How Future Social Networks Will Transform Marketing

In a recent white paper, "The Future of the Social Web," Forrester's Jeremiah Owyang predicts the social web will soon morph through five stages, wreaking havoc on the way brands market. Owyang states:

"Today's social experience is disjointed because consumers have separate identities in each social network they visit. A simple set of technologies that enable a portable identity will soon empower consumers to bring their identities with them ... IDs are just the beginning of this transformation ... Consumers will rely on their peers as they make online decisions, whether or not brands choose to participate. "

Portable Social Networks and Their Impact

Consumers will still use Facebook, LinkedIn and such, as they do today. What's different is that OpenID and similar capabilities will enable consumers to traverse the web, and have their networks flow with them. The implications are potentially profound.

Owyang points to a number of important changes which will be driven by portability:

  • Social networks will aggregate member activities and preferences and leverage this data with brands
  • Consumers will be able to expose all or portions of their personal and network information to the web sites they visit
  • Web sites will be able to use the personal information enabled by OpenID to personalize consumers web experiences
  • Consumers will visit web sites and know their communities usage, likes and dislikes, views of products or services, etc.
  • Social communities will feed data and insights about web sites, brand experiences, product and services, etc. to members on an as wanted basis.



My interpretation: Marketers must rethink how they organize and market their brands. This is because the future social web will make "portable" the opinions, insights and knowledge of friends -- which all research shows is much more trusted than any other information source--as consumers travel the web and interact with brands, products and services.

Implications for Marketing

  • Social Network Segmentation -- Segmentation will potentially move from traditional schemes to social networks. Not necessarily the group of friends an individual belongs to, but the aggregated set of individuals that tend to be like them based on habits, practices and preferences.
  • Focus on "Amplifiers" -- Influencers will become more important because they will be omnipresent. Amplifiers will become portable and follow their non-amplifier friends and inform them as they travel the web. Marketers must identify these amplifiers and develop programs to interact with and influence them.
  • Personalized User Generated Content -- Consumers will be able to see what their social network -- either their immediate network or people like them -- think of a given store, product or service, wherever they go on the web. Thus, user generated content will become more personalized--and more impactful. Marketing organizations will need to develop new tools to influence and monitor this new content.
  • User Experience Personalization -- Consumers will come to your website, along with a wealth of information about themselves and their network. Brands can use this data to personalize the experience, recommend products, etc. Brands which fail to take advantage of this opportunity will be at a disadvantage.

Owyang predicts all this will happen in the next four to five years. Personally, this feels a bit aggressive. But, there's no doubt that if the world above materializes, even in 10 years, marketing will be a far different place than today with far reaching implications for how brands market themselves. The time is now to begin thinking through the implications of social network "portability" and how the Marketing organization of the future should be designed in response.

6 comments about "How Future Social Networks Will Transform Marketing ".
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  1. Ian Hendry, July 18, 2009 at 12:17 p.m.

    A great summary of Jeremiah's report.

    Little doubt that Social CRM, where social networks merge with Customer Relationship Management systems, is the future. At the very least they offer the ability to ensure data currency, as your CRM system takes publicly available (and customer updated) profile information; but they offer much more too.

    We;ve already incorporated shared identity sign in into our site, supporting OpenID, Twitter OAuth and Facebook Connect, enabling a profile on our site to be "in sync" with that user's profiles on other social sites.

    Next in our plans is introducing the Social CRM element, which is due in September. We're looking forward to briefing Jeremiah on what we are doing.

    I am also enormously excited in what this convergence will achieve for marketing, business development and sales professionals alike.

    Ian Hendry
    CEO, WeCanDo.BIZ

  2. Daryl Pereira from IBM, July 20, 2009 at 3:12 p.m.

    Nice to see the implications for marketers that roll out of that proposed future of social networks.

    Whilst I largely agree, I do offer some obstacles we have to getting there:

  3. Marshall Clark from Organic, Inc., July 20, 2009 at 10:15 p.m.

    The concept of individual preferences piggybacking on OpenID is a powerful one and provides an interesting new perspective on the current BT/privacy debates. If you controlled your data completely, would you grant access in return for a more personalized experience? If so, to what degree?

  4. Tommy Liu from Supercool Creative, July 22, 2009 at 6:18 p.m.

    Once the general public learns to embrace OpenID there will definitely be some major changes in social networking and probably the internet for that matter. I imagine a big shift in online shopping, but my big wonder is how marketers can use OpenID to reach audiences.

    Supercool Creative > >

  5. Tommy Liu from Supercool Creative, July 22, 2009 at 6:23 p.m.

    And also, great analysis Mr. Beard, I will be referencing this article for my blog at the end of the week. Thanks.

    Supercool Creative > > - blog

  6. Randall Beard, July 30, 2009 at 5:30 p.m.

    Thanks for all of the helpful comments on the article. I suspect that one of the key changes "portability" will drive is a complete rethink of how marketing organizations are organized. With the increasing power of recos from those you know, and those like them, there will need to be a different organizational approach to managing and influencing these relationships. Like all major changes, experimentation will be important to defining the models which work best.

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