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Beyond Social Media: What’s Next?

As NST’s director of social media, I have a deep, dark secret: I’ve been remarkably uninspired by social media as of late. Don’t get me wrong, I still firmly believe in its importance and power, but have limited excitement over the latest bells and whistles or up-and-coming social media darling. Frankly, understanding these technologies is the easy part of social media. What’s always made me curious is not the tools themselves, but their cultural, social and business relevance, and the driving forces behind the technologies. It’s these factors that allow companies to work thoughtfully and strategically within the social media space.

Social media is now so deeply woven into the fabric of our environments that it is no longer the unexplored game-changer it once was. No longer is it just the savvy, early-adopter businesses that are paying attention. It’s all businesses. Remember when Time named “you” as its person of the year as an indicator of the rise in power of the consumer? That was way back in 2006 and a lot has happened since then. So as I read a recent story in Forbes about Snapchat and its 20-something, privileged founders who balked at Mark Zuckerberg’s $3 billion offer for the company, I found myself wondering not only whether their tale would end with a lesson in hubris, but more importantly: what’s next?

Having come off a recent binge reading spree, I thought about stories that have caught my attention recently, and they all have a common thread: using not just social media — but technology in general — to change the way we live, work and play, and ultimately to improve our lives. Robert Scoble and Shel Israel have coined the phrase“ Age of Context,” which represents the convergence of five forces: mobile, social media, big data, sensors and location-based technologies. Wearable technology is but one example of something that – as a category – reflects a larger cultural shift with relevancy not only to businesses but to society overall.

WIRED magazine called wearables a “new device revolution” threatening the very existence of our smartphones. In fact, the magazine says the wearable revolution could take hold faster than the mobile revolution and offer more value to users. “Wearables will know what users want before they want it,” according to the magazine, and the next iterations are poised to blend fashion and technology. Wearables are but one example of the “Internet of Things” – a concept referring to the increasing number of objects connected to the Internet (San Diego’s Qualcomm is a driving force in this). From cars to washing machines and watches, these new connected devices offer contextual information and rely heavily upon data, something that is feeling as ubiquitous as air these days.

Harvard Business Review recently wrote about “Analytics 3.0,” which moves beyond the era of big data (Analytics 2.0) to a time where data-gathering and analysis is applied to the products and services customers buy. “Today it’s not just information firms and online companies that can create products and services from analysis of data. It’s every firm in every industry.” Analytics 3.0 is therefore a reflection not just of a tool, but a societal shift.

At NST, we’ve always focused on integrated efforts. We’ve never viewed social media technologies in a vacuum; however, the universe of considerations is getting larger by the minute. It’s within this larger digital space — and the social, business and cultural underpinnings — that my interest is increasingly sparked, and where businesses should be keeping a watchful eye.

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