I never understood social media marketing. To my best understanding, social media has never been about marketing. It has always been about communication. In essence, what happened 10 years ago with Facebook, MySpace and other social networks was that companies got sidelined as part of the web became social.
From the early topic-based Internet to the egocentric digital network connecting people rather than homepages. In a few words, that’s the development we’ve witnessed the past 15-20 years. But what’s next? And what if we look ten years ahead?
This can only be a game of qualified guessing. It’s a cliché… but we never know exactly what lies ahead. Or to quote Jim Morrison: “The future’s uncertain and the end is always near”. A statement you cannot argue with.
But returning to the topic of the future of social media you could say, as Austen Mayor does on socialmediatoday.com, that we’re already in the future: “social media as an industry is very well versed and experienced.”
However, there’s no doubt that we’ll see social media and web-network technologies grow immensely the next two years. There’s plenty of room for improvements and growth. Geolocation is one prominent area where we’ve only seen the beginning.
Augie Ray discusses this issue in this interesting interview:
And ten years from now?
If we look ten years ahead the way of interacting and communicating introduced by social media will be the standard. Simply because the decisions makers in societies will be part of a generation where social media is the DNA.
This also entails that technology will become more sophisticated and almost invisible.
We tend to forget it but technology is not a goal in itself, only a means to an end. And the ‘end’ is ‘the community’, i.e. a network that enables us to connect with each other in more optimal, efficient and meaningful ways.
For companies, marketers etc. this will mean a move away from ‘channel thinking’ towards ‘relationship thinking’. We’re already talking about relationship building, and has been for a number of years, but the ‘channel thinking’ is still pre-dominant. Today, it seems no one disagrees with the need for multi-channel approaches.
But the channel thinking is basically sign of us still being at a early stage of the evolution of social media. Let’s hope we can pass that stage one day not too far away.
Three stages/decades visualized
Below you find three visuals describing the three stages mentioned above.
1) The early technology-oriented and topic-centered years with homepages, AltaVista.com etc. (the 90’s)
2) Web 2.0 and the rise of social media (the 00’s) (companies on the sideline)
3) Technology made invisible, network prevails, companies are an integrated part of the network (targeted messages, less or no mass communication) (the 10’s?)
Please bear with me, I believe it does make some sort of sense in the context of this site and its overall digital theme.
I must admit my thoughts on the importance of avoiding typos and silly mistakes have changed during the past decade. Back then, ten years ago, a grammatical error was a source of shame for me. And my fear of erroneous writing could even wake me up in the middle of the night and make me go check if this and that in my latest writing was spelled correctly.
During my studies at the university I was even hired as proof-reader on Weekendavisen, a respected Danish weekly. One of the paper’s prominent writers, Arne Hardis, gave me a small tour around the newspaper and introduced me to their way of working.
At one point, in his office, he said: “I always look up the words. It’s the only way you can make sure the language doesn’t erode. But, you know, I’m the only one in here who does that. That’s why we need someone like you. All these highly esteemed writers, they think they don’t need to. They think they’re too good to make errors. They can’t be bothered by dictionaries.”
As it turned out, he was right. And I was stunned by the amount of errors in their articles. And proud that I could help them out.
Later on, when I myself began writing for the newspaper, it was sometimes overwhelmingly difficult. Fear of failure. Vanity. Call it what you will. It was there all the time. Not to the degree that I couldn’t write. But I believe I was somehow tied up by the grammatical minefield I envisioned right there in front of me.
Then later, when moving on to become a copywriter on a digital agency, my approach changed. Now, it was no longer about my own vanity. I was not the named author. I was the machine behind the words. It became about making the texts work. To make them do their job. And in that process you get more occupied by the content and the literary effects than grammatical errors.
It also has something to do with the speed of the digital media. The online users are less patient and less demanding. They browse. They are restless. So you need to catch their attention. Not necessarily with fancy puns and wordplays, but by telling a story. It’s less wordy. It’s less grammatical correctness.
So to wrap it up, what I found within the genre of digital writing was two things: 1) A freer tone-of-voice, enabling me to “take it as it comes” and play around; 2) A shorter and stronger prose directed by a clear purpose, focusing only on what works (and not necessarily on what I like).