Predicting the future of anything is, at best, an educated guess. However, by tracking trends, reviewing history, and considering human nature, one can get a feel for what may lie ahead. I wouldn’t attempt to know what social media will become 15 or 20 years from now, but the writing is on the wall for a few possibilities in the following years.
More Mobile — This is a no-brainer. According to Mashable.com, “The overall number of people experiencing social networks through their phones or tablets is surging. That 64 million figure is up 77% from the year before, and daily users are up 88%. That growth is tied directly to smartphone adoption, which comScore says is up to 41.8% of the phone-owning audience — up from 27% just a year ago.” If we consider the 5 million iPhone 5’s sold at release, and assume some of the appeal is improved usability on social networks, we can see this trend continuing. For example, Facebook’s api is integrated into iOS6, making it possible to share on Facebook without leaving another site.
More Visual — Again, it’s easy to see this coming. As friend Allison Carter said in her keynote at Blog Indiana 2012, “With the rise of Pinterest and Instagram, and Facebook’s increased emphasis on pictures, you have to have great visuals, too.” There are over 405 million Skype accounts, and traditional sites are becoming more visually friendly. From Fastcompany, “A 2012 study by ROI Research found that when users engage with friends on social media sites, it’s the pictures they took that are enjoyed the most. Forty-four percent of respondents are more likely to engage with brands if they post pictures than any other media.”
More Networks — In 2010, Tm.biz said, “The growth of Social networks, or member-based communities, are exploding. A conservative estimate is 4,000 active networks.” Wikipedia shares this partial list of current networks. The increased availability of more effective analytics tools will drive segmentation of social media networks. There will be more networks dedicated to special interest groups and specific demographics; however, all we need do is look at cable TV’s evolution to see where this may lead. When cable networks began, they were niche driven. The History Channel, The Learning channel, Discovery, and A & E were all specialized networks. Now these channels look very similar. For example, all carry reality shows because they drive viewers, hence revenue (don’t get me started). The same will hold true for social networks – as different as they may begin, eventually, they will mimic successes to the point of similarity.
These are three fairly safe bets, but you never know. Applications such as Panasonic’s Viera, which allows social networking on a TV screen while viewing shows, may bite into mobile use. With the trend toward multitasking, more people could stay home, watch the ballgame, tweet about the ref’s, and post pictures of their pets while couch potatoeing. More networks? Maybe. Instead of more networks, it could become survival of the fittest. Like I said – it’s only an educated guess. What are your predictions?