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Where Social Media Will Take Us in 2013

These four trends show just has fast technology and social media are evolving -- and how you need to respond.
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As the year ends, I’m amazed at the major changes we’ve seen, especially in the social media space. As I like to say, embracing change is optional--but, then again, so is survival.

There are four primary trends at the intersection of the newest technologies and the latest social media tools. We’re already seeing their power, and market leaders and influencers are already reacting to them.

(1)   You Are What You’re Interested In 

The year 2012 confirmed that hyper-personalization is here to stay. Marketers absolutely know who you are and where you are, so what’s left to explore? Simply, what you’re interested in--what you’re interested in doing, buying, seeing, selling and voting for, among other things.  Hence the advent of the Facebook “want” button (now being tested by the likes of Victoria’s Secret and Neiman Marcus) and Facebook’s acquisition of gifting site Karma. From a data-capture perspective, tracking gift-gifting is brilliant: You get high-quality current data about the interests and tastes of both the donor and the recipient, with lots of rich demographics to boot.

Similarly, the rapid rise of digital scrapbooking encourages millions of consumers to spend their time and energy telling us what they’re interested in, what’s hot, and what’s not. Sharethis.com tracks content shared socially by consumers in order to target their interests. It’s all about intent data and anticipating purchase behavior. The key word here is anticipation.

(2)   Know Before They Know

We want to know, before our customer or consumer does, what they’re thinking and where they’re headed, so we can “skate to where the puck will be,” as Wayne Gretzky used to say.  Chango.com tells businesses where their prospects and customers are “looking” rather than landing - which seems so slow and old school.

Think of these technologies as creating the shifting sands of selling. High-tech marketers are able to configure and change what we see on the fly.  Targeted, precise offers will be waiting for us the first time we visit a new site, courtesy of Chicago-based Local Offer Network.  Personalized pricing for virtually any product is already a fact of life on hyper-active shopping sites such as Safeway.com. Orbitz.com recently fessed up to sending hotel offers that were roughly 11% more expensive to consumers visiting its sites while using a Mac instead of a PC.

(3)   Real Time is More Important than Real Place

Virtually distributed labor (“wiki-work”) will be possible on a global scale to an extent we can only begin to imagine.  Workers will be accessible and employable in real time, regardless of place. Location will become increasingly irrelevant for one’s employment prospects.

 An equally important part of the wiki-work phenomena is the likelihood that we will recapture millions of hours of previously lost or unproductive “scraps of time.” This will permit under-employed target populations (such as stay-at-home moms or place-bound retirees) to find opportunities literally at their fingertips--wherever they may be. 

(4) Who You Know Matters More than What You Know

And finally, on a less happy note, I’m afraid that the biggest blowhards will continue to roll right over the brightest bulbs. Reach--who and how many you know--will prevail over relevance--what you know.  As far as I can tell, Klout.com and the other early entrants into the influence space care about the size of your mouth and your megaphone, and are ignorant of the value of your message and your actual connection and meaning to your theoretical “audience.”  We’re slowly starting to see that “the crowd is crap”--good for assembly, but crappy for content and editorial. The only outside input that really matters comes from people we know and those whose opinions we actually value and respect.

We need more niches.  If you want to see a vision of where we’re headed, check out Kumbuya.com and start a tribe of your own today. And have a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

IMAGE: Chun-Teh Chen/Getty
Last updated: Dec 28, 2012

HOWARD TULLMAN | Columnist

Howard Tullman is the CEO of 1871 in Chicago where, at the moment, 260 digital startups are building their businesses every day. He is also the general managing partner of G2T3V, LLC and Chicago High Tech Investors – both early-stage venture funds; a member of Mayor Emanuel’s ChicagoNEXT Innovation Council; and Governor Quinn’s Illinois Innovation Council. He is an adviser to many technology businesses and an adjunct professor at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management. @tullman

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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