I’m speaking tomorrow morning at the Social Media Breakfast for the San Francisco East Bay. It will be the third time in as many weeks that I’ve been asked to discuss social media trends.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence. Yes, it’s partly because we are at the beginning of the first year of the second decade of the Conversational Age. But more than that, there is a collective sense that one major phase of social media is ending and a new one is starting.
I share that viewpoint. We are at a flexpoint in social media. We have just experience a decade of relentless adoption of social media. There are almost no institutions that have not been forced to adapt to this fundamental change. If this were a geologic age it would be characterized by a period of volcanic eruption. As a business era, it has been a period of meteoric disruption.
But now, volcanoes are starting to quiet down. New land masses have formed. Some of the old ones have disappeared and those remaining have been transformed. There are new oceans and greenery. Some previously unknown creatures have emerged and seem to be thriving.
The era of upheaval, trauma and drama is ending. While there are still some significant tremors, they are less violent.
If there is one over riding trend, that I see it is that we have entered into an Age of Social Media Normalization. Business, government, religion, news, entertainment, education is now entering a quieter phase.
Their is much less excitement in this new era–and far greater value.
The value comes in every day work and personal life, being easier, more productive than ever before. Social media has eroded geographic barriers. It has started to erase be formidable barriers of language and if it has failed to flatten the world, it has certainly lowered the height and severity of the hills.
I try never to repeat myself in my writing and speaking–but it is sometimes inevitable. I have been thinking through several ideas for years now. I try to remember a trend is not a fad. It may start slowly and take years to become clear to all beholders. But a trend is fundamental and matters more than whether or not Facebook or Twitter prevails.
When I talk tomorrow, my key point will be that we have entered into this Age of Normalization. Under that there are many important subtrends that give evidence to the main idea.
They include–but are not limited to:
- Braided Journalism. Last week the NY Times asked tweeters and Facebook people for helping generating news and photos of the Egyptian protest. This is just the most recent example of the convergence of citizen and traditional journalism. Likewise businesses have started to turn toward journalists rather than publicists to provide content that is credible to audiences they need to reach
- Blurring Boundaries. Related to the above online conversations, including enterprise communities are allowing unprecedented collaboration and transparency between companies and their customers. This is leading to products being developed and refined faster and reduced marketing needs. In fact, social media has punched wholes in most organization boxes. For the most part, everyone benefits, but the blurring of boundaries is bound to cause some confusion.
- Niche Networks–As the most successful social media sites continue to eclipse that which we used to call mass media, there will be hundreds, perhaps thousands of smaller, more intimate Niche Networks. These will each be centered around a single small topic such as Pleasantville Safe Streets or “Megacorpus Partner Certification.” These networks will be structured to appeal to a few people who care about topics that will not interest more general audiences. If you think about it, I bet you can immediately name six that you would join tomorrow.
- All conversations everywhere. Emerging companies like Echo.Com and Livefyre are letting people see all content on a single topic in one screen, no matter where it was originally posted. Further curation services like Pearltrees are blurring machine and human resources to show you where you can find content most valuable for you. Eventually, this will mean that the user will be as agnostic about whether you posted on Facebook, Twitter or a blog as we are today about whether the package was shipped by FedEx or UPS.
- Universal Translation. I’ve previously called this a Holy Grail of social media and it continues to be so. The idea is simple: I talk or type in my language t my computer. You see or hear it in yours. You respond in yours and I hear or see it in mine. Lately, there’s a lot happening here. New offerings like WordLens, SpeechTrans, the DOD’s TRANSTAC are moving us closer to Grail at accelerated speed. Imagine what this could do for Egyptians on the street trying to reach people all over the world.
- Ubiquity. Lots of people are calling mobile, cloud and other emerging technologoes trends. To me, they are features of the oldest trend on this list; the idea that wherever you are, whatever you are doing you will be able to connect to your own data and communicate everywhere. It shouldn’t matter whether your device is on a desk or in a pocket. It simply matters that the cliche “always on” becomes a fact.