This is the future of social media

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With the dawn of the social web, I can’t think of a more exciting time to be in the field of marketing.  But I don’t think we have really seen anything yet!  Here are 12 developments I believe we will witness in the future … and probably sooner than you think.

1) Hyper social measurement— At some point soon, Google is going to start doing something bold with the volumes of personal data they’re collecting.  Google is in the best position by far to define social media monitoring, especially now that they are taking steps to fold in data from Twitter, Facebook and other platforms. Once Google flexes its social media monitoring muscles, companies like Radian6 will become niche players at best. Complex algorithms will determine real-time sentiment shifts down to the individual.  And it won’t be free.

2) Tapping into text messaging— The one communication mode largely untouched by real-time search is text messages.  This is a goldmine of information too big to ignore, especially if you’re a “cool-hunting” consumer product company.  Entrepreneurs will find a way to tap into the “text stream” by rewarding users for being included in their data-gathering systems. Does this seem improbable?  Would people accept a free cell phone and free data service in exchange for their text information being stored in a database for consumer product research and targeted promotions?  It would work.

3) The human coupon— The massive quantity of personal information available about you will eventually follow you around.  Enabled by GPS and RFID technology, coupons and special offers based on your buying patterns will appear instantly on your mobile device as you near a store.   RFID chips embedded in packaging will send messages during your purchase decision to encourage up-selling and cross-selling.  For example, if you pick up a blouse off of a rack, a message will direct you to the precise area of the store where you can find a matching skirt … on sale just for you.

4) Radical privacy movement — This intense data gathering and the use of it in a Big-Brother-like manner will spark a backlash, including legislation, assuring the right to be excluded from Internet data-gathering tools.  Because of its power and control over voluminous personal details, Google will become the most profitable, and despised, company in history.

5) Man-machine interface.  Medical advances and social media platforms will converge.  Scientists are already embedding electronics in humans to power limbs, regulate body functions, and enable the brain to access information from micro chips. It’s now possible to think a tweet or control artificial limbs with a thought.  Humans will routinely carry a computer inside of them, powered by body heat and motion. You will literally always be on the social web, generating messages just by thoughts.  Humans will have markings like tattoos to display the premium, designer brand of devices embedded in their bodies. This will give new meaning to the tagline “Intel Inside.”

6) We become the Internet.   Today, people talk about Twitter, Facebook etc., never really connecting that these are all “Internet.”  As the social web literally becomes part of our bodies, we will no longer distinguish between listening, talking and electronic communications. In our minds, there will be no more web. It will just be.

7) Massive national ID validation. The social web will become the exclusive source of consumer information, political research/policy development, and education systems. Because of the increasingly critical  importance of this feedback and the opportunity for corruption, complex systems to prevent fraud will be needed, including a broadly-implemented government validation program that extends across all platforms.

8) Micro politics — Politicians will use real-time sentiment analysis to craft and re-craft voter appeals right up until the moment they enter a polling station.  Political messaging will be nearly-instantaneous and tailored to individuals based on data purchased from Google.

9) Extreme content — Journalism, film-making and advertising agencies will thrive, much to the surprise of nearly everyone.  The need for content on the social web will drive radical evolution of  these three traditional professions and “Content development and management” will become a popular college major.  While most content today is generated through “free” submissions to YouTube, blogs, etc., salaries for the very best and most creative content providers will skyrocket as corporations raise the creative bar to cut through the clutter.

10) The loner workforce. The cultural impact of the social web will have radical implications for managing the workforce of the future. How do you deal with a generation of employees who have been conditioned to communicate through their thumbs?  Employee training of the future will look increasingly like video games.

11) Digital divide grows  — For many parts of the world, access to free, global communications will be a great equalizer between rich and poor nations, especially as web-based translation services improve and encompass local dialects. However, in countries where people cannot access the web either for economic or political reasons, the digital divide will not only grow, it will become permanent for one simple reason: they will fall so far behind the technology curve they will never be able to catch up. Digital commerce, innovation and technology will be permanently dominated by those nations in the game NOW.

 12) Pay for play— Social media is free but the cost of attracting consumer attention will become increasingly expensive, especially with the ability to skip ads.  At some point, the cost per impression will be so high it will be less expensive to simply pay people to watch an ad.   Combined with the “human coupon” trend mentioned above, this would provide nearly perfect information on cause and effect of advertising campaigns.

Well, that’s enough far-out thought for one blog post and I’m sure you have A LOT to say about it!  Your turn. The comment section is now OPEN!

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  • Jim LeBlanc

    I’ve been reading your excellent blog for a long time. You’re one of the best out there in my book but you have outdone yourself with this one!!!

    This may be the most interesting marketing blog post of 2009.

  • I particularly like #3, #9, and #10. That kind of selling will be a win because it’s beneficial to the business and to the consumer. I think #9 is personally beneficial to people like us. Hope that one happens soon!

  • As sci-fi as all this sounds, I’m sure most of your points are already under development somewhere.

    On the other hand, what it eventually boils down to is that people will be flooded with even more commercial persuasion than today, which will probably train them to ignore more of it than today. Humans are an adaptable species.

  • I think ALL of this is under development somewhere!

    I think the rising flood of information, and the resistance against it, will be one of the primary stressors for human beings in the next few years.

  • “I think ALL of this is under development somewhere! ” …guilty as charged.

  • Mark, you know I totally agree with everything you’ve said. What we are seeing in Social Media today is barely scratching the surface of where this is heading. Everything you mentioned (and more) is being considered and is in some form of development.

    There are only two points missing in my opiniion. The first is how this gathered information will be integrated with business processes to drive entire business operations from manufacturing to distribution. The second is (with Web 3.0) this information will make us extremely reliant on this technology to the point that it will be directing us rather than us directing it.

  • Mark

    @Steve A chilling thought and probably true.

  • And here we’re only talking about business. I didn’t want to even touch government-government, government-citizen or citizen-citizen relationships. Welcome to the Matrix. I’m not sure I’ll like it.

  • Carla Bobka

    Wow, Mark. Many assessments, infinite conversations for possibilites. And never has the future of the social media channel been so bright and dark at the same time. The cultural shift yet to come will have profound impact.

    Now to decide which to participate in as they emerge and evolve. #5–No tattoos for me, thanks. Thinking a tweet would be a great improvement in efficiency and would also bring much more emotional content into the fray. Do you suppose it will work the other direction, too? The @mentions and DMs will come directly into my brain, just as the outbound tweets are uninhibited by keyboard availability?

    Lawyers will have a hay-day, at least through 1/2 a generation. After the last of the 30-somethings die off, the resistance will markedly decline.

    I’m envisioning all these plotted onto Gartner’s Hype Cycle chart with functionality capturing each commentor’s placement. It would make a great piece of content.

    Keep up the great research and thought leadership. Your legacy is growing!

  • Mark,

    One thing that scares me is that cable companies are already tracking our viewing habits and now with DVR, they can track what we record and which movies we download via on-demand.

    Pretty much nothing is private anymore.

    My friend said that we leave a digital footprint from the time we wake up to the time we go to sleep.

    Case in point: A couple of weeks ago I took the afternoon off to go see a movie. No one knew where I was — I felt so free.

    But then later I realized that I had ordered the tickets on Fandango and had used Google to search for movie times (and I’m almost always signed in). And, on top of that, I checked my email using my smart phone while waiting for the movie to start.

    So in effect, I wasn’t really “hidden.”

    This opportunity to market to me and others via the phone is not lost on anyone — especially Google!

  • Wow. What a list. But I’d still like to add something.

    I think one of the great areas of untapped potential is in true real-time. 99.99% of web content is static and therefore instantly dated. I’ve seen how Google Earth, for example, could be real-time, allowing you to hover over a sports stadium while the game is in progress. Imagine also the prospect of retrogressive-time Google Earth – hover over Gettysburg and turn the clock back to 1863… Plenty of scope for developers there.

    And your #10 will, I believe, result in something of a backlash, as people start to realise that work is not just about putting in the hours. The social [and I mean offline] aspect will become better appreciated as remote working possibilities become greater. At the same time, this will blur the boundaries between online social media and offline social media [by which I mean the office, the club, the supermarket, the garden hedge etc] – which then links to your idea #6.

    All great stuff Mark. Got me thinking. Although you forgot individual jet packs and robotic butlers.

  • @Carla I think the idea of a Twitter stream feeding into your brain would be my idea of Hell!

    @Dianna Great case study. The 24 x 7 digital footprint. Yipes.

  • @John Didn’t you see the photo? That’s the robot butler! : )

  • Good morning Mark,

    Absolutely stunning work! Scrub marketing, you are the new social media futurist. Look out Jeremiah Owyang… Mark is giving you a run for your money!
    Most articles that are written from this perspective (forecasting) seem to have words that don’t make any sense or they are simply over the top.

    Mark, I think your greatest accomplishment here is that you have painted a road map of the future that is believable and we don’t need a Greek to Latin translator to understand the possible progression of the digital terrain ahead.

  • Brilliant ! You’ve got a great chrystal ball. Seriously, though I think you’re right on top of things here. Content IS going to become increasingly competative as we strive to gain people’s attenton. Teaching a bunch of college undergrads recently about Academic Writing felt wrong. They need skills to write for the web and generate vibrant content.

  • Loving this post and the conversations it’s igniting!

    1) Back when telecomms were busy cabling the world, “the last mile” was shorthand for the challenge of wiring households and businesses from the closest carrier end node.

    The “Last Mile” running through many of your ideas, Mark, is retailers’ infrastructure. Most retailers haven’t invested in data infrastructure that will allow them to leverage exciting capabilities like Augmented Reality or RFID-packing consumers.

    2) Love Dianna Huff’s story about sneaking off and then realizing what a trail she left digitally! Look for more privacy conversations and controversy in 2010.

    3) The social-mobile-realtime “golden triangle” combines many of these factors. The phrase was coined by Fred Wilson Oct 09 who predicts it will be the “megatrend of 2010.”
    So many of the items on the list are, as Frank Podlaha said, under development. It promises to be a watershed 2010!

  • Fantastic post, Mark. My favorite of your many great ones.

    But, I beg to differ re: a permanent digital divide with poor nations.

    The boundaries will certainly continue to exist, but to say they will never evolve is to forget that change is as unceasing and unrelenting as the tides.

    Your crystal ball is insightful, but I can’t believe that we know enough *now* to make such grim assessment about “later.”

    I’ll be thinking about this post for a long time…many thanks!

    Elizabeth Sosnow

  • Mark – this is way too much fun for a Monday morning. 😉

    Intriguing post and – as always – thought-provoking comments from your fabulous community.

    I agree that – as “far out” as your predictions may sound to traditional ears – all of these developments are in R&D somewhere. There is no halting the relentless march of “progress” … especially when there’s a buck to be made.

    What I’m most curious about is how severe and broad the backlash effect will be. The participants in this conversation are mostly professional marketers who live and breathe Web 2.0 and snack on Web 3.0 in the afternoon for a little pick-me-up. To us, this is exciting new territory – albeit slightly creepy.

    But, how will the general public take to these new technologies? How aware will they be of their existence? Will people have easily defined options, or will their choices be so tangled up in legalese and government regulations that it becomes easier to just say, “Oh, to hell with it. They’re tracking everything and everyone anyway, why not me, too?”

    I predict that there will be a conflicting trend towards simpler, more tactile, non-digital communications. I also predict that people will eventually become more discerning about their digital media and will demand that engagement be traded for real value … much more so than today’s fairly low standards.

    I wonder – will the ubiquitous tracking and “listening” that goes on today (your credit card charges, TV viewing history, Web history, filled prescriptions, grocery habits, and so on) evolve naturally and seamlessly into the kinds of developments you describe, or will someone along the way shout, “Stop!!” and incite an in-depth review of what we’re doing, potentially creating two passionately opposed sides of the debate – even creating two different lifestyles – on and off the grid?

    This is unchartered territory for sure. It will be interesting to look back in 20 or 30 years and see how it all turned out.

  • I am only on my first cup of coffee on a Monday morning as I am thinking about your predictions. I can’t see how any of these points could be impossible but as a contrarian, I hope humanity isn’t herded towards any of these developments without plenty of rebels having a voice.
    I think we are headed for trouble if individuals lose control of their decisions through fear, intimidation, propaganda, oppressive laws, loss of hope or lack of options.
    Like any professional marketer, I am also a consumer, so all of the developments you envision that make it easier to do both are exciting, it’s their impact on politics that concerns me the most.
    Of all of the developments you list, the one thing that the combination of changes may impact the most is “the voting booth”. I hope that voters of the future look back at the last few U.S. elections and see what was the beginning of the end of out-of-control campaign financing, long lines, limited access, confusing ballots, hanging chads and paperless voting machines.
    The optimist in me hopes for more honest and less expensive communication channels for our political candidates, better ways for voters to gain knowledge and influence leaders, and less opportunities for corruption and manipulation of the process.
    With so much information to work with, political parties and marketers of consumer goods, healthcare etc. will have an evergrowing advantage if not balanced by the collective power of the individual vote, or purchase (whether cast through an internal thought impulses or keystrokes).

  • Thought-provoking post. Thanks.

    Touching on #3 (Human Coupon) and #5 (Man-Machine Interface), and possibly ameliorating some of the privacy concerns of #4:

    iPhones can display coupon barcodes at resolutions checkout scanners can read, and they’re also capable of using their built-in cameras to scan barcodes on retail items.

    This means phones may soon be able to function in the same way as handheld self-checkout scanners currently in use at many Stop ‘N’ Shop supermarkets here in New England. (Full disclosure: I have no connection to Stop ‘N’ Shop, other than buying groceries there.) A shopper uses his frequent-shopper card to check out a scanner upon entering the store, and then scans the barcode of each item as he places it in his cart (and bag it). When finished shopping, he scans a special “all done” barcode at the self-checkout register and pays, without having to run stuff down the conveyor belt, chat with a cashier, etc.

    This alone is a time-saver, but the scanners also offer “built-in coupons” — discounts applied only to items purchased using the scanner. The scanner touts these specials randomly when it is not in use, to the tune of a cash-register “ka-ching” sound.

    Scanner-only specials are not currently flagged based on shopper proximity to specific items in the store, but the scanner does have some context-awareness: When she scans a milk container, e.g., a shopper might be alerted that butter or another dairy item is on sale (as either a scanner-exclusive deal, or just a regular in-store discount). Scan Cheerios, and a special on Corn Flakes might pop up, and so on.

    Extending this approach to mobile devices rather than proprietary scanners has lots of benefits (and some scary implications): Marketeers could use it to generate detailed shopper profiles across multiple retail outlets and categories. Consumers could thus receive creative cross-promotions. (Get a free dozen eggs at ShopRite for that omelet pan you just bought at Crate & Barrel.) Combine this with alerts via text-message, Twitter, Facebook, etc., and the opportunities to provide relevant, helpful marketing based on customer behavior and preference becomes pretty staggering. (Get a reminder about the free eggs next time you enter ShopRite, e.g.).

    But the best benefit/assurance of acceptance might be consumer control: Scanning each item into his/her cart is an active, unmistakable opt-in. And if a shopper doesn’t consider the use of the scanner beneficial, or just doesn’t want to be profiled, s/he simply can simply decline to launch (or install) the shopping app.

    Google and its Android smartphone OS might be just the folks to make this happen. Thoughts?


    Jim Akin
    Strategic Storyteller

  • Can’t say that I don’t see all these things happening. Nice list. My only push back would be that as much as Facebook and Google want to, most people aren’t comfortable with sharing or third parties accessing their data. Yes, it makes for a more convenient consumer experience, but people’s data is sacred. No, I don’t think the powers that be will abuse that data, but that’s also a shade of gray for each individual. What I don’t mind sharing may wig other people out.

    Still – That’s the future we’re headed toward. One way or another.

    Nice work, Mark.

  • Lost of good thinking there, Mark. And not much I can disagree with. But as you know, disagreeing is my specialty!

    So let’s look at No. 4, the rise of a “radical privacy movement.” I see that movement becoming mainstream, thus, not in the least bit radical. Once Google begins to flex its muscles, an intelligent public should push back and demand accountability.

    The personal information now stored in Google’s databases may offer marketers information that borders on mind control. OK, maybe that’s going a too far. But I do wonder what Orwell would say.

    In a perfect world, Congress comes down hard on the side of privacy rights and protecting the public interest from the clutches of evil data miners. But I suspect the politicians already are salivating at the prospect of pushing our individual hot buttons at precisely the right time.

    Will the public resist? I hope so. But if marketers offer enough consumer incentives, lots of folks will almost certainly sell their private data to the highest bidder.

    Your illustration at the top of the post is apropos, as it depicts the sort of psychic manipulation that could become reality once Google and others understand what motivates us as a micro level.

    It scare the s#@* out of me.

  • While all your points have a lot of meat worthy of further discussion, the first one has been on my mind of late. Because I have been asked by a number of clients about social media listening tools I have been reviewing the top ones. What I find striking is that users, and tool developers, see listening software as just for listening, and little else.

    The body of invaluable real time data available on the Internet was unattainable by even the wealthiest company historically. Now, for a small fraction of a company’s marketing budget it can tap this information to give itself an unfair strategic advantage over the competition to own markets and drive demand. However, the majority of companies use it for little more than a clip book.

  • All I gota say is: The Book of Revelation.
    One world government is blink away. digital tattoos? Mark of the beast? Oh you don’t wanna comply with us? Alright we will just shut off you and your loved ones micro chips.

  • Mark, Here are my first quick thoughts after reading each point

    1. Seems natural to tie it directly into Google Analytics

    2. Facebook users freaked out over beacon because of its intrusion into their privacy. I’d agree that the model would work, but considering this almost makes me willing to pay more to keep my data excluded from the “database.” Another model for revenue I guess.

    3. This is practically here now. The retail experience will be the first to “be” [reference to point #6]

    4. I bet dealing with “haters” was the furthest thing from Larry’s and Sergei’s minds when they founded Google.

    5. Think A Tweet – I’d being lucky to be following myself after a couple of days, HA! Seriously, I am not ready for that. But love the idea of “intel inside” to advance the miracle of medicine.

    6. Right on.

    7. If I am Larry Ellison, I’d be working to own this space right now. Dear President Obama, I would like to build a database for you.

    8. I hope the gov’t can get voting online before this…otherwise the lines at the polls will be a chorus of iPhone and Blackberries buzzing as all the last minute messages arrive.

    9. Looking forward to it.

    10. Seems like it would be reversed, won’t they be training us how to use our thumbs?

    11. First thought, Mel Gibson movie, Mad Max Beyond The Thunderdome. Please all of us who read this blog, let’s fight to prevent the this gap from widening too far.

    12. After the first 11, I can’t even wrap my head around this one.

    Great post Mark.


  • I’ve been out in customer meetings all morning and came back to a short novel fomr the community on social media future trends. : ) Thank you! Really great thinking, pushing and probing!

  • Mark, brilliant stuff as always. Though you’ve really topped yourself here. The only thing I wanted to add to the radicalism of point #4 is that I see us approaching a time of some turmoil where we may become more objective and consequently, more adverse to the technology that encumbers us with more responsibility, and follows us with every step and breath we take.

    This alternate future will superimpose and magnify our apprehensions with “big brother” and inform our consumer choices to weed out instruments and software that attach a different type of cost: our freedom. While this may seem a surprise to throw into the mix (with the slightest hint of tin foil reveal), I believe wireless technologies, GPS and RFID tags will lose their white hot and infatuating appeal, and will instead be co-opted by an intelligentsia devoted to assisting us on ways to shield, intercept or backpack our way in online environments in stealth mode.


  • Mark, I’m with Bill Sledzik on this one. I’m concerned about the digital fingerprints we leave behind when transacting business and the likelihood that some enterprising sociopath will figure out a way to get at all that data. Are buying and selling things the extent of humanity? Phillip K Dick – Minority Report — there is no privacy, constant targeted advertising, tracking whereabouts, dossiers packed with info about my books, music, discussions…Wait, I need to throw my wooden shoes in the machinery, here.

  • What if the politicians really bought into the micro politics idea and started to listen to people rather than shout at them.

  • That’s an excellent point, Richard. Our digital footprints make it darn near possible to predict individual behaviors day to day. Powerful stuff, but scary, too.

    Leaders can use this information to serve self interest or to serve the public interest. I wish I could tell you I’m optimistic. But I’m also a student of history.

  • I have been thinking about your blog since commenting earlier so came back to check out the comments.

    In the past I’ve considered my digital record as just another needle in a giant haystack and couldn’t imagine who would be interested enough to zoom in on me. Now I realize that everyone’s needle is on a glass under a microscope.

    Let me just say I won’t be running for public office any time soon.

  • Sorry I am falling behind again in responses. It has been a busy day!

    @Joseph — Interesting idea of a cottage industry that would keep people off the grid. I saw a Twitter headline the other day about how to “un-Google” yourself. Maybe this is the start of the resistance. : )

    @Sean Unfortunately there is much more info about you in these data warehouses than merely your taste in music. I recently demonstrated this for a friend who said my post on the harmful affects of the social web was alarmist. Within 10 minutes I was able to find personal information about her she had no idea was publicly available. Who would have thought that the real Big Brother would have a stupid name like Google?

  • @Richard Certainly there are vast opportunities for policticians to listen and learn. But I look at real “uses” like staging hand-selcted tweets at Town Hall meetings and stuff like that as more likely. My bigger concern is an ability to use this incredible real-time database to go where the wind blows from minute to minute in order to tell people what they want to hear.

  • Dave Bowman: Hello, HAL. Do you read me, HAL?
    HAL: Affirmative, Dave. I read you.
    Dave Bowman: Open the pod bay doors, HAL.
    HAL: I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.
    Dave Bowman: What’s the problem?
    HAL: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.
    Dave Bowman: What are you talking about, HAL?
    HAL: This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.
    Dave Bowman: I don’t know what you’re talking about, HAL.
    HAL: I know that you and Frank were planning to disconnect me, and I’m afraid that’s something I cannot allow to happen.
    Dave Bowman: Where the hell’d you get that idea, HAL?
    HAL: Dave, although you took very thorough precautions in the pod against my hearing you, I could see your lips move.
    Dave Bowman: Alright, HAL. I’ll go in through the emergency airlock.
    HAL: Without your space helmet, Dave, you’re going to find that rather difficult.
    Dave Bowman: HAL, I won’t argue with you anymore. Open the doors.
    HAL: Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.

  • @Elaine Look, this post was scary enough without that addition!! : )

    But thanks for the note-for-note transcript of one of my favorite books and movies. I’ll have to watch it again this weekend!

    Fact is, some of the science reality is stranger than science fiction. Has anybody out there read about entangled photons? The multi-verse theory of dark matter? I know this is REALLY off the subject, but as scientists study the very very small and the very very large what we use to regard as tangible reality disappears.

    An exciting time to be alive if we can keep HAL and Skynet at bay!

  • Wow loved reading your article. I submitted your feed to my reader.

  • Mark, this is wild! I really loved all the commentary but those from Bill Sledzik and Sean Williams really hit home. Originally, we discussed the control shift as these web companies gained control over what we were reading and learning. As of yesterday, Google announced it. If you let them (and many, many people will) access your history, they will feed you content that they believe you are interested in hearing about. (Or, will they feed you content that their advertisers or other paying interested parties are interested in you hearing about?)
    The other subtlety to this is Facebook applications that users enable and give total access rights to. Now that Facebook publically available content is being instantly accessed by these major search engines, anyone who uses one of these applications (like a parent who signs up for a popular, to be unnamed, toy store to find gifts for their children) is now totally exposed. Even if they turn it off after the fact, with the “instant feed” concept being implemented by Google and Microsoft, their data is permanently out there, never to be retrieved.
    Bill put it best. In our minds, we know letting this go too far is dangerous. But, practically speaking (just like the parent looking for children’s gifts) the marketing pull will encourage many to sell their digital soul for a bargain.
    And, one last point, think about our kids growing up in a digital world who have way more trust in it than we do. What will be the impact on them? Will the privacy advocates help? Of course. But as we’ve experienced with various regulating bodies over and over again, they will be so far behind the curve that a lot of damage will be done before they can deal with it.

  • Hey Mark,

    Intriguing post! I have to agree with Jason a little here; I don’t think it’s going to be super easy for Google to just tap into all the private data they have and make it available. Customer expectations for data privacy are going to make that a much bigger discussion. But I agree that in some way, shape, or form, the way that information is made available is going to change.

    That said, monitoring the information is only part of the equation. Deep analysis, engagement tools and strategies, explorations of future technologies like semantic web, and scalability and integration across the enterprise are part of the future for platforms like ours. Listening is just the beginning. 🙂

    Amber Naslund
    Director of Community, Radian6

  • Before we get too far into sci-fi and Big Brother, I’m sure that as data mining is becoming more ubiquitous, so will anonymous browsing and other “stealth” applications.

  • @Steve You really have me thinking here. I think you have just inspired a new post my friend!!

    @Lloyd Thanks for following. Look forward to your contributions to the community.

  • @Amber Really good points. Yup. That’s how Radian6 and others will stay in the game. Well said.

  • @Mark – Cool! Thanks, looking forward to seeing it. One point to add to this and some of the other comments regarding privacy and potential backlash:
    We’ve already seen examples of people not speaking their mind on line due to fear of retribution. There is a very popular blog thread running right now that is facing that. But, the foundation of social media is “User Generated Content”. If people become afraid of generating content (for whatever reason) we’ll “frighten away” the geese that are laying our golden eggs. I believe that is Social Media’s single biggest “Achilles Heel”.

  • I disagree entirely about the digital divide. While the technology is becoming more advanced and complicated, the experience for the end user is more accessible than ever. Someone in a developing country who’s never seen a computer could still learn to use one, and faster, probably, than many of us did. The reach of mobile devices has already extended into the remotest possible places and proved valuable to people in rural areas who may not have any other experience with technology. Nonprofit groups are striving all over the world to bring internet access to those who could benefit from it most. I think if anything, these trends are what will bring all nations, eventually, to the level where they can contribute as much as any of us do now. That one thing will change the world more than I think anyone understands.
    Those countries who restrict access to their people will only be successful for so long, and in the end, I think, will realize that more knowledge and access makes a country stronger, not weaker.
    That’s what I hope anyway.
    Main point: accessibility and usability are improving, making it easier for first-time users to get involved, not harder. The Digital Divide is doomed.

  • @Thea, thanks for this beautifully-written statement!

    I actually agree with you and think we’re both right. Here’s why. In terms of individuals picking this up, I absolutely agree. It will become easier and easier to use and more and more accessible.

    That’s why I chose my words carefully:

    “Digital commerce, innovation and technology will be permanently dominated by those nations in the game NOW.”

    I’m talking about the BUSINESS of social media. While access to free, global communications could unleash new business models and services in third world countries, I’m afraid the hubs for those innovations will never be in those nations as they miss the curve and sink deeper into technological irrelevance.

    I hope I’m wrong. I usually am. : )

    In any event, I agree with your point about individuals and hope oppression will lift and give every person on earth not only a voice, but a shot at the economic opportunities presented by the social web as well.

  • Thea’s comment brings to mind perhaps one of the best examples of how advancements in technology have worked to overshadow economic disparity and the unheard voices of Canadian aboriginal communities. The costs of hardware acquisition and Internet service delivery continues to be a real problem for indigenous peoples, however the level of connectivity amongst aboriginal communities globally is something that is difficult to put into words.

    What I can say is that I’m often held in amazement with the way blogs, community meetings and event information reaches first nation groups across the globe. The way indigenous voices in Canada can cascade from one corner of the world and mobilize support for important cultural, environmental and economic matters in within hours of that information appearing in online environments.

    Our infatuation with the Internet and the manner in which information gets published at breakneck speed is one thing, but it’s the examples of communities with a history of disenfranchisement, exclusion, generational oppression and significant educational barriers where the social Web and the Internet really has the most opportunity to shine.


  • With regards to privacy, I think the model is going to be one where the data use is made more transparent to the users, and they are given more control (if they want it) over how that data is used. Both because of legislation but also because the sites and networks will lose users if/when they don’t feel their privacy is being respected. I think we’ll move to a model (what I’m calling Trusted Sources) where users choose who to allow access to them and in what ways. There will always be attack advertising, but I think businesses are going to find the greater benefit in those models where users have actively chosen to give them access in exchange for certain benefits (such as financial ones).

  • @Joseph Once again I’m humbled by your well-crafted statements and insights. Your thoughts made me reflect on the personal isolation I have felt in my own small way at times in my life and how much I cherish the community we have here on {grow}. Yes, that is the power of the thing — whether native tribes or unlikely new friends from around the world, we can all find community. What an exciting time to be alive.

    BTW, I hope the community will check out Joseph’s blog at

  • @neicole Your view is logical but humans aren’t necessarily logical. This explains a lot of things, including Lady GaGa and double bacon cheeseburgers.

    I think both financial and sociological issues may overwhelm common sense as we head into some of these privacy issues. I know this sounds a little cryptic, but I’ll write more in an upcoming post and then you can disagree with me even more (I hope!) : )

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  • @Bill – have you heard yet about Google public DNS? ? Big Brother Pundits Come Marching One By One…Hurrah…Hurrah! ?

  • I think #10) “The loner workforce” deserves a little more attention here.

    It wasn’t long ago that when I walked out of the office building I was essentially on my own and any work that had to be done between the hours of 5p-9a had to be done without peer support.

    Now … I and many of my co-workers, have Blackberries, laptops, VPN access, etc. that make it easy to stay connected/become as productive (if not more productive) out of the office as I am when physically within the office.

    Unfortunately, being out of the office also means being away from the water cooler. Unplanned/informal conversations have always and will always uncover insights that would have otherwise been missed.

    As the number of full time virtual employees continues to increase the importance of social media training also increases. While we take personal relationship building for granted in the office (I don’t need to be taught how to socialize) it can’t be taken for granted in a virtual office and employees’ effective use of social media (both by those in and out of the office) is critical to cover the gap.

  • Mark

    @Brian Thank you for your insight my friend. I totally agree. You might enjoy these other posts on this topic:

    Managing Generation Zombie

    Digital natives will need special care in the workplace

    Warning: Social web may be hazardous to your health

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  • Mark thank you for that year-end wrap-up and New Year eye opener. The next decade will truly be experienced on full BLAST like drinking through a fire hose.

    I am glad to have come across your post in LinkedIn and I look forward to following you here and gaining further insight into future trends.

  • Pingback: Internet : Bilan 2009, perspectives 2010 | Magazine()

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