What will Social Media Develop into?

I believe that 2011 is the year for Social Media.

But, what do I mean by Social Media? Well the term may be confusing to start with. I say that because the word Media, for instance, could mean The Press or TV – to me anyway. I think this may be why Social Media is often sequestered into the Marketing Department. A more significant problem is the word Social. It implies exclusivity from business. And yet we mean Social Media to be a multi-way conversation that has measurable business and societal value.

The term Social Media may be missing the mark when you consider its function today and what it can do in the future. It may stick or may become something more accurately descriptive in the future. I am not going to start throwing out terms that may be future possibilities, like Enterprise Social Networking or Web 3.0 Collaboration or… OK, well I guess I just did.

The point is that the Social Media professional is doing much more than Marketing, and surely more than Socializing. He is bringing society and business together into the same conversation. Zuckerberg purportedly said that he wanted Facebook to become the telephone of this century. Is he going to achieve this goal? Or will it be a Social Media model that achieves the goal?

Social Media is maturing into a collaboration model, by which representatives of companies will be seamlessly interacting with their fellow colleagues, prospects, customers, suppliers, first-responders, etc.

I do not know if it will be a specific product or platform that we will be using exclusively when the end goal is achieved. I do know, however, that my voicemail, email, SMS, and Social Networks have melted together on my smart phone. Unified Communications (UC) was predicted a long time ago. But, no one imagined that the smart phone was going to be the point of convergence when the UC term was coined. It is hard to predict all the future moving parts.

I know if history does not repeat itself, it will at least rhyme. Social Media is on its way to its next level. I believe we will see a convergence of technologies to complete the vision of business and society coming together and participating in the same conversation.

But, let’s not forget that when the telephone was first introduced into large companies, the only people who had them on their desks were the telephone operators. The last to get them on their desks were the executives. The same was true for email. The same will be true for Social Media. But I predict it will happen. Even executives will be having a seamless social conversations with a customer about a customer service problem.

This is, at some level, happening now, in Early Adopter companies. There may be a chasm to cross, referring to the book by Geoffrey Moore, before the vision materializes. I can easily highlight privacy and regulatory compliance as two concerns. There are more. But, all of the challenges can be overcome. We can and will get over the chasm. It will be a fun time participating.

To talk more about the future of Social Media, share your thoughts here. As we envision the future, we shape it.

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