Before I even start this post, I must confess: I suck at future-casting. Case in point: I met Britney Spears shortly before she became hugely famous. After seeing her sing, I thought, "She's probably not going to be a big deal."
Obviously, I was wrong. As I have been on more predictions than I can count.
But that won't stop me from trying again! Here's what I think will happen in social media IN THE FUTURE!
1 YEAR FROM NOW Twitter will become even more niche-focused than it is now, particularly because they've started making friends with everybody's favorite thing on the Internet, censorship.
Facebook, meanwhile, will become more and more central to our online experience, deepening their connections throughout the Web. Fewer sites will require you to create a unique login and more will allow you to use Facebook as your universal key to access their sites.
Coming on Facebook's heels will be Google+, which is also working to become the central part of your online social experience. I feel like it'll take them longer to get a foothold, though, so they're going to be a much bigger force…
5 YEARS FROM NOW Sometime in the next five years, I imagine there will be a BIG privacy snafu with Facebook that'll be significant enough to drive a lot of people away from Facebook, and Google will be waiting, with open arms.
Google has a key advantage over Facebook: it is generally good at taking risks, then listening to their users and learning from their mistakes. With their intensified emphasis on supporting startups, we're going to see even more innovation coming from their side of things, and I think it's safe to say that social networking as we know it today will look radically different five years from now. (And if you don't believe me, just think of where it was 5 years ago.) It'll be even more effortless, pleasurable, and integrated into daily life, and I think it's more likely Google will bring us that experience than Facebook.
10 YEARS FROM NOW
So even if these predictions don't materialize (and I'm really hoping the last one won't!), I think it's safe to say that things are going to change a lot. The leaders in the industry are going to dance around each other, and new players will come on the scene and dominate unexpectedly, whether briefly or for a period of years.
What all this means is that platforms don't matter in the long run. Technology doesn't matter in the long run. What does matter, amid all the changes, is that organizations be open-minded and anticipatory, adapting their strategies to use these new technologies effectively. That'll help in the short run, at least.
But in the long run, what matters goes even deeper than that. In my mind, the best thing these platforms have to offer is to give you a much better picture of exactly WHO your donors, members and prospects are. Anyone who knows even a little bit about marketing knows the central tenet is to "know thy audience." What better tool to accomplish this than to cull the data you can gain from social media?
You can do this in a few different ways: by listening to people discussing various keywords related to your cause, by listening to people discussing your organization, or by looking at and aggregating the data surrounding your existing donors, prospects and members.
No matter how you do it, though, the important thing is that you're using social media for more than an end in and of itself: you're using it to inform your broader strategy as an organization.
Your future donors and members will be online. Period. Now is the time to figure out what makes them tick.
What are your predictions for 1, 5, and 10 years from now?