Future of Social Media: Mark Schaefer at SXSW Interactive

When you stop to think about everything that the internet offers us on a daily basis – the answer to any question at the tip of our fingers, the ability to connect with people on the other side of the planet and to communicate with hundreds and thousands of people from the comfort of your own home – it feels as if the future is already here. All we’re missing is the hover cars.

Social media plays a big part in the innovations and abilities the internet provides. But where do we go from here? What is the future of social media?

One of my South by Southwest highlights: Mark Schaefer, author, public speaker, blogger, and marketing professor, presented what he believes the future of social media is, and how to navigate through it. More about Mark Schaefer on his blog.

Schaefer outlines the four Digital Revolutions, the three previous and the one to come. Image found here

Schaefer outlines the four Digital Revolutions, the three previous and the one to come. Image found here

The Four Digital Revolutions

Presence (The WWW) 1990-2000 – Companies were really only expected to have a website at this point, to show an online presence.

Discovery (Search) 2000-2010 – A bigger emphasis on search engine optimization (SEO) happened in this time period, to encourage the discovery of your company.

Utility (Social Media & Mobile) 2010-2015 – The focus in this phase is on meeting the consumers’ needs when they need it, which is possible because mobile devices make it easy to consume content at anytime. The average American is spending 10 hours a day consuming content online, a two-hour increase because of mobile devices.

Immersion (User-Generated Content) 2015-? – This is where the future of social media exists. Social media sites are becoming more and more about users creating content. Schaefer estimates that by the year 2020, the amount of data online will have grown by 600% and 75% of that will be created by the consumer. This will also be the era of “wearable technology” and “immersion,” where, Schaefer says, “the Internet will surround us like the air that we breathe.” This would create a whole new landscape of marketing possibilities.

How to navigate the new social media landscape

Content Shock is created when the amount of content being produced is greater than the amount of content that people can consume. Image found on Mark Schaefer's site

Content Shock is created when the amount of content being produced is greater than the amount of content that people can consume. Image found on Mark Schaefer’s site

While it’s great that everyone and her brother has access to create content online, offering a more diverse and thriving online market, this also generates stronger competition for your content to break through the clutter and be seen.

In fact, there will be a time in which the amount of content internet users can consume will be outweighed by the amount of content produced. Schaefer calls this “Content Shock” which, unfortunately, is uneconomical.

This Content Shock, which Schaefer believes is coming soon, will have some negative implications on small businesses, including:

  • Big corporations will overtake the market.
  • Schaefer says just like with most industries, those with “deep pockets” can obtain control over a market and even create barriers that perpetuate the Content Shock for their competitors.
  • Companies will have to invest more in their content than they are getting back, making the production of content no longer worth it.

Create content that will stand out

Schaefer says that the Content Shock might be a few years off for some markets and might be here now for others. It’s important to plan ahead and think about how saturated your particular market is.

When producing content, Schaefer says to think about whether what you’re making is “RITE,” meaning:

  • Relevant
  • Interesting
  • Timely
  • Entertaining

He says that the element of fun is essential, as is serving your consumers’ needs and keeping your content human. Content that is “RITE,” especially in an under-saturated market, will get views and garner your brand attention.

Another important thing to keep in mind as the market keeps evolving is search filters, which are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Filters like Zite might soon replace Google even, making SEO less important than it used to be.

It’s essential that your brand evolves with the industry, or it will be lost in the shuffle and unable to stand up to the competition.

How do you envision the future of Social Media? What are you doing to prepare your brand? Share your thoughts and insights with a quick comment.

Social Media Ethics: How transparent should your social media marketing be?

Do you recognize this video?

Big Papi took a selfie with the President, which then became an internet sensation.

Big Papi took a selfie with the President, which then became an internet sensation.

Or this picture?

The famous Oscar selfie that became the most retweeted picture ever.

The famous Oscar selfie that became the most retweeted picture ever.

How about this picture?

Most likely, you’ve seen all of these more times than you can count, but what do they all have in common? They’re examples of content that companies have released on social media sites, using the momentum of the internet to advertise without explicitly presenting it as advertising.

All three of these examples were released, became viral, and then people began realizing they were actually part of marketing campaigns and not as spontaneous as they might have seemed. Some publications and people weren’t happy with the companies for planning what was made to seem spontaneous, making the customers feel like they had been lied to.

But is it unethical to present content to consumers without being clear about its purpose? Does it work in favor of the company?

Wren’s take on their social media marketing campaign

Melissa Coker, the founder of Wren, considered the video a huge success for the clothing business, including the backlash surrounding it. In an article on Business Insider she said, “Traffic to the Wren website is up 14,000%, and 96% of those visitors are new to the site.” Coker sited the subtlety of the video’s message as part of its success.

In fact, the video had originally been tweeted with the line, “We asked 20 strangers to kiss for the first time for our Fall14 collection,” clearly indicating it was a video to promote the clothing line. When the video was shared, it lost that context and began to make people feel duped when they discovered it was meant to advertise the clothes. People were also unhappy to discover the strangers were all models, actors or musicians, meaning their reactions may have been less genuine than you would initially expect. But was it unethical?

Coker indicates that making media like this – which is content-based, rather than heavily commercialized slogan-based advertising – is actually more ethical. There are no tricks or carefully calibrated marketing techniques meant to sway people to buy these products. If people are interested in the content, they’ll forward it, and if not, they won’t.

Samsung’s social media marketing campaigns

Samsung has been less upfront about these images than Wren was – in fact the company says they paid David Ortiz to use his Samsung phone and Ellen DeGeneres to use her Samsung phone during the Oscars, but that the selfies were spontaneous.

As a result from Ortiz’s selfie with President Obama, the White House has discussed banning all selfies with the President to avoid situations where it appears that he is endorsing one brand over another.

The Oscar selfie got so much attention, however, that it was responsible for Twitter crashing briefly. It has been retweeted more than 3 million times and became the most retweeted post ever. It has certainly gotten people talking about Samsung.

According to this article in the Wall Street Journal, “Kontera [a company which tracks social media content] said that 23% of the online commentary around the ‘selfie’ on social media has been positive and about 69% of the comments have been neutral. Only 8% of the comments were negative, the company added.”

How should you employ this type of social media marketing?

There definitely are some benefits of using social media for marketing.

  • It’s less expensive than traditional advertising.
  • You can get direct response from potential customers.
  • Audience is actively involved when retweeting, sharing, blogging, etc.
  • You can use more memorable and creative outlets for marketing your brand.

What are the downsides?

  • If you aren’t clear enough about what you’re doing, you may get backlash online.
  • It is much harder than it seems to make things go viral – a large part of it is simply luck.

While it is largely up to the content maker to decide what is ethical when using social media marketing, it’s important to remember that customers want to feel like a brand is trustworthy. Feeling tricked or duped may not be the best strategy – but subtlety might work better, as in the case of Wren’s video.

Try to be upfront and honest with your potential customers, but use the internet and social media to your advantage, because, when done right, it could help put your brand’s name on the map.

Looking to further your engagement but not sure how?

New Media Education Experts Designated Editor offers customized courses from the convenience of your laptop or device. Contact Suzanne at Sue(at) now to  set a time that best suits your busy schedule.