We live in transformational times and nowhere is this more apparent than in the worlds of digital and social media. The last few years have seen a revolution in the way we communicate and any one person in the world can now have an amplified voice. The question I was asked is “what is the future of digital and social media”. I think the answer can be summed up like this: The future IS digital and social media!
The ability to share music, the written word and video online, coupled with our ability to access that material anywhere and all the time, has changed not only how we communicate but the value we place on that material. With regards to traditional media, the old standard involved media companies or PR departments controlling a single message and broadcasting it to the masses. To be heard you needed advertising dollars and the people with the biggest budgets could have the most influence over the people who received the messages. That influence gave an advantage to a relative few through TV, magazine and billboard ads for example.
Everything has changed now. We don’t rely on any single source to get our information or to help form our decisions about what to buy, or what to believe in, and we all have the power to be an influencer today.
So what will the future in this area look like? I think social media has amounted to a democratization of meaningful content. There are few barriers to raising your voice today and millions of people, who would otherwise have been silenced, are creating amazing content worth hearing. Of course the level of noise overall will only increase with no shortage of poor content but the cream will rise to top through word of mouth. Great bands will get heard, thought leaders will develop audiences and innovations will gain traction.
This space will continue to become more competitive to be heard or noticed so we can expect a rise in creativity in the digital space. People will gravitate to a fresh idea or approach to sharing information and new innovations will emerge. In fact I think this is already happening exponentially. That is why they say there are no social media experts; the minute you understand where the trends might be, they can change the next.
Influence in the world will move further away from who has access to traditional distribution channels (like TV and radio) to the new influencers. Companies, who will always want to be where their customers are, will look to align themselves with people who have a high number of supporters, followers and “likes”. Without much choice in the matter companies will become immersed in social media as they do what they can to increase their number of followers and acquire more influence. You see, the“buy-in” to social media is only just beginning. Once all companies realize there is power in being connected online, digital media innovations will change immensely as competition dictates they must.
We used to have to be at home at a certain time to watch afavourite television show. We used to wear out records from our favourite bands because we had to buy our music and access was limited. The flood gates have now opened and we consume TV, music and a whole bunch of things differently and the business models that support those industries are crumbling.
There will be over 12 billion devices (iphones, blackberry’s tablets etc.) in the world by the end of 2013 and we carry these with us constantly. Our access to information and our own accessibility has never been greater and so the future of digital and social media will be limited only by the imagination of people with an idea to share. What can be said with some certainty is that the old way of doing business is over.
Dave Carroll, co-founder, Gripevine.com