Since Facebook’s emergence about 12 years ago, we have seen our culture change at an incredible rate. We can tie this change to both social media, and mobility, which combined have connected more people, more often. While this is the case, there have been many articles in the past few years questioning how long social media will continue its growth. As early as 2009, The Guardian published two provocative questions asked by PayPal co-founder, Peter Thiel: “’Are we at the end of innovation of social networking? And is social networking the last innovation of the internet?’” Since then we have seen even more social networks pop up, each fitting their own niche, which suggests that Thiel’s question was posed a little too soon. Eventually, however, change will happen.
One answer to the Quora question, what will come after social networking, was social awareness. Social awareness, according to the post, is defined as an internet that is aware of a person or population’s wants and needs as soon as they have them. In reality, this already has started, which is evident from all of the wedding ads that started appearing after I searched for engagement rings last year. While the post suggests further advances in this in order to drive real time answers, the author asks when that will be too slow. Predictive analytics is one answer to this, and a good topic for a blog of its own.
Another blog suggested that cloud-based SAAS (software as a service) solutions like SuccessFactors, along with big data, will disrupt LinkedIn. The flaw I see in this, however, is that the cloud solutions still need a data source like LinkedIn since it is a logical place for people to maintain professional data.
It would be ambitious to try to fully answer what is coming up next in this blog, so instead I will ask two questions. Several of the articles and blogs that I have read (Nettra Marketing, The Guardian, Business Grow) mentioned the device being used as a factor. This leads to the first question: what technology is coming that could change the device being used? Next, social media is creating a plethora of data; Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn believes this suits modern day applications. That may be true, but it leads to the second question: what other data sources will be used?
One answer that satisfies both questions is wearable technology. For example, wearable augmented reality devices, like Microsoft HoloLens, help display information, but also see it. They can track movement, take pictures, and link data that may allow people to connect in new ways or fill a new need that outweighs that of social media’s value proposition. Wearable technology with data collecting sensors (an example of IoT) will also be embedded in clothing, providing more data about the way we move in order to improve our running stride and tennis serve, analyze someone’s medical condition, and collect individualized marketing data. This is not without social issues such as privacy, but nor is social media.
In order to truly get an idea of what is coming, we need to look ahead and ask what point new problems will emerge that cannot be solved by social media, and what those problems will be. The future remains to be seen, but the more we start looking at this question, the more we can prepare for the future (or even invent it).