Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
October 26, 2011 9:26 PM

The Next Layer Of Social Media

What's next for Social Media?

If I had a dime for every time I've been asked that question... More often than not, I deflect the question. I'm humble enough to know that my optics into what works and where this is all going is not what it could be. If I could see into the future, I would have created the first online auction or sold books online back in the day, instead companies like eBay and Amazon came along. If I knew where things were going, I would not have have looked at YouTube when it first came out and said, "who would want to watch shaky cam videos on a 2x2 screen that has buffering issues!" (and yes, I've said stupider things like, "I don't see the point of Twitter" - when it first came out). Thankfully, I also have the humility to admit indiscretions like these, but still spend the time critically thinking about what may be coming next.

Social Media will not go away.

Some think that Social Media is just a fad. My friend, Jason Falls, called it a "market correction" when we recorded a Podcast together recently (take a listen here: SPOS #270 - No BS Social Media With Jason Falls). Others think that all media will become Social Media. I don't agree (at least not one hundred percent) with any of these assessments.

  1. Social Media is not a fad. Perhaps certain channels and platforms will have popularity and then disappear into the ether, but Arianna Huffington is right: "self-expression is the new entertainment." Now that individuals are connected and can publish their own thoughts, share them and collaborate, we are not going to return to a hierarchical broadcasting platform any time soon. On top of that, Social Media is well over a decade old (The Cluetrain Manifesto was first published in 2000). Fads come and go much faster than that.
  2. Social Media is not a market correction. This is not a return to anything. Technology continually changes our landscape and technology has dramatically changed our media. It's not like we had this technology or media before and that we are returning to it. This is new (even though it's ten years old) and the rules (if there ever are/will be rules) have not been firmly established or agreed upon yet. As technology continues to advance, so too will our media. It's more of an evolution than a revolution at this point, but it doesn't look, feel or act like a market correction.
  3. Social Media will not become all media. The next layer of Social Media will be the integration of the ability for all media to be social... but it won't necessarily act that way. Think of it this way: just because you can make a media channel social, it doesn't mean that all media channels will be social. That being said, if a smaller minority wants specific media to be more social, the layers/ability will be present for them to be social.

Whoa... that's a mouthful. Confused? Don't be.

Think about television (and for more thoughts on TV, please read this: The Shift To TV Everywhere): if television becomes completely social and interactive, what happens to the people who just want to sit back and enjoy their show after a long day of work? What about an article in a magazine? If someone want to just read it (and not share it, highlight it, comment on it, friend it, whatever), are they allowed to? Social Media will simply be one layer added to the media mix for those who want to engage, connect and be a part of the discourse.

The next layer of Social Media will be about two things...

Media will be either passive or active. That's it. Those are the two things (1. Passive Media. 2. Active Media). People will either consume the media (like reading a newspaper or listening to radio) or they will be active with their media (like Facebook and Twitter). The truth is that some media will be predominantly passive (like watching a television show) with a whisper of active components (the ability to chat about it or share it with friends), while other media will be predominantly active (like Facebook) where the user won't get much intrinsic value unless they're an active participant, but it will have layers of passivity (like people who are on Twitter, but they're not really tweeting or following back anybody, they're just there to passively follow celebrities, etc...). Personally, this is the easiest way for me to think about innovation in media: Is it passive or active? What's the percentage? Can a passive media become an active media? Can an active media become a passive media? Is this what the public wants? How will passive and active media play together in a marketing mix? How well will brands be able to blend those two types of media together?

The future of Social Media feel less interesting when you think about how active and passive media acts - especially as those worlds collide.

By Mitch Joel