We get asked this question a lot….When I first started working in social media, it wasn’t actually even called social media. I remember everything was about building online communities and weblogs. Somehow the idea of creating small, focused, niche communities fell by the wayside with the emergence of Facebook and Twitter. With this new paradigm, brands also shifted their attention. As social media has become more main stream there’s been a lot of talk about “what’s next?” Or, even when’s the bubble going to burst?
I don’t think people will all of a sudden abandon social media, instead they will just contribute and consume differently. The methods are morphing all the time – for instance, instead of posting text-based status updates in social, there’s been a trend towards integrating text content directly into images. This type of update seems to be performing incredibly well, since they can be shared easily and tend to be funny or inspirational.
We only need to look to Millenials (and younger) and see how they’ve gravitated to Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr to understand why this works. I would even argue that the simply designed Reddit is more visual than other threaded forums, just based on the culture of this community and how they naturally share images. What I think is most compelling is the combination of imagery and relevance with images of places and people you know. My niece (who’s 14) feels a stronger connection to Instagram and the local community she’s discovered in #iger_seattle, than she does with Facebook. This emergence of image based communities aren’t entirely contained, they are also influencing social media overall. It’s no small wonder why Facebook bought Instagram. There are even off-shoot communities of Instagram, like Instagrammers, which just tracks all of the innovative uses for the platform.
As we ponder about the next big thing, it’s important to watch for ways people personalize, augment, and contribute in unusual ways. Ultimately it’s not about how the platforms work, it’s about enabling meaningful connections that allow for personal expression that build community – that sounds so five years ago!
What’s next is happening right now.
Erin Anderson is a Senior Strategist, Social Media at Razorfish. Follow her on Twitter and get a taste of her dog, Olive, love for music, design, and delicious foods