Future Trends in Social Media & Social Networks

I recently co-presented a session for NetIKX on “future trends in social media & social networks” with Geoffrey Mccaleb, with a solo follow-up Webinar for the Knowledge and Innovation Network (KIN). The content for this presentation was gleaned and curated from numerous sources, including books, white papers, vendor websites, industry reports and numerous blogs. In other words, not an insignificant research project in its own right.  I only mention this to illustrate one point – whether or not you agree with the content of the presentation, the data and trends described have – where possible – been validated against at least three different sources, and have not been artificially manipulated or otherwise obscured by personal opinion. Facts (if they are facts) on numbers of users for each social network are based on data made public by the vendors themselves, and oft-repeated by the industry press. It’s difficult to challenge this data where there is no independent reference source.

The Slides

The slides are available on Slideshare and embedded at the end of this blog. The following points provide some additional context to each slide.

  1.  Cover slide – The Future
  2. Wordle picture of the overall content.
  3. Let’s start with some statistics
  4. Big numbers with a common trend – they’re all getting bigger! Two thirds of the world’s population visits a social network at least once a month.  Facebook has 800 million users and is projected to reach 1 billion users by the end of 2012.  With the rollout of its Timeline feature, and the development of apps that integrate with it, Facebook’s strategic focus is now to encourage users to spend more time on the site, sharing more information with their social contacts. Data mainly sourced from  http://royal.pingdom.com/2012/01/17/internet-2011-in-numbers/
  5. At present, Google+ reaches 90 million global visitors, accounting for 5 percent of the global social networking audience. While this early adoption bodes well for Google+, whether or not the network can sustain this growth and a strong level of engagement among users will be better indicators of its success in the future. Google+ might emerge as a social networking leader in its own right in the years to come, but exactly how big it will be remains to be seen. Twitter reports 225 million accounts (note that an “account” might not be a physical person; bots make up some of this number). LinkedIn reports 132 million users (mainly B2B). Data sourced from Comscore , CNN and phill.co . There’s some interesting commentary about the accuracy of Google’s data at Venturebeat.
  6. With more than 800 million users, Facebook is running into a nice problem to have: There are only so many more people to add. While the site will continue to grow in emerging markets that are only now getting online, Mark Zuckerberg has shifted the conversation to sharing and engagement, arguing that sharing on Facebook grows exponentially and that users will double the amount they share each year. That sharing is driving users to spend more time on site — the average Facebook user now spends nearly 7.5 hours on the site each month, up from 4.5  hours just two years ago. With the arrival of Timeline, increased focus on media and entertainment consumption, and continued growth in social games, engagement will surge even further in 2012. Also see: “Facebook adds Pinterest + 59 new apps
  7. New models for engagement. Based on an original ideas by Dion HinchcliffeAmbient communication – Today, everyone can talk to anyone, just about anywhere for nearly (thought not at) at zero cost. Global information flows – The largest, fastest growing, and most freely flowing source of information available is the Internet. This trend will only continue into the future as all information platforms move online. Social computing – Social models for communication, collaboration, and business are proving to be more effective and fundamentally better than non-social ones. Market discontinuity – There is both space and demand for major changes in the way we do things in business today.
  8. Nearly 1 in every 5 minutes spent online is now spent on social networking sites – a stark contrast from when the category accounted for only 6 percent of time spent online in March 2007. Time spent on social networking sites gained ground during this time by taking share predominantly from web-based email and instant messengers, reflecting its emergence as another primary communication channel for users. Ornoklassniki is a Russian Social Networking website. Sina Weibo is a Chinese site. Data sourced from Comscore.
  9. While sites like Digg and Reddit have been around for years, a new crop of sites like Polyvore, Svpply and, most notably, Pinterest are allowing people to organize their favourite discoveries from around the web into themed collections that friends and contacts can follow. Pinterest has seen phenomenal growth over past 12 months, proving that social media continues to evolve, bringing new opportunities for multimedia social platforms. It appears that sites that offer new and personalised user experiences can have a major influence on social sharing and internet traffic. There’s a very useful introduction to Pinterest in this Slideshare presentation from the US Army (yes, surprising who’s using this stuff!).
  10. Content curation is the organising, filtering and “making sense of” information on the web and sharing the very best with your network. Examples include paper.li, scoop.it, Flipboard and Storify. If you want to get further information about content curation, read this article by Robin Good – What Makes A Great Curator Great
  11. Collaborative Consumption describes the rapid explosion in swapping, sharing, bartering, trading and renting being reinvented through the latest technologies and peer-to-peer marketplaces in ways and on a scale never possible before. Examples given included Barclays Bikes, Zipcar, Airbnb and TaskRabbit – but there are many hundreds of other P2P services out there, and growing exponentially. Incidentally, the most requested task on TaskRabbit is for assembling IKEA furniture, so if you’re an expert on that, go earn yourslef some money! Specifically, much of the material originates from the book “What’s Mine Is Yours” by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers. Reputational Capital (i.e. who can we trust) will be increasingly important the more that we use the internet for transactional services.
  12. Big Data – ok, not specific to social media or social networks, but big enough to impact both.
  13. Big data are datasets that grow so large that they become awkward to work with using on-hand database management tools. Difficulties include capture, storage, search, sharing, analytics ,and visualising. This trend continues because of the benefits of working with larger and larger datasets allowing analysts to spot business trends, prevent diseases and combat crime. Though a moving target, current limits are on the order of terabytes, exabytes and zettabytes of data.Scientists regularly encounter this problem in meteorology, genomics, connectomics, complex physics simulations,  biological research, Internet search, finance and business informatics. Data sets also grow in size because they are increasingly being gathered by ubiquitous information-sensing mobile devices, “software logs, cameras, microphones, RFID readers, wireless sensor networks and so on. One current feature of big data is the difficulty working with it using relational databases and desktop statistics/visualization packages, requiring instead “massively parallel software running on tens, hundreds, or even thousands of servers.”The size of “Big data” varies depending on the capabilities of the organisation managing the set. “For some organizations, facing hundreds of gigabytes of data for the first time may trigger a need to reconsider data management options. For others, it may take tens or hundreds of terabytes before data size becomes a significant consideration.” NB. Bus stop photo:  Bus users in Blackburn can now receive up-to-the minute information on the whereabouts of their buses following the launch of a pilot project by Blackburn with Darwen Council and bus operator Transdev Lancashire United.
  14. The increasing use of visualisation techniques,  infographics and smart analytics that enable complex data to be presented in new and interesting ways.
  15. Some people – wrongly – see gamification simply as the process of adding points, badges or rewards to the learning process and instantly creating engagement, interactivity and motivation for learning. When done correctly, gamification provides an experience that is inherently engaging and, most importantly, promotes learning. The elements of games that make for effective gamification are those of storytelling, which provides a context, challenge, immediate feedback, sense of curiosity, problem-solving, a sense of accomplishment, autonomy and mastery. Examples here include Big Door, Gamify-it, Scvngr and Badgeville.
  16. It would be remiss to say nothing about the trend towards mobile platforms. People are now free from the shackles of the office PC.
  17. We’re now at least 3 years into the next major technology trend – mobile.
  18. Morgan Stanley made the prediction in 2010 that mobile platforms would outstrip sales of traditional desktop systems within 5 years. The enormous success of Apple’s iPhone and iPad may even have accelerated this timescale.
  19. More people own mobile phones than toothbrushes!  There will be 7 billion mobile phones by 2012 – more than the global population. More than 4 billion people around the world now use cell phones, and for 500 million the web is a fully mobile experience.
  20. Apps – not just for gamers any more. Apps offer an entirely new business model. Users are now far more comfortable using apps for solving business problems and organisations are developing apps that are providing a richer experience for users of their on-line services. Also an opportunity to lower transactional costs (e.g. when compared to telephone or F2F support). Users have no particular loyalty to apps, and will discard the ones that no longer serve a useful purpose and download or update the the ones that do.
  21. The traditional vendor software development priorities of designing for the PC with (maybe) the mobile platform in mind are being reversed; any new product or application must work (and be optimised for) mobile platforms, with (maybe) the PC in mind.
  22. The trends reinforce the view that apps are becoming ubiquitous in how we work and play. Users are comfortable with the software distribution and update models offered by app stores.
  23. Location-based services (LBS). Product and service providers are realising the value and potential to make information services highly personalised. One of the best ways to personalise information services is to enable them to be location based. An example would be someone using their smart phone or tablet to search for a restaurant. The LBS application would interact with other location technology components to determine the user’s location and provide a list of restaurants within a certain proximity to the mobile user. Services such as Foursquare go one step further and link location with your social network, so that you can see if you have any friends within your vicinity. Other examples include using a GPS-equipped smartphone to reveal your location and in return offered special promotions from nearby businesses, or the Easy:park – smartphone app, which enables payment via smartphone and a countdown timer showing how long is left. A future release will find an available parking slot based on your GPS location – a must for the city motorist!
  24. Augmented reality (AR) is a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. It is related to a more general concept called mediated reality, in which a view of reality is modified (possibly even diminished rather than augmented) by a computer. As a result, the technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality. Examples shown here include New York Nearest Places,  Golfranger GPS Rangefinder, Cyclopedia, Panaramascope, Theodolite, Starchart.


The remaining slides summarise the overall trends:

•Social Media is ubiquitous. More businesses are adding social media links and information to their websites; consumers now look for these links. Visiting a company’s Facebook page or Twitter profile has become as important as reading reviews on the business.
•Facebook will have 1 billion users by end 2012 and will continue to dominate the social network space. More apps and integration with external services will encourage shift from conversations to sharing and engagement = users spend more time on site.
•Rapid growth of companies/services offering new and interesting ways for people to share information (e.g. Tumblr, Pinterest)
•Help with content overload. More apps and services providing knowledge and information curation, aggregation and filtering.
•Apps will inherit the earth! Users more familiar (and trusting) of software distribution channels (app stores). Users happy to discard old/legacy apps and download new ones that meet changing needs and requirements.
•Gami-ificaton techniques will find their way into more social networks and corporate websites in order to engage and retain users/customers.
•Augmented reality apps will offer an awesome user experience. Location-based services will thrive and provide new, more compelling, more efficient services with lower B2C transaction costs. Privacy issues will deter some users.
•More opportunities for micro-entrepreneurs. Peer to peer on the rise; more lending, sharing, bartering and recycling opportunities offered via ‘Collaborative Consumption”.
•We’re going to continue to generate data faster than it can be consumed or understood. Most of it will not be held inside the enterprise. Information visualisation techniques and intelligent analytics will aid user’s interpretation and understanding. Opportunities and challenges for knowledge & information professionals.
•Mobile platforms will soon overtake the desktop PC as the preferred interface to the Internet and www. Software being designed for mobile, with consideration for PC, not the other way around.
The final take-away from this session were the points made by Geof Mccaleb as a challenge for everyone to take back to their respective organisations:
  • Users want their data everywhere – what is your cloud strategy?
  • Users want simple tools and products – what is your app strategy?
  • Users want to see what is relevant to them – what is your graph strategy
  • Users want the same experience regardless of which device they are using – what is your mobile strategy?
  • Users want social experiences – what is your social web strategy?

Bookmarks associated with the presentation can be seen at: http://groups.diigo.com/group/ki-network/content/tag/webinar06jan12

Other blog posts from the session:

I hope this information is of some use – whether you’re dipping your toes into or fully immersed in the Social Web!

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