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What’s the next big thing in social media?

That’s the question I was recently asked by a someone during a speaking appearance. He amplified the question–wondering who or what would come along to knock off Facebook. It was an interesting question, and I started my answer by noting that Facebook was the first really big thing in social media and that nothing has really threatened it since. This is similar to the experience with search, where Google was the first search engine to enter the public consciousness and has not been dislodged from its perch there. So, maybe the first thing to learn is that the next big thing in social media might turn out to be described as something different than social media–just like the next big thing in search was social media.

There was a time when I thought the next big thing that would dislodge Facebook was mobile, but Facebook pivoted so beautifully by making mobile its primary experience and by acquiring Instagram that it absorbed mobile as part of social instead of giving someone else a way to create something new from it.

So, the real questions to me are, “What is happening that is going to fundamentally change social?” Here are my guesses at the trends that will add up to something new:

  • Video. More and more sharing is going toward video, as phones take better videos and people get better at shooting them.
  • Wearables. Mobile has meant phone. Soon, it will probably mean more than that. Think about being able to wear a GoPro anywhere on your body that is running all the time.
  • Location-based. We’ve seen simple awareness approaches, such as coupons for a store you are walking past, but there is so much more that is possible. As sensors proliferate into the Internet of Things, we’ll not only know where people are, but we will know every object in the area.
  • Simpler interaction. We’ve seen Apple, Google, and Microsoft all take a shot at voice, at swiping, and at gestures, but it still requires focus to interact with your phone. No one can interact with their phone and be present in the real world, which is why using a phone while driving is illegal, but using a radio while driving is not.
  • Privacy. People are concerned about what they share on social because they know they can never get it back and they don’t know where it is going.

What does this add up to? No one knows, but you can imagine that the next big thing is a much tighter integration of living the experience and sharing the experience. Today, you live the experience, and then you devote the next few minutes sharing it. To receive the shares of others, you must look down at your phone, and then you look up to return to living the experience. As easy as mobile has made it to task-switch from virtual to real, it hasn’t truly integrated it yet.

My guess is that wearable, location-based video could automatically be recording your experience constantly. Voice or gesture interactions could allow you to decide what to share with smart software that could know where the exciting parts are and how to edit among your several cameras. Better control of your information might mean that you can control who sees what and even change your mind after the fact. These changes might make people comfortable with automatic recording and quick sharing, which make sharing the experience a part of the experience itself, rather than a separate step as it is now.

Receiving information could be equally changed. Augmented reality can present sharing based on your location during your experience. As lunchtime approaches, you can be shown how to get to the restaurant that your gastronome buddy recommended three months ago that you forgot about. Again, you don’t look down at your phone and then live–you are seeing this projected in front of your face from your wearables as you live.

Google Now already shows how search can start to anticipate what you need, rather than wait for you to ask for it. The advent of these new technologies, along with some needed advances in privacy to make people comfortable with more automatic sharing, could result in a next big thing that integrates real life and digital life in a brand new way.

If Facebook stays on top of all of this, maybe we will still call it a social network. But if someone else does it, we’ll call it the next big thing.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is a Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also served as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He was a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research and is now a Senior Fellow of The Conference Board. A Certified Speaking Professional, Mike regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide.

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