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The Future Of [Social] Media


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a few thoughts about the future - also the text that accompanies some slides already up on here

Published in: Business, Technology
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The Future Of [Social] Media

  1. 1. The Future of Social Media . We all use social media, some of us work with brands who use social media to greater or lesser effect. And we’ve all seen case studies, from media owners, distribution companies, colleagues and bloggers. So I’m not going to cover the same ground. I’ve been to a couple of conferences recently which were mainly meant for marketing folk, and the speakers were some of the top strategists working in social media, some techie, some agency and some brand marketers. And they were trying to explain a little bit further ahead than the case studies do, to really go into why stuff works on the internet. So I’ve tried to pull some of the strands together.…. What’s going on, What we can do to help our clients.
  2. 2. And what we can do ourselves I’m going to talk a bit about how changing technology affects brands, so it is worth having a look at what a brand was. If you go back to when products like Coca Cola were launched, the brand was a symbol that you could trust and rely on to deliver quality and value for money. This worked because in the days before fast communications, the only people you could rely on for information were family and friends, and probably only those in your immediate vicinity. The brand became a mark of reputation – almost like a substitute for someone you know having told you that coke tasted good.
  3. 3. We haven’t changed – our species has grown up around narrative. Linguistic development gave us the competitive advantage to out-evolve our closest competitors. Companionship and a sense of belonging are basic human requirements. We need to belong to tribes, whether through shared interests, family bonds, religious beliefs, or supporting the same team, as this feeds our sense of who we are – it makes us human. Technology just opens up wider groups of people who share our interests – the tribes become bigger, and better informed The idea of brands as a substitute for information grew up in the industrial age. The broadcast transmission of information belongs to this era too: it is a linear process
  4. 4. where raw materials, labour and distribution are expensive, so needs to work on a huge scale in order to be effective. Linear production meant standards of living soared during the 20th century And this production line model was used as the basis for marketing products too. Like the in factories, raw materials (ad agencies) were expensive, so huge scale was needed at the start of the process. Remember, brands are substitutes for information and recommendation. And how did that work? Well how did that work? W.H. Lever was a soap manufacturer in the early 20th century. He made the very famous, and extremely over-used quote half his advertising budget was wasted, but he didn’t know which half. (the effective half was very effective though, and his company has since changed its name from Lever Brothers to Unilever). That has become a truism in our industry that we have spent vast sums of our clients’ research budgets trying to correct.
  5. 5. And this is a picture of what we’ve come up with. If anyone has ever tried feeding an 8 month old baby then they will know that it is messy, there’s a lot of wastage, and it quickly becomes very frustrating that any sort of dialogue or reasoning won’t happen until some unspecified point in the future. But after a lot of work, the baby gets enough to keep going. And I’m sure you can guess the point that I’m labouring… this is pretty much the same as mass media advertising (thanks to Rohit Bhargava at Ogilvy for the analogy) We know it would be better if communication was a two- way idea, but for now we keep shovelling in the food. All
  6. 6. that research to find out which 50% was wasted has confirmed that recommendation is the best way to convince people of something. And going back to our coca cola example, a brand is still a substitute for actual recommendation. But marketing is still means to create economic advantage. So has economics changed? (ignoring the last couple of months’ worth of banking disasters). Well here is a definition of ‘economics’, and this starts to explain where the change comes in. The key word is ‘scarce’. Because networked distribution changes everything This is Gordon Moore, who set up Intel. In 1965 he observed that although the number of transistors that
  7. 7. could be placed on a circuit board had doubled every two years since the invention of the integrated circuits in 1958, and predicted that this exponential growth would continue unchecked. So far he has been proved right, and this law of exponential increase in computing speed and memory capacity is what has fundamentally changed our methods of communication. In the industrial age, media were expensive. Movies needed people and technology to create, and time, space and money to distribute and store. Newspapers were hugely labour intensive to write, expensive to physically print, and had to be distributed quickly to maintain demand. Increases in processing power and storage mean that production and storage is now virtually free. The internet means that distribution is virtually free. So information and entertainment is now free, while Economics relies on scarcity to define value. And a virtually infinite amount of information and entertainment is a drain on the finite amount of attention available to consume it. What is scarce, and therefore valuable, is attention. As people form networks, their attention becomes focused more on conversation – on non- commercial media. Familiarity breeds trust, as it did for the industrial era brands. So now we trust people we don’t know just as much as we those we do.
  8. 8. In this environment where immediate open global communication with people that we don’t know but that we trust is the norm, there is no need for a substitute for recommendation. A brand is whatever people say it is. This is important, as it isn’t what brand marketers or the media say it is. Rather than being a one-way substitute for recommendation, as it has been all the way through the era of industrial marketing, a brand is now the sum total of all the recommendations that already exist for it. And this is a dialogue. As long as the positives outweigh the negatives, then the main thing a brand has to do is be talked about. And if the conversation is negative, then it is easy to find out using a whole range of free tools like Brand Tags, and to address the negatives. In an open conversational way. So individually we have more conversations in real life than online. It‘s just that online conversation is stored and indexed forever, and it happens globally and immediately. And recommendation online also helps your product’s sales directly. ‘Recommendation’ online is hyperlinked. When Google launched, the huge advantage it had over all the other search engines that were around at the time was that rather than just counting the number of time a word appeared on a page to give a relevancy score, it also
  9. 9. included the number of links to that page – ie it counted how many times the page had been recommended. The total number of recommendations made up the page’s Reputation, or quality score. So it follows that to grow your market, a brand must be part of the conversation In fact, markets are conversations. I like the first quote, not just because it is true, but because it sort of proves the second. We forget how revolutionary the Cluetrain Manifesto was in 1999, and sure enough it took longer than two years for technology to change the world. But it is worth remembering when listening to geeks like me get overexcited about the future that this I’m probably underestimating the change in the next ten years
  10. 10. Why? Well since the internet was invented, it has slowly grown to a point where it has roughly the same number of computers connected as there are cells in the human brain, and about the same number of links as there are connections. The number of synapses, or connections, in our brains is taken as a proxy for intelligence – it is basically processing power. So in 16 years between 1990, when Sir Tim Berners-Lee wrote the worldwide web, and 2007 when Kevin Kelly wrote this theory, the internet has developed the intelligence of one person. And as we’ve seen, Moore’s Law means that all the processors, and all the storage, and all the other capacity will each be doubling in capacity every two years. By 2040, the internet will have the brainpower of 4 billion people. The next big development will be the move from the Internet of data to the internet of things – everything can communicate with everything else. We are going to move over the next few years from millions of computers CONNECTED by the internet, to one huge computer that IS the internet. Every device will be a window into it. Your phone will be able to socially network with other people in the surrounding area, and only alert you if you need to know about them. This will obviously mean that a huge amount of data is flying around, and that where there is more information, there is less attention. So brands will have to work even harder to earn that attention. Most of the time they will not be able to communicate with us unless they are invited into our digital life by our devices. As an example, if you switch on your phone, only ads that are better than the programmes you want to see will have been showing up as recommended for you. You will not need to look any further than your phone’s recommendations, as it knows far more than you could ever have time to about what you want to watch. Gaining attention by interrupting people starts to look a bit outdated.
  11. 11. So the result in a completely connected, always on world, is that the internet is like air – always there, but in the background. People are starting to worry about Googlism, where they are no longer able to remember things because they have come to rely so much on just being able to search. I get withdrawal symptoms if I am away from a Wifi connection for very long. But is this reliance on an information system really such a bad thing? Remember, the internet is not a medium, it is a way of organising and structuring information. To have more chance of unlocking its potential, we need to think of it in terms of other systems for structuring information. For example, the alphabet. We haven’t worried about relying on the alphabet to store our information for the last 1500 years. And we don’t use the alphabet as an advertising medium. Well, we do, obviously – copy is written in words, ideas are created and sold in words. But it is something so fundamental that it goes on in the background. If we think of technology in terms of media channels like TV and radio, our frame of reference is too narrow
  12. 12. Now I don’t think that very much of that is futuristic… As sci-fi author William Gibson said, and every advertising blogger has repeated, the future is already here, it just isn’t evenly distributed yet. I can already screen out all TV advertising, and all online advertising, search and display. But I don’t, cos I work in advertising. Most people don’t know how. Yet. Historically there was an understanding that advertising was a necessary evil, because it paid for content, and content was expensive. Now content is free and on YouTube (this is why YouTube are struggling to make money out of the old media economic model). Google’s mission is to organise the world’s information…. And content is just information.
  13. 13. Change has never happened faster than it is doing, and change will also never happen this slowly again. So it is important to understand what has changed and what hasn’t Are the ones on the right technology? Are the ones on the left museum pieces? Technology is a relative concept - just a word for anything that wasn’t invented when you were born. And what will media look like? Media is just the means for distributing information, and this is one of Chris Anderson’s examples of what has changed. Hollywood was based on the fact that there were a limited number of really successful movies, after which demand fell quickly away to zero. Actually turns out it wasn’t that people only liked a few movies, rather that the distribution system was really inefficient at matching supply to demand. Although over 10,000 movies were being professionally made each year the capacity of US cinemas was only 120 movies – so they created the concept of the Blockbuster – the syndicated, extended, marketed extravaganza.. Now technology is able to cater for demand, the Blockbuster model starts to look very inefficient.
  14. 14. This is an image of the Blockbuster model from social media consultant David Cushman. Messages are one- way, and value is all about the number of eyeballs. This is industrial information. But what about when the audience BECOME the media channel – when they can create and distribute through networked conversation without relying on a broadcaster? And it is harder to interrupt a conversation than it is to interrupt content. Brands will have to become part of the conversation.
  15. 15. What does this all mean? The role of a brand in the age of industrial marketing no longer exists Attention is scarce and expensive. Media is not We already have tools to avoid advertising. They will increase exponentially And what to do about it? Understand that all media is social. The revolution will be hyperlinked. We are now the producers and distributors of media. And there’s more of people than there are media outlets. Change is only going to get faster, so the main thing for a brand to do is jump into it. I’m going to try and explain without referring to the same old case studies again Confucius wrote this 2,500 years ago and it is still just as true today. What has changed is that the involving bit was always difficult, so as advertisers had to show & tell. Technology makes involving easier, and as we’ve seen, also make it much easier to avoid the show and tell stuff. If something is entertaining and involving, we will understand it and talk about it. This is the first thing brands can do to be part of the conversation
  16. 16. No, really. We are. When all media was mass, demographics made sense. Now a lot of media is becoming about one to one conversations, there’s no need to deal in averages any more. Remember, the average UK resident has one breast and one testicle. We could of course track and monitor everything that people do online, so that we can interrupt people in new and more relevant ways. But that is still jumping straight into the middle of the conversation. If a brand is a sum of all the recommendations that exist for it, then all the brilliant targeting in the world won’t make up for crap products or poor customer service.
  17. 17. But won’t that all just be a bit half-arsed? A guy called Bill Buxton, who wrote Sketching User Experience, talks about an art college ceramics professor, who comes in on the first day of class and divides the students into two sections. He tells one half of the class that their final grade will be based exclusively on the volume of their production; the more they make, the better their grade. The professor tells the other half of the class that they will be graded more traditionally, based solely on the quality of their best piece. At the end of the semester, the professor discovered that the students who were focused on making as many pots as possible also ended up creating the best pots, much better than the pots made by the students who spent all semester trying to create that one perfect pot. I like this analogy as it is what the more forward thinking brands have been doing. Testing everything. Orange’s Internet Balloon Race might have been a huge success, but equally, their island in Second Life looked great and had no visitors. So they are investing more in ideas like Internet Balloon races at the moment. Actually that’s an interesting example for media agencies to take note of – the balloon race is an example of advertising that media owners want to carry for free – 3000 sites, including the Sun and Vodafone, asked to be included. No media budget changed hands.
  18. 18. Because we don’t ignore advertising…. we just ignore shit advertising – it’s become really easy. Anyone know what OTHER blender ads look like? Thought not. Fail little and often "..our company's success rate runs between 50 and 60 percent. About half of our new products succeed. That's as high as we want the success rate to be. If we try to make it any higher, we'll be tempted to err on the side of caution” A.G. Latley – CEO, Procter & Gamble So the real step change for clients is about not trying to build that perfect pot – it’s about not worrying about the bad ones. Charles Darwin said “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” We know that species of animal can remain unchanged for millennia, and then suddenly evolve in a few generations as their environment changes. As the internet ushers out the era of industrial marketing, we need to help our clients avoid erring on the side of caution. The first seven are print, audio, cinema, radio, TV, internet and mobile. As I paraphrased from Kevin Kelly, soon these
  19. 19. will all just be screens into the internet, and the mobile will presumably be the most important screen because it is always with us and always on. WE are the distribution, WE are the content, WE are the 'user journey', WE are how messages are transmitted. WE are the medium and the media carried by it (again, borrowing from David Cushman) And where does that leave the things we have watched and listened to? This is what TV was all about – the watercooler moment. This is why music drives popular culture. Now back in the early days of commercial TV, when people were first working out what to put on it, how it differed from press and radio, how you might use it to advertise, FMCG brands realised that there wasn’t enough of the right kind of shows to target their housewife target audiences. So they got together with the broadcasters and created regular chunks of real life drama that they could advertise households around. Because of the way these shows came into being, and the content of the ads around them, they were dismissively referred to as ‘soap operas’. Today NBC are setting up social viewing rooms to allow people to connect with other fans of shows in real time, and schedule their non-scheduled viewing around when
  20. 20. their friends are watching (whether or not they are friends they have met). In the 50s, value was in content that appealed to mass audience. Today it is in the network that talks about that content. Content isn't king... If I sent you to a desert island and gave you the choice of taking your friends or your movies, you'd choose your friends -- if you chose the movies, we'd call you a sociopath. Conversation is king. Content is just something to talk about Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing post 2006 Because today, we are not limited to 2 TV channels or the radio as a choice of our evening’s entertainment. The advertising industry grew up on the basis that if it interrupted your viewing, there was very little that you could do about it. When the internet came along, it repackaged those expensive TV ads into small screen formats, and created something called a microsite, an online version of the millennium dome that cost lots but contained nothing. Content may “just” be something to talk about, but the value in a network economy is not in the content, it is in the talk. Using advertising to generate PR isn’t a new idea, it’s just much easier now. Mainly because ‘PR’ didn’t used to be
  21. 21. true. It wasn’t Public relations, it was media relations. Now the media and the public is becoming the same thing, PR is becoming real and therefore has to be transparent and true. Anyway…these are the ads that made the careers of the Saatchi brothers and Trevor Beattie. None of them ran for long, and not much was spent buying media, but they were all about getting people talking. Back then, this meant do something so different or risque that the national news media talked about it, which meant everyone else found out about it. Now, it means the same except there is no longer a requirement for the national media. It isn’t a top-down broadcast economy any more. But being talked about is still about creating things that are remarkable. As Seth Godin says: a brown cow isn’t interesting. If you have a purple cow, people will talk about it. Whether that is great advertising, exemplary customer service, a perfect product, even brilliant packaging, if people talk about it, then it will mutate and spread.
  22. 22. Mutating and spreading is what it is all about. The concept of owning copyright on something that costs nothing to produce or distribute is fairly odd one. In the networked world, intellectual property is called reputation, and reputation is a result of sharing. Most businesses that relied on copyright during the industrial marketing era have realised that the world has changed: the quote on the slide is from the CEO of Disney. But it is more important to realise how things will change from now. For example, the Guardian became the first traditional newspaper publisher to publish full RSS feeds last month. This frees up all their content to be shared, embedded, linked and remixed by anyone that wants to. The New York Times has gone one step further, and released a number of APIs – if you don’t know what one of those is, think of Facebook apps or Google Maps. They allow any developer to build their data into new applications. To share and re-distribute is now the goal of business. Brands need to open up and copy publishers, because the user is the destination, not the website
  23. 23. And part of opening up is treating the brand less seriously. It is difficult to work with people who are co-creating stuff around your brand, if you have a restrictive set of brand guidelines. Now if people are interested in your brand, then they will create and share around it regardless of what guidelines you have. The value in a networked economy is in what is shared. So if you want to take full advantage of this value as a brand, you need to lighten up and accept it. In fact, you really need to help and encourage it. People form networks for fun as much as for support, and brands that want to join in have to be able to do fun in a human voice.
  24. 24. And whatever voice you use, the most important thing for brands to remember is that listening is more important. Brands aren’t good at listening because they’ve never had the opportunity to practice before. Industrial marketing is too expensive to do as a dialogue, so brands had to rely on focus groups as a proxy. This tended to be conversation in a marketing voice, not in a human one. It was also only a quick chat, not an ongoing conversation Dialogue is an ongoing process – brands will be found out if they screw up at any stage of their relationship with people. Comcast had a similar reputation in the US to NTL/Virgin in the UK: the ISP equivalent of Ryanair. Or at least it was until one bloke in their minimal customer service department realised that he could cut through the bureaucracy and speak to people directly and in a human voice on Twitter. Google ‘comcast customer service’ and this is in the first three results. Markets are conversations, and marketing is customer service
  25. 25. So if brands are just the sum total of all the conversations that they are involved with. and content is just information, and all information is free to Google and to the Single Big Computer that all our screens are going to peer into, and media is no longer scarce and it is now attention that is valuable. This is why really nearly free is now a viable business model. IBM for example used to be in the computer business. As we’ve seen, there isn’t much value producing hardware any more, so they moved to the consultancy business. And a lot of what they do is given away by an research organisation called the IBM Institute for Business Value. This is all research from top level academics, that would cost thousands of pounds a few years ago. By giving this away, their content reaches the attention of more potential customers than other consultancies. They develop reputation and authority. In the past, we were what we owned. Now we are what we share. Closer to home, anyone in a media agency who has tried to present social media to a client soon realises the value of sharing. The only robust global survey on social media usage was conducted by Universal McCann. Rather than
  26. 26. locking this expensive research away for their own clients’ use, it has been widely shared to planning bloggers, and distributed to agencies round the world. If I try and present any facts about social media to a client, I will refer to our competitor’s market leading research, and position Universal McCann as the authority on social media. So if image isn’t enough to create business advantage any more, and both the production and distribution of media are close enough to free to be done by anyone, how do you stand out enough to build reputation? How about looking at what isn’t abundant? Creating experiences. Standing for something. Being generous. Orange Rockcorps connects worthy causes with willing volunteers (whether they are digging a hole or playing at the Royal Albert Hall), it connects music fans with live music, it CONNECTS. It puts the brand at the centre of a network – enabling the network, creating experience and doing good.
  27. 27. Listen to what people want. Enable it. Commit don’t campaign, and remember communication is a two-way process. So what can we learn from the most expensive marketing campaign in the history of the world? From the moment he became the Republican nominee, McCain focused on one thing – making sure he had people’s vote on 4th November. Obama on the other hand had been asking for people who supported him to give $10 since the start of 2007. The 4m people who did remained in contact through email, through the campaign Ning network mybarackobama, and via Twitter, Facebook, etc. When
  28. 28. the time came to ask people to come out and vote, there were 4m people ready to make 5 phone calls each to undecided voters when they were asked to. The campaign didn’t need to rely on overworked campaigners, just millions of volunteers doing a little bit each. And those donations that started them off meant that the Democrat campaign could outspend the Republicans by 3 to 1 in battleground states. (and do something different for half an hour of mainstream primetime television, as the future isn’t evenly distributed yet) There’s lots of people out there who know a lot more about this than me – these are some of the ones whose ideas I borrowed, mashed up, expanded upon and generally stole. Conversations start with listening, so listen to what these people are saying before conversing with your clients!