Thinking Social / Value

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Want to Predict Social Media’s Future? Follow the Youth

Last year at Social Media Week 2012, Social@Ogilvy hosted a panel on social media trends. The panel, which consisted of several of us at Ogilvy & Mather, included John Bell, Lauren Crampsie and Jordan Berkowitz, among others. This event was unique in that we discussed where social was moving in 2012 and beyond.

There were mentions of Instagram, Socialcam, Pinterest and many other platforms as being unique platforms to the social Web. But the question that got the room really interested was when moderator Gemma Craven asked the group, “What will be the top four social networks next year at this time?” I remember many, including myself, stating the usual suspects: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+. But when formulating the answer, I also took into account two behaviors within social that made me include in my answer the Tumblr ecosystem. Why? One was that of the emerging visual social sharing Web and the other was looking at what youth were using and talking about in terms of social sentiment. These observations came from a combination of analytical insights, observing consumer behavior via design thinking methodology, and personal use. Those tools should still be used in this day and time of 2013, when your business is trying to determine what areas within social you should inhabit.

Many in the audience were curious as to why I chose Tumblr, since no brands were utilizing it that much. My answer was that the user base was younger and the platform fit into the mold for many who were both left- and right-brained. Those who enjoyed being creative, as well as curious and inquisitive. The masses of the population who enjoy tapping into creative intelligence. This past week my prediction was confirmed when various polls noted that Tumblr has passed Facebook in terms of popularity with the 13-25 age demo.

What this usage means going forward is interesting. Because this past week, global brand IBM (cl) launched a visual experience on the Tumblr platform entitled IBMblr to showcase innovation. Furthermore, many other brands seem to want to redesign their websites to have the look and feel of a Tumblr and Pinterest, if not simply using the UI of Tumblr to power their website altogether.  Recently, Social@Ogilvy was named one of the platform’s A-List agencies in terms of utilizing both the platform and the analytical dashboard for the network. We feel creative things will continue to occur in social, and that many platforms will power the evolution of the social Web now being a place where the following four characteristics are of upmost importance to the User Experience (UX) on any brand campaign:

  1. Social by design sharing abilities across cross-platforms are key. Can your content be shared anywhere? Remember, people are on many platforms in this day and age, so content living in a “destination everywhere” universe is important.
  2. A full social dynamic. What do I mean by full social? Where creative and social blend to create a unique experience. 140 characters and text updates will always be with us, but the ability to support GIFs and video as well as text, quote, links and audio are of prime importance to the creative canvas. Tumblr allows the import of any number of other social platforms, and isn’t creating a walled garden, but going in the opposite direction toward an open universe. This ties into the “remix ideology” of UGC, where users will take your content and reformulate it into their own. Remember, the world of social isn’t simply passive observers anymore, but active participants in your brand messaging. This may be a headache to copyright lawyers, but is key to building brand advocacy.
  3. Analytics help determine Key Performance Indicators and ROI. Tumblr now has a built-in analytics dashboard and the ability to load Google Analytics easily to track traffic. Some platforms still miss key insights, so figure out where your home hub to distribute content will live. It can still be your website, which is the most easy to track, but should tie-back to point number one, in that it is social by design.
  4. Pay attention to youth trends to determine where social is emerging. Younger users on the social Web are much like younger followers of music and movies in pop culture. They’re early adopters, and what they use will probably tip to becoming used by others in due time. They are also digital natives, compared to the digital immigrants who created web 1.0 as we know it. This user evolution is how all platforms on social have worked to date in terms of adoption and popularity, if we look at the history of the social Web from the advent of Hyperreal to AOL chatboards to more modern-day technologies, such as Friendster, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and now Tumblr.

What platform will tip in popularity with youth next? What are your thoughts of Snapchat? Airtime? Spreecast, or another platform you are enjoying? Let us know in the comments.