The future of social media #4

4 August 2011 at 8:04 am 1 comment

#4: Pivot Points – pervasiveness, utility, and worldview

Alex Steer writes: Yesterday I wrote about how different consumer decisions about scale, privacy and specificity create very different outcomes for social networking. Today I’m going to explore the other three Pivot Points.

Pervasiveness – Turn On or Tune Out?

Social networking has been driven by people’s enthusiasm for connectivity – yet many increasingly find themselves at risk of information overload. So will we want to be permanently connected to our networks, or to dip in and out as it suits us?

In a Turn On future, consumers will want to be “always on” in their networks, receiving updates and information in real time – a possibility made easier by the global mobile and smartphone boom. Buzzwords are real-time, context-specific and multiplatform, and marketers will be expected to feed the desire for constant novelty with content and deals designed to be acted on fast.

Tune Out futures, though, see consumers looking for ways to step back and manage the flow of information and complexity – good news for networks like Flickr or YouTube that function more like a library than an updates service. At this end of the axis, marketing activity needs to be opt-in, durable, asynchronous and polite – designed to be enjoyed wherever, but also whenever.

Utility – Plug or Play?

As we have said, social interactions online can range from the serious to the frivolous. But will consumers see social networks more as a useful resource or more as a form of entertainment?

In Plug futures, consumers look for networks that let them access information, opinion and tools without demanding too much attention. Application, utility and embedded socialization are our buzzwords, and brands which provide lean, useful branded tools will thrive.

In Play futures, though, entertainment is the name of the game. Consumers see networks as places to spend time accessing interesting and immersive content. Think interaction and fun – content creators seek to reward time, attention and sharing with sheer entertainment value, and don’t just push marketing messages.

Worldview – Confirm or Challenge?

Are social recommendation features and personalization a way to access the most relevant and interesting experiences – or are they trapping us inside a self-reinforcing ‘filter bubble’? Will we want social networks to confirm or challenge our worldview?

In Confirm futures, consumers want news, opinion and content filtered and curated by their social connections. Here, marketers make it easy and rewarding for consumers to share content, and target offers based on online habits and relationships.

In contrast, in Challenge futures, marketers provide exposure to new experiences and divergent points of view. Buzzwords are novelty, debate and surprise, and brands will thrive by standing out from the crowd, challenging, stimulating and offering genuine novelty and serendipity.

Using the Pivot Points today

These six Pivot Points are signposts, not predictions – by knowing the directions of people’s behaviour and preferences, we can quickly identify, and prepare for, different possible outcomes. They also offer present opportunities. They can be used to make better business and marketing decisions by tracking target consumers’ attitudes and values, and making sense of changing habits online. The Futures Company is already working with clients to show how to understand, measure and seize those opportunities. We hope that the Pivot Points provide a way to navigate an unstable landscape, and take control of an uncertain future.

This is the last of four posts on the future of social networking by Alex Steer. To read the earlier posts, click here. The image at the top of this post is from the New Medici website, and is used with thanks.

Entry filed under: digital, marketing, technology. Tags: , , .

The future of social networks #3 The future of social networks #5

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. ralfjritter  |  5 August 2011 at 10:23 am

    I especially like the worldview part!

    Reply

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The Futures Company blog

The Futures Company was created through the merger of Henley Centre HeadlightVision and Yankelovich in 2008. This is the blog of the new company - but the former posts from the former Henley Centre Headlightvision blog still can be found here.


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