Looking Ahead

I’ve become desensitized to social media statistics.  “Mind blowing” reports don’t really seem to faze me anymore, Twitter’s and Facebook’s growth has become a given and the more frequently marketers use the word “organic” (I’m guilty), the more I think of shopping at Whole Foods.  Reports on the proliferation and adoption of social media platforms have become part of my daily news intake.  Twitter has become my news feed and until the population of Facebook overtakes that of another country, I will continue to observe social media growth with little fanfare. 

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that these statistics aren’t groundbreaking.  It’s just that the escalation of social media usage has become somewhat predictable.  Facebook has 40% more users than six months ago, Twitter now has 75 million accounts and the average number of tweets per day is 27.3 million worldwide.  As we spend more and more time in front of screens each day, access the Web on our smartphones and converse through status updates, it seems inevitable that social media will eventually become a fundamental form of communication, even more so than it is now.

But at what point does this happen and how will it affect the public relations industry?  We work and strategize to decide if and how clients should enter the social sphere.  If the current growth persists will we eventually operate in an environment where our concern is no longer if and how companies should get involved but how and where they should?  When social media is an integral part of every marketing mix how will that change the conversation and the role that PR plays in it?

For marketers, online content and the value it brings to consumers will continue to be paramount for building influence.  The digital world will become a content and capabilities battle – organizations with the most social involvement and with the right message will win, benefiting from the relationships built and transparency shown.  Tracking social media conversations and sentiment will become an essential element of news gathering.  Even now, monitoring social media can provide insight into the marketplace for both B2C and B2B companies, regardless of participation.

Journalism is an expensive proposition and one that is evolving as we speak.  Will it continue to survive in a social media world?  It’s clear that bloggers are not journalists and must not be mistaken as such.  Will an @reply from a top Twitter influencer one day hold as much weight as editorial coverage?  Already it is measured and often is a benchmark of success.  Social relations practices already exist, so will they grow as social media does?
   
E-commerce is quickly integrating our buying habits with our surfing behavior, making transactions quick and seamless.  Mobile Web usage is set to take off.  The growth of social media and technology is continuing to change how business happens around the world and I can’t help but be curious as to how it will transform marketing when it is a necessary and preferred means of communicating.

Contributed by Jim Fay.  Follow him @JGF3.