My work as a digital strategist involves continually observing trends to make decisions and recommendations benefiting my employer. As such, I cannot help but always be looking ahead.
So when good friend Ray Prock shared an Edelman Digital blog post breaking down conversation flows between brands and users on five of today’s most-used social networks, it caught my attention.
Specifically this portion about Google+:
“Much like Facebook, conversation is typically confined to the brand’s Google+ page, granting brand control of the story. The line is muddled when users incorporate Google+’s core features; Hangouts, Circles and Ripples and their latest dive into Google+ Communities. Users are able to organize their online lives and conversations through these features, controlling how the story approaches them.”
Think about that last line for a second…
- Organizing our online lives.
- Organizing our online conversations.
- Controlling how content approaches us.
Gosh…doesn’t that sound NICE?!
Social media was meant to do this to begin with, but many have become overwhelmed, inundated or even feel “controlled” by what has become a very disorganized online “life.”
Bloated streams of information, from years of connecting to everything and everyone we’ve felt compelled to follow, fan and like have many of us now feeling the need to regain control.
The sense of relief we gain from “cleansing” our social profiles and feeds is just what the doctor ordered in many cases. I believe this trend will only increase as the early majority of social media adopters reach their “over-saturation” points.
It’s critically important for organizations/businesses to pay attention to this trend if they wish to remain relevant in the future.
To put this in perspective, I’ve outlined my take on where social media adoption and usage trends have been and are going, in three distinct phases:
Phase One: The Social Media Land Grab (2004-2010)
- We all scrambled to connect and network through social media platforms, establishing our profiles and pages, filling in the digital representation of our social graph.
Phase Two: Finding Where We Belong (2010 – present)
- Now that we’ve all established ourselves online and connected to everyone and everything we’ve felt we’ve wanted to connect with, we find out that this social realm has become an extremely noisy place.
- We de-friend, hide from News Feeds, establish niche groups and communities (public, semi-public and private), gravitate toward our closest relationships and affiliations we’ve developed.
- We increasingly spend our social media time “where we belong” and “where we need to listen” vs. taking in as much as we can from all we are connected to.
Phase Three: Putting It To Work (2013 – ?)
- The novelty of the Social Media Land Grab that started nearly a decade ago wears off.
- Niche communities flourish and grow through enhanced social communications and collaboration tied to real-life action and results.
- Smart organizations/businesses start meshing “social” into processes, workflows and design, tying it to business goals, rather than treating “social media” as a bullhorn akin to mass media mindset of the 20th century.
- Those who grasp social in business design and marry it with flourishing niche communities start separating themselves from others as they “empower” community to create, letting happen “what wants to happen” rather than “myopically trying to make things happen” (head nod to Robert S Tipton’s post on Transformational Change Leaders on this last quote)
What this means
It’s becoming clear that when the dust settles in this Wild West social scenario, the organizations emerging most successful will be those which best embrace, integrate, inspire and empower niche communities to convene and make real-world differences based upon shared values.
Social is a mindset…a culture…a behavior; it’s not a media channel. The first organizations to fully grasp this, put it to use in their spheres of influence and truly make a real-world difference will be a refreshing signal to those longing to find it amongst a heap of noise.
Dan Toland is director of digital strategy for the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. He is passionate about integrating social technologies with collaborative environments for the betterment of communities they serve.