2012, tablet usage is now eclipsing the smartphone numbers by threefold in the case of the Apple iPad to iPhone adoption (source: 2012 KPCB Internet Trends). Now, 55 percent of adults access the Internet from their mobile phone, double the rate of what they did only three years ago (source: Pew Internet & American Life Project). Along with bandwidth improvements, visitors increasingly access your organization’s page from a mobile device, with 13 percent of global traffic coming from mobile (source: 2012 KPCB Internet Trends).
The computing environment – along with our lifestyles – is moving away from the desktop and even the laptop, with users relying more heavily on their smartphones and tablet devices to do business, stay connected and share. Increasingly, even the road warrior is ditching a laptop for a tablet, Bluetooth keyboard and a set of apps to get through the work day or while attending a conference. User expectations are exceedingly high in terms of navigating a site for informational purposes, to complete a task, to make a purchase or a donation. They expect a browsing experience akin to the simple, intuitive navigation found in buying a book on Amazon or the crisp visual experience of inhaling your Facebook stream via the Flipboard app.
Design your site expecting the mobile user in mind. At the top of the page, place a hyperlink to a mobile version of your site. Having an app available for your site is a nice-to-have, but a truly easy-to-navigate mobile site will work for multiple uses and keep your development costs down as you weigh business needs for an app. Make your site swipeable on tablets by using Onswipe, a free service that lets your brand publish content with more of an app-like appearance. (JD interviewed the founder here a year ago.) Another company doing innovative publishing around mobile is ScrollMotion, an inventive New York startup that animates sales, marketing and training applications on the tablet, turning them into more interactive and dynamic content assets. The user experience is enhanced and complex subjects gain more visual elements. No matter what your site is telling or selling, the end user wants to consume and interact with your content in a way that behaves more like entertainment, from a look-and-feel perspective. (To learn more about mobile-related topics, visit Socialmedia.biz’s mobile section.)
A wave of recommendations startups before the big consolidation
2I just got an iPhone 5 this week, after remaining content with my iPhone 4 for two years and skipping the iPhone 4S and the siren call of Siri (is it too late to join the party, Zooey Deschanel?). But despite the Big Brotherish visage of Apple looming over the landscape, 2012 saw the rise a number of new arrivals on the Recommendations bandwagon, so much so that it’s now officially its own sector. These are the spawn of Yelp, which itself is the spawn of review sites like Zagat.
With dozens of guns aimed its way, it may be tough for Yelp to shake its rep as the go-to place for untrustworthy reviews from strangers and hucksters. So make way for a new generation of social recommendation sites. I just wrote about the launch of social recommendations engine Snoox (“Recommendations from friends, not strangers”) and only this week heard about another one, BagsUp (“Find the best places to eat … shop … play … stay”). What, no recommendation engine yet on the best place to shack up and have an affair? Maybe that niche will be filled by Trover (a cool little bicurious — Apple/Android — mobile app), Raved, Villij, LiveStar or Stamped (just bought by Yahoo!). One thing’s for certain: There’s no room in the marketplace for another dozen photo-sharing apps.
Meantime, the current champ of geolocation, Foursquare, is working hard to reinvent itself as … ta da! A social recommendations engine! Check-ins and mayorships are so 2010 and will become quaint, even unhip, a year from now. But geoloco is for real and will be huge in the years ahead, so look for Facebook or Apple (dark horses: Microsoft or Yahoo!) to snap up Foursquare by Q4 2013. The only question is whether Dennis Crowley becomes a billionaire or mega-millionaire.
Facebook desperately wants to own the social recommendations space. But so does Apple with its kinda-sexy intelligent agent, Siri. Google, too, wants in, and will increasingly enhance its mapping capabilities not only right up to your business’s front door — but inside the place, too. After all, photo sharing apps are the new Google Street View. And now Yahoo’s new CEO, Marissa Mayer, smartly bets on mobile and local as the future hope of the dysfunctional behemoth.
While most of us aren’t about to log into Facebook to rave about our latest purchase from Bed Bath & Beyond, we may take a snap of our cool new crockpot with our iPhone 5 or Android, upload it to Instagram and share it on Foursquare and Twitter. Recommendation technology is seeping into our lives through social sharing activities that are becoming part of the invisible fabric of our lives.
Quick! That fabric’s now on sale, for 40 percent off, at Pottery Barn!
Shut up, privacy nuts! Some of us see a benefit in oversharing
3I have always embraced applications that follow me around. From old man Google Latitude to upstart Highlight, I am always trying to overshare. Checking in on social networks has become commonplace. Facebook, Google+ and many others (thanks, in many cases, to a generous FourSquare API) allow us to log in to our respective social network profiles and identify where we’re at and who we’re with, and then share that with both our friends as well as with the public, should we wish. A couple of startups that have yet to catch on are taking the next step, allowing us to just allow our apps to check us in and share our whereabouts with our friends — or the public — automatically, while the services begin collecting our social data and begin sharing it with advertisers, business partners, etc.
Moreover, once all of this silliness about privacy is finally put to rest and folks learn to trade some of their privacy for convenience and value, there are so many other things that your devices can offer. I recently bought a Nexus 7 tablet with Google Now. Now offers users like me access to what I might need to know right now: what’s around me; how long it’ll take to get to my next appointment and how, based on traffic; what fun stuff is going on around me, and where I might want to get a drink or eat, as well as anything else Google can sort out about me. I have become obsessed with carrying it on me all the time so that Google can spend all of its time stalking me so it can become more and more useful — to me. The same thing is happening to Apple owners as they embrace Siri and other location- and context-aware platforms with calendar, search engine and inbox integration.
The RunKeeper app: automated updates.
Until now, social stalking software companies have been so afraid of being accused of privacy invasion that they’ve intentionally limited the amount of share one is able to provide with their friends. This will soon end. The value of being able to actively passively share where you are, what you’re doing, even when you’re not going out, is too high to prevent the boldest of us to participate gladly. Even Google Latitude, which allows its users to “automatically check in here,” restricts that share to only fellow chums on Latitude with whom I already have a connection. As more and more applications integrate Google Maps, Foursquare and the like into their social networks (such as GetGlue, Facebook, Google+ and Instagram), giving them the ability to actively and intentionally check-in into the store, restaurant, gym, cafe, and home — but only explicitly and with exceptional intent. We all know that running your GPS on your phone burns the battery, but batteries are getting better and external battery packs are becoming more common, so that barrier will soon fall. One of my happiest personal states is when I’m running or walking and have my RunKeeper tracking my trip and sharing my entire route and performance with not only my friends in the RunKeeper community but also with everyone I am connected to on Facebook and Twitter, including the public.
We Americans are like frogs: We’re easy to boil if you drop us into a nice bath and then bring the water to a roiling boil rather than throwing us directly in to blanch. So Google, Foursquare, Facebook and the like are wooing us over time with tempting morsels, addictive functionality and set-up-and-forget convenience. 2013 will be the year when Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Google and Bing will have convinced you to cross-integrate your calendar, email, search history and privacy setting in such a way that there will be a small, easy step — infinitesimal, in fact — toward location- and context-awareness, with opportunities to share everything: what you’re doing, where you are, how long you’ve been there, and whether you’re a regular (the mayor). It’ll happen implicitly, frictionlessly and whether I think about it or not.
While the tide of passive participation and frictionless sharing on social media is a tidal wave and is bound to come to pass, the self-proclaimed privacy police could very well spook Google, Facebook and the rest into hibernation, especially since Foursquare is having business and revenue challenges. Erring on the side of discretion and safety has kept the vast usefulness of location- and context-awareness in a box.
I’ll be honest, I think the real reason why these companies are unwilling to allow us to throw open our doors and windows is because there’s so much information — contextual, location-based, historical, as well as gleaned from search, email, browsing history, and online shopping and orders — that they’re truthfully afraid to reveal how much they know about us.
But without doubt, this will all come to fruition. And once we get over our jitters, we’ll discover how awesome a personal Web valet they can be. The obstacles are not technological but cultural. The coming year will mark a watershed, and privacy will no longer stand in the way.
Making sense of Big Data for analysis, metrics & sales leads
4According to IBM, every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data — so much that 90 percent of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. But the Big Data challenge isn’t only about the overwhelming volume of data available, it’s about how to make sense of that much data. To date, traditional data analysis tools have been inadequate and infrastructures not robust enough to meet the Big Data challenge.
Though the tools do exist – IBM Big Data Platform, Cloudera and Hadoop for instance – to take on the task, cost and lack of expertise has made it prohibitive for many companies to jump on board the Big Data bandwagon.
Aside from a lot of hype about investing in Big Data and the data scientist talent shortage, there was relatively little discussion about advances in Big Data technologies in 2012. What we did see in 2012, however, was the rise of the cloud. Advances in cloud computing technology is what will bring Big Data analysis capabilities closer to the mainstream in 2013. IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service) cloud services like Amazon Web Services Big Data and Google BigQuery will help close the gap for smaller enterprises.
Cloud technologies offer cheaper and more robust storage options for emerging Big Data platforms, so we are likely to see more of these platforms emerge, and existing platforms bloom.
Though enterprise is still the “big” winner as far as advances in big data technologies and predictive analysis, small- to medium-size businesses can still benefit. There are tools available now that help companies tap into Big Data for real-time analysis, application tracking, business metrics and long-tail sales leads.
Here are a few to keep your eye on:
And for those who don’t mind tackling a learning curve, there are a number of big data open-source technologies that can also be applied to IaaS technologies like Google’s BigQuery.
Time to reimagine mobile ads as supporting users’ goals
5Websites and social networks have been seriously gnashing their teeth in 2010-2012 as the “third screen” (mobile) has overtaken the second (computer) in prominence, effectively crowding out the key revenue source: display ads. The sun is setting on interruptive advertising.
In 2013, mobile advertising revenue will continue to fall, although its collapse is temporarily dampened by the popularity of tablets which, despite having mobile functionality, are usually used to consume data. This makes interruptive advertisements somewhat more tolerable. However, the breakthrough will come to advertisers that realize interruptive ads “do things to people,” so they shift to “doing things with people.” This works by reimagining “ads” as software that supports users (of the device or site) who are engaged in what’s most important to them. Where interruptive ads take away from users, “software ads” support them.
At a minimum, begin implementing the Facebook option on some of your display ads. Even better, get serious by applying agile software development to ad design. Identify users you want to engage and map their workstreams; ask yourself what knowledge or tools you have that could support users in unique ways and design “ads” to deliver the support. Note that this will work only when your firm truly puts users first. This approach will align you with users and distinguish you in 2013 and beyond.
Twitter will reach its zenith, and then begin to recede
A new yet-to-be-seen major social network will rise as we’ll watch another one begin to fall. Just as we saw the dramatic rise of Pinterest this year, another major social network will rise from the ashes to become the new social media darling. (MySpace? Probably not.) But in its wake a major social network will begin to fall. I predict it will actually be Twitter. Twitter is becoming less and less valuable.
Don’t take my word for it. Take a look at your blog or website analytics. Isolate the traffic that comes just from Twitter. Notice the bounce rate is much higher than your average and the time on site is much lower than your average. Twitter is becoming more and more useless as a traffic driver as most of the traffic it sends is uninterested garbage. And the noise from Twitter is drowning out the signal. Today the only way to truly consume Twitter is by following hashtags and other searches. But for tent pole events such as the Super Bowl, that’s impossible as there’s far too much content from just a single hashtag.
Twitter’s noise is deafening and it will soon consume itself. So don’t put all of your brand’s eggs in the Twitter basket. Diversify. You should be doing that anyway — especially in a space that sees social platforms rise and fall and come and go so readily.
More businesses will become roll-your-own Community Companies
Betabrand lets customers design and choose which products they make.
In 2013, the Community Company social business model will break through big-time. The Community Company puts stakeholders in charge of one or more of the firm’s key business processes. Ready examples are Threadless and Betabrand, which let customers design and choose which products they make. Threadless is the most “pure” in that its customers drive the product process, where BetaBrand is a hybrid whose “Think Tank” invites customer input.
Good practices here are creating various roles for stakeholders that are meaningful to them and harmonious with your core competencies. Use a hierarchy of social actions and workstreams to engage stakeholders who have various passion levels. Support each role with (online) tools, functionality and rewards. Design your innovation process to enable increasing stakeholder involvement over time. In the Social Channel, product significance falls in favor of stakeholder experiences when using products. Increase your competitive advantage by aggressively moving to give stakeholders key roles in how your firm works.
Firms will go cross-platform to raise the bar in social business
8With few exceptions, most firms’ social media processes are primarily organized around platforms, which add some value to stakeholders but leave money on the table. Marketers are driven by metrics, and platforms’ social actions are measurable, even though most are still not tied to real business impact.
In 2013, firms that want to make impact will jettison their platform-centric mindset, and focus on workstreams. Warby Parker shows how it will be done. They use Twitter to source and respond to the most popular customer service issues, and they digitize responses on YouTube, then provide links to the YouTube videos on Twitter. Note that the videos enable them to be personal, funny and helpful while harnessing massive scale.
To outperform using this technique, you’ll need a taxonomy of “problems” and naming for videos and links that will scale once you have hundreds of videos. You’ll also need some design standardization for videos, so they reflect the brand and become more useful to stakeholders. By no means does this mean they should be formulaic. Note that stakeholders don’t care for platforms; they have problems or goals, and they seek the most expeditious solutions. Firms need to align with them by knitting platforms into seamless business processes to support stakeholders.
In mapping out success, become the solution
9The Internet is full of advice on how to get more Twitter followers, Facebook fans and blog readers. Each of these “how to” articles are designed to teach you how to become more successful in social media.
The reality is that the only way to truly succeed in social media is not just be the guy who follows others’ advice, but to be the first in plotting out a roadmap to success. To pull that off, you’ll need to experiment … a lot. We’ll see more glimmers of that innovate-or-calcify approach in 2013. Some companies, such as TiVo, have established a reasonably safe haven for social media experimentation. Their philosophy is to try and try again. If you’re going to fail, fail quickly and cheaply. It’s the mantra of Silicon Valley, where TiVo (perhaps not coincidentally) is based.
The companies that will continue to succeed with social media marketing are the ones that don’t look for proof points on what to do, but rather become the proof points that others point to as markers of success.
What would you add?
Obviously we just scratched the surface of what may lie ahead in the new year. What’s your big, brash prediction for what we’ll see in 2013? Please add your thoughts in the comments below — we promise to respond!