Social Media 2004 – 2040 – At just the tip of the iceberg


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We talked to several people, business owner, marketing manager, social media practitioner what they would really love to see down the social media road. We then tried to draw a trajectory from where we are, what people dream of, and where it may go. This post is the beginning of a story that we plan to continue. Where are we going? This is the beginning of a new Social Media Academy Research Project and you are invited to add to it.

All in all, here is the single biggest change Social Media is bringing to our society: We no longer can say “I have no influence”. It’s no longer true that you as an individual can’t make a change. It evolves to the opposite situation:

Change will only be possible if most of us wants it.

Is this really positive? I don’t know yet to be honest. But that is the most probable development.

The democratization of influence (also the title of my new, upcoming book) is moving with incredible speed forward. Politicians around the world have a huge respect of Social Media. The less developed societies which are under dictator leadership try to prevent social media, others believe that they have to control it like the radio stations in the past. Democratic leadership actually does the opposite – they leverage the social web to learn as fast as possible what the population wants and try to deliver as much as possible. Obviously they also use it to influence the population. But most importantly that influence is no longer an unbalanced power. If a president of a nation uses social media to communicate the power is only and exclusively there as long as that president has many followers and social media friends. You may think President Obama for instance has an advantage over you because he has millions of followers and you don’t. Well yes, because he understood to leverage the media before you did. Time is of essence and valuable content over a large network is what makes all the difference. But here is the other side of the medallion. President Obama could loose most of his followers and friends if he would work against the interest of the population. Today Barack Obama has 14.7 Million followers on Twitter, Mitt Romney has 470,000 and George Bush is not even present on Twitter.

2014 Social Media Metrics

Businesses began to understand the huge impact Social Media has on their brand and the way people recommend products and services. And so do investors. Over the next few years we will see brands using their social media metrics to reiterate their leadership. Brands like Virgin, Amazon, Starbucks, SAP, and similarly forward looking leaders are most likely one of the first who will do so.

2016 Product Co-Creation

Product co-creation is already a concept several companies are practicing. But it is less than 1% of the 60 Million registered businesses around the world. It may take several years t make this one of the standard ways of doing business but it will happen – the advantages for both business and customer base are just to big to ignore it. The reason it may take longer on a global scale is simply adoption. Most European countries ate just starting to even adopt social media in the first place, let alone leveraging it to a full extend.

2018 Shift in medical treatment and trust

The pharmaceutical industry is just too often accused to think only business and have way to much influence on what doctors subscribe. But also the mega marketing campaigns around cancer treatment to push scans to a degree that may be more harmful than helpful will drive more and more people to expose their experience and results and maybe more trusted than even the doctors. This is just one example how social media will change industries, whether it is the food industry, electronic equipment, car makers or any other industry.

2020 Hologram like technology

While we are seeing enormous improvements in reading “digital body language” hologram like technology may significantly improve the Social Media experience. Already today we see great improvements on hologram technology in Japan. However, I can very well imagine it may actually be something different than a real hologram that serves the same purpose. That kind of technology would even further reduce travel requirements and add a hugely positive effect on reducing energy consumption. Making it easier to see products, processes, or other means ov visualization may actually be the commercial driver for that development.

2022 Democratization of influence in full swing

We already saw politicians leveraging Social Media in 2008. But over the coming 10 years we will see more and more political decision making in the social web. Voting is only one of it. Much better sentiment analysis another one. Voting on locally relevant decision not only by checking a box but also reading reasoning for why others vote this or that and more quickly and also more thoroughly learning what all the implications are when going into one or the other direction. It may well be that only once somebody confirmed understanding the implication, a vote is even possible. Another implication of Social Media will be seen in the collective power of the society. In the next ten years we will learn not only to publicly express our interests but also to organize and focus them. For instance: We all know that smoking is a deadly addiction and even the strongest mind can’t just stop it as it manipulates our brain. The tobacco industry, the exorbitant tax income are all forces that still prevented a radical stop of even selling tobacco or at least selling it to people under 30. But a society with no other commercial interests could by now enforce such a decision. Calling everybody working in the tobacco industry assisted manslaughter is just one example to build up pressure.

2024 Social commerce redefines trade

Today we see only embryonic steps towards social commerce. Mostly it is e-commerce within a social network. On the other side we see recommendations like in Amazon and many other sites and people to combine buying power like in Groupon. If we draw that development further, understanding that 60-80% of all purchase decisions are based on recommendations and that sales people on the other side have a rather negative image, social commerce will change the way we sell and buy products. This is not an easy task. Trust is immediately shaded if somebody’s recommendation is influenced by a commercial interest. But we will find a balance between trust and commercial interests. By now most commercial communication i.e. “getting the message out” will be history. User generated content will be the only content that is trusted, read and used for educated purchase decisions. Commercial content will be either highly entertaining or very educational – always carried out by advocates and friends of the brands – not mass marketing.

2026 Business collaboration changes enterprises

Our society is moving more and more towards total individualization. We just don’t want to be a number and we find better ways to make a mark AND a living. The number of freelancers is growing faster than ever. The number of small businesses are growing fast in most free countries and more and more enterprises are outsourcing services they won’t call strategic. Over the next two decades we will see global enterprises shrinking by the number of employees but not necessarily in revenue or influence. We see this already in the fashion industry, which is the one industry that rationalizes most the trend to more individualism. There is no reason for managing hundreds of different production sites and even design firms coming up with very different products. Social Media based business collaboration however is what makes this all possible. There is no need to walk every morning into a marble tower working with 10,000 others who you never meet even after 10 years with that company. But working in an independent team of 25 or 50, not bound to massive administration may not only be much more fun but also develop much better results. This is no news – but the way those smaller companies can now collaborate is very different.

2028 More democracy

The democratic societies may have been through a remarkable evolution. The engagement to maximize the participation on elections may have shifted to maximize education on what voters should vote on. Democracy may have evolved to ensure voting is based on educated decisions of the population rather than influential presentations in billion $ campaigns. What is the “educated customer” in the beginning of the first century in the new millennium may evolve also to an educated voter understanding that responsibility of voting is much grander than the right of voting. The upcoming generations may not only better execute that right but take much greater care of the responsibility and will be way more than ever engaged in the democratic process of the society they live in.

2030 60+ year old working via Social Media.

The Social web will be the single biggest work space for people above 60. By now the rapidly growing life expectancy may already reach an average of 100 years. Most people over 60 will still need to or want to work. Working by contributing valuable content, networking with others, sharing experience, collaborating globally online are all activities that somebody maybe able to do even with age 80 or older. Already today we see many elderly engaged – even though most for personal reasons.

2032 “Social Revolution”

The Social revolution over the past 30 years will be recognized as equally significant as the industrial revolution. During the industrial revolution we fundamentally changed how products are produced and were able to mass produce virtually anything. The Value chain from raw material to finished product has changed forever. During the social revolution we changed the way those products are marketed and sold. Marketing and sales are typically 50% of the labor cost of a business and the social revolution allowed pretty much any business to introduce, market and sell their wares in an unheard-off speed and reach on a global scale. In the previous years logistics organizations will have changed to accommodate small businesses in selling on a global scale at a price that is not possible today. Democratization of influence will not only improve our economic system but also our democratic system and as such Social Media will have the biggest impact on our society since the industrial revolution.

2034 Facebook turns 30, lost its edge

With the 30th birthday Facebook is an old company, very much like 30 year old Microsoft today. While it will have lost its edge, Facebook may still be the no.1 and the largest social network, yet most will see it just as a commodity like any computing device, an airplane, or electricity. By now Facebook will be gone through many iterations of monetization. Advertising sales will be virtually gone, and most revenue may come from ‘taxation’ where Facebook simply charges anybody doing business on Facebook land. Very much like Bill Gates or Larry Elison, Mark Zuckerberg will still be running Facebook – or if replace by a more ‘bankable CEO’ he may be back on the helm by now.

2036 Over 20,000 major special intrest networks

The Social Web will continue to change. The global interest of our population for more individual expression will also change the face of Social Media. Aside a few monolithic behemoth I expect to see many many quite large networks with people for special interests or special functions that we don’t have today. Pinterest is a great example of a company entering the almost 10 year old social web and not only replacing older photo pages but bringing a new set of functionality and engagement into that web. By then many non US networks will have developed. With 700 Million European, being twice as much as the US population, 1 billion Chinese and 1 billion Indian, plus a billion from Latin America, Australia and other regions we may see combined 4 Billion users in those different networks. What killed the US automobile industry and also the US computer industry may actually kill the US based Social Media Industry: Consolidation through mergers and acquisition to the point that nothing globally competitive remains in the country.

2038 Law significantly influenced by the population.

The Social Media era may see its peak when law and judging is significantly influenced by the greater population. While this may become the greatest risk it also may be the greatest opportunity for our society. It may influence not only the improvement of a law in the most developed countries but much more importantly it may influence the law in less developed societies and actually make the world a saver place. Similar to the industrial revolution that made most of the developed countries a very comfortable place to be, this next phase of development may help to make many more countries a better place to live in.

2040 First net natives (born after 1990) turn 50

By now Social Media is a commodity like a power plug in the wall. We have most likely seen very interesting and completely unexpected innovation in the area of medicine, aging, healthcare, and we may have seen technology we just can’t even imagine today. Social Media will have a very positive effect on long term space travel. We will also remember the beginning of WWII 100 years ago, where 50 to 70 Million humans died and no one – as in any other war before – was exiting as a winner. We hope that social media is strong enough to let no country leaders start such a war again. The first net natives will turn 50 and are expected to retire at age 75 or 80 after pursuing probably 3 to 5 different careers.


Republished with author's permission from original post.

Axel Schultze
CEO of Society3. Our S3 Buzz technology is empowering business teams to create buzz campaigns and increase mentions and reach. S3 Buzz provides specific solutions for event buzz, products and brand buzz, partner buzz and talent acquisition buzz campaigns. We helped creating campaigns with up to 100 Million in reach. Silicon Valley entrepreneur, published author, frequent speaker, and winner of the 2008 SF Entrepreneur award. Former CEO of BlueRoads, Infinigate, Computer2000.


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