Social media trends that are colliding in 2013

planet collision

There is nothing more fun than thinking about how tech trends and humanity are colliding and there is no better time to write about it than the beginning of a new year. There are lots of things to be excited about, but here are a few of the trends that I see colliding in 2013 and what might happen when they do …

The optimized self

Colliding trends: 1) The cost of collecting, storing, and analyzing big data is dropping; 2) The desire to live smarter and healthier is going up.

optimized selfNew trend: The optimized self. The Nike Fuel Band is an example of the emerging man-machine interface that will allow us to continuously collect biometric data that will enable healthier habits, early warning signs of trouble, and optimized human health. We will see continuous feedback and data-fed training programs for optimizing sleep, eating, and every other life function.

We will increasingly turn healthy living into a fun competition with daily objectives and rewards from brands.  Huge sponsorship opportunities.

Facebook Financial Fatigue

Colliding trends: 1) Facebook faces unrelenting shareholder pressure to meet quarterly financial goals; 2) Consumers weary of new ad schemes

Facebook rebellionNew trend: Facebook Fatigue. Didn’t you think the latest round of announcements, apologies and counter-announcements by Facebook-owned Instagram were bizarre?

This is a signal that Facebook will be aggressively pushing the limits of our tolerance for monetization schemes. As I wrote earlier this year, the most disruptive event in the development of the social web was the Facebook IPO. This is a company that now has to deliver the goods to shareholders every quarter, without fail, without end. And the only way to do this is to draw more money out of me and you.

I believe this will take the form of a constant experimentation with monetization models … some intrusive, some helpful … but at some point they will risk fatiguing users with the constant changes and increasingly prevalent sponsored posts from advertisers. Will there be a crunch point that opens the door for a more-user-friendly competitor?

Social learning creates crisis for traditional universities

Colliding trends: 1) Unaffordable college tuition; 2) Highly-endowed universities offering free online classes

college and social mediaNew trend: Traditional universities in crisis.  On top of ridiculous tuition costs, we are at a tipping point where many young people are wondering about the relevance of a college degree in many professions.

Coursera, a start-up online education company, has enrolled 1.35 million students in its free online courses since it began in early 2012.  In just a few months it added 33 partner universities, including Brown, Columbia, and Weslyan, to provide more than 200 free “massive open online courses,” known as MOOCs.

Could there be a time in the near future where the richest universities simply give away their “content” for many undergraduate classes?  Could this be the next wave of “content marketing” that may depend on monetization through adjacent products and services?

Universities are among the most inefficient and slowest-moving institutions on earth (speaking from experience!).  They could be facing severe and rapid financial consequences if they don’t find a way to maintain their relevance in the digital age.

Entertain me

Colliding trends: 1) Internet information density 2) Even more information density

New trend: Emphasis on entertaining content.  Let’s face it.  It’s not that hard to be in the content marketing game today. But the bar for quality content is being raised day by day. What will it take to cut through?  Entertainment!

Companies will have to continuously push for more interesting, timely and entertaining content to remain relevant. Here are the implications: The need for exceptional content creators will be high. The cost of content marketing is going to go up over time as we place more emphasis on design and entertainment value. Coke just turned their website into a news magazine. That’s where the market is heading. How are you going to stand out?

The singularity in sight?

Colliding trends: 1) Man-machine interface, 2) Rapidly-improving artificial intelligence.

social media terminatorNew trend: The “singularity” is the emergence of greater-than-human superintelligence that has long been theorized by science fiction writers. It is a controversial and yet nonetheless fascinating topic. Is it coming into view?

A hyper-intelligent IBM computer (Watson) being training to be a medical doctor. For $1,500, Google glasses can take you another step toward the man-machine interface — ubiquitous information as part of our bodies.  Mind-controlled exo-skeleton connected to humans are helping parapalegics to walk, and robots can be  controlled by human brain implants. Japanese researchers are building humanoid robots with bones and muscles. Eureqa is a software system that uses evolutionary computing to discover laws of nature that scientists haven’t been able to solve on their own.

And the rate of progress is accelerating. Can we doubt that many of us will live to see the day when machines become self-aware?

A revolution in design

Colliding trends: 1) Rapid digital replacement of bulky physical assets; 2) A need for more compact urban living spaces

empty designNew trend: Empty design. This is a bit of a wild idea but I was moving a box of old records and began thinking how the bulk we used to have to deal with is going away — books, paper files, records and CD’s, huge stereo systems, TV components.

Think about the effect this must be having on the world of design. Most furniture and housing units are designed to maximize storage space but this is no longer a primary requirement. What will we do with all this extra space formerly devoted to shelves, closets and drawers? I think the consolidation of gadgets and cloud storage will revolutionize urban living.

OK, I’ve had my fun. Now it’s your turn!  What do you think of these prognostications? What trends are you watching in 2013?

Collision illustration courtesy Free Desktop Wallpaper; Entertainment photo courtesy The Facebook protest picture is a fake. The fuel band link is an affiliate link.

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  • 2013 is going to be a very interesting
    year. I have a feeling that Facebook Financial Fatigue has only started to
    hit us in the teeth. With Facebook latest round of “updates” with
    Instagram they showed us how much they are willing to do to make money for
    their investors and not really care about the end user.

    I think this will be the year people become weary of SEO. The general public
    will move past the first few pages if results they have been served, looking
    for something new, something fresh and something their digital neighbors have
    yet to see.

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  • I agree about the SEO thing. 99% probably dont realize how limted their results really are. Thanks Justin!

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  • Excellent post Mark, I am expecting to see more effort on the influencing front, neuro science applications testing for example with the need to engage figuring out ways to impact behavior should be significant.

  • Dave


    Great point about education. Hidebound institutions (possibly a redundant phrase?) are worried. It can easily be seen in their desperate pimping for alumni dollars and any other source of free money that their marketing departments can think of. Besides, in the face of dropping enrollment, how can the top academic echelons keep their cozy perks if they have to actually produce like a regular business? Oh, the humanity!

    Some professions will remain in need of old-school education practices. But MIT has a ton of free courses available already, as do many others. So there are good resources for learning all over.

  • Good point Joseph. Thanks for adding to the dialogue.

  • Certainly a growing trend. I expect it to really explode this year.

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  • Facebook will begin making money once they change their management and redirect their monetary focus. They keep trying the same thing…trying to find different ways to make money from ads, but ads offend people–especially on Facebook.

    They need to remember a basic selling point…people have WANTS and often pay more for WANTS than NEEDS.

    For instance, if they take a page from RedBox’s playbook. RedBox let’s people borrow movies for $1.20/day + Tax. Many people forget to return it within a day, but even if they do return it, it still generates a ton of money…off the same CD.

    Why can’t Facebook offer $1.75/week or $5.00/month premium games, for instance? Facebook could split the fees with the game maker.

    $1.75/month or $5.00/month seems like NOTHING, especially to people who do not really manage their money. FB could easily get this, especially for those interactive, addictive games. Of course, you’d give them a month for free to get them addicted.

    I don’t know that Facebook will fold anytime soon. There are just too many non-geeks that have spent too much time and effort building their contacts and sharing so much info. It’s not going to disappear.

    Google-Plus offers better features and is more user-friendly (so I’ve heard). They aren’t making any ground on FB, except from the SEO people who kiss Google’s bottom so much their eyes don’t work, anymore.

    Facebook isn’t going anywhere (even though I don’t like them), but they are not going to progress until they stop looking in the same places for their revenue.

    Your other predictions are interesting…especially designing to fill space instead of around it.

  • Lori Witzel

    Ah, the Singularity. While I am a huge fan of Ray Kurzweil, since I’m a commensal critter (bacteria, microphages, cells, and various others all get a vote in the aggregate creation that’s Lori Witzel) I wonder about something that isn’t as, uhm, organically intelligent.

    Hate sounding like an old-school contrarian, but I side with Wallace Stevens, when he wrote in his poem “Esthétique du Mal,” “The greatest poverty is not to live / in a physical world…” I wonder whether the Singularity will ever be as rich as we, in our meaty commensal unsingular selves, are.

  • Alternative methods of monetizaton is the holy grail but certainly easier said than done. Very difficult industry problem. Thanks for the insightful comment

  • Some of the people I know are not that meaty : ) A little cyber transformation might due them good! Thanks Lori.

  • Gettysburg Gerry

    Hey isn’t that University pic from WVU? That’s all I got…

  • In the long run, Facebook will charge for access. One way or another, consumers will be paying (e.g. free access, but storage costs).

    The social learning is interesting, on a global scale. If you’re 10,000 miles away in a distant town where no one has been to university, but you can access a Western university course over the Internet, this opens a lot of worldwide opportunities.

    I like your comment about clutter and bulk. Clearly you don’t have young children! Only joking – it’s a great point.

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  • I’m both thrilled and torn about the move towards not having clutter and bulk thanks to technology. I love that we can have less stuff, worry less about storing, space, etc. Yet, I still have book hoarding tendencies just because I think of how dark and silent it will be when the power goes out or the internet goes down and I have everything in the cloud. Admittedly, I’ve gotten rid of most of my CDs and DVDs are next. I love the idea of it, but…

  • I’m not sure the pressures on Facebook to deliver quarterly results are as big of a deal as you think. Zuckerberg controls 57 percent of the voting shares of Facebook and thus, the pressures of the Wall Street crowd are much reduced.

  • Julia Hidy

    My friends have been jumping onto Google+ in droves. They still have their FB pages, but they no longer spend as much time there as they once did. Google is already sitting on tens of billions of dollars in cash and their search and display ad revenues are already highly profitable. Google easily makes their quarters. The $500 million or so it costs them to run G+ could easily be offset in a few months by putting AdSense ads into a margin. Most of us with Gmail accounts are conditioned to see the ads already. Plus there are still advertisers lining up for the e-space. Youtube may also pick up even more cache and live warm ones than it already has.

    It will be interesting to see how FB does fare as the ongoing pressures of each quarter loom. You can sense they are already scrambling. I do think that G+ has a head start on the rest, and as streaming video becomes easier and less expensive, will continue to grow. I’d be interested to hear what others think.

  • Julia Hidy

    I was inside and watched a business empire worth $14 billion with one majority shareholder tank in under two years. Sorry to disagree, but the actual pressures exerted by Wall Street can never be underestimated.

  • Wow! Good catch. I took this picture when I was there for speech in 2012. That is Martin Hall, where I attended journalism school,

  • If Facebook charges I think it would be the death of them. People would jump like rats. And true … I don;t have young children : )

  • Well said Julie,. I’m a book lover too. Thanks very much for commenting.

  • No way. He’s still accountable. Bad press about earnings and negativity about Facebook would be toxic to the company, Love the dissent though. Thanks for taking a stand.

  • Absolutely agree Julia. I think Zuck is pulling his hair out.

  • An interesting observation. Recent research from the Social Habit does not show active adoption of Google+ really taking off. Here’s my take on Google’s challenge with that platform: Will be interesting to see how this all works out for Google versus Facebook! Thanks for sharing your observations today Julia!

  • Ahh Singularity! That’s my intellectual obsession. It shouldn’t be coming until 2045-2050 (according to a few prominent futurists), but it’s fascinating to see us getting there. You’re on point with every single prediction.

    I think it’s interesting how many of the trends for the next year are complementary to each other. Social media has increased the focus on the individual (our desire for entertainment, personalization, and the optimized self) while heavily driving a communal mindset (through collaborative learning, interest-based relationships, and big data use to better understand how we function as a whole).

    I think those two trends will collide and we will start to see more individualized communities, e.g. growth of niche-based networks, and social networks built around dynamic locations.

    What I really want to do is visit other countries and see how their technologies are doing and where we would possibly be headed next. For example, I read somewhere that NFC is huuuge in Japan, which certainly presents interesting opportunities and trends for marketing, particularly with social media.

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  • Would love to have social learning become full blown before I have to spend an obscene amount of money to send my two high school daughters off to college. Optimistic thinking, I know….

  • Yeah, I’m still in paying for college mode so I feel your pain!

  • That certainly would be interesting. My number one choice for a tech visit country is South Korea. Thanks for your insights Pavel!

  • Hannah De Dios

    Absolutely LOVE the idea of Coursera! Wish they had more classes on languages. Really hope this takes off.

  • It’s a big one. The richest schools are in a good position to make this work but I’m concerned about how most universities are going to adjust to this!

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