It’s absolutely likely that social media would not remain the same by the turn of this decade. Things are rapidly changing and the “industry” of social apps and social sites is reaching its maturity. There is enough evidence to support the fact that social media would probably be dominated by passive content consumption rather than active social interaction in the next decade. Why I think like that? Well, the idea of social interaction has shifted basically from one-to-one communication to one-to-all broadcasting. To see how this is shaping the next generation of social networking, we need to look at content objectively. Now, it doesn’t necessarily mean that social media is not “social” anymore per say, but here are a few things that I observe in today’s social engagement style:
- Post Visual Content: In early 2010s a new movement began as all social media platforms started adapting to more visual content like infographics, images, videos etc. The increased volume of visual content greatly contributed to the user time spent on the sites. By 2015 Facebook has started feeding auto streaming videos to us. Its addictive and very fascinating. Its fundamentally different from YouTube since there you have to subscribe, search and click to watch a video of your liking. On Facebook you just have to keep scrolling down. YouTube might follow with something similar soon. In all, the visual content movement has given birth to a new social media engagement that is different from the past.
- Mainstream Media Influence: Like the early days of Television or cinema, where mostly amateurs were producing content to perfect their art, YouTube was a bastion for creative people like individual artists, vloggers, animators, gamers etc. With the rise of the term YouTuber, the production values of internet videos have significantly improved. However, mainstream influence has also started tipping the balance towards big production houses. In fact mainstream content generators have taken up much of the space on YouTube. T.V. shows are making content with the intent to make their clips go viral on YouTube. The whole debate around this is very well documented in this Fine Bros video:
- Passive Engagement: The video content on both Facebook and YouTube is becoming increasingly professional and more people are just sharing produced videos rather than putting their own status messages like they used to do on Facebook. This is clearly a transition from a social content to a viral content (read studio content). Hence the role of a user on social media is getting reduced to a sharer and a viewer. In many ways its like how we used to call our friends to tell them if your favourite movie was on some channel. Sure, it gives a more easy and streamlined way to distribute entertainment content but most other important stuff gets sidelined.
- Net Neutrality Conundrum: With many countries coming to allow zero rating plans, typical productions houses now see the best of opportunity in going digital. Sure we killed off Television but internet is the new TV! If there is a steady viewership on internet based platforms then entertainment companies are ready to pay millions of dollars to cater their content through an exclusive web where all the independent content creators, bloggers, YouTubers and website owners are just cut out. The idea of a multi tier internet is just that. Why not we just make an internet data spectrum and divide it for different uses like we do with telecom industry? Wait, that’s what is happening. The whole debate around net neutrality is simply because of the confusion between ‘Free Internet’ and ‘Keeping Internet Free’. Why not just fully devise the idea of ‘Free Internet’ for delivering passive content and call it an upgraded version of Cable TV?
Whatever the future holds for us, only time will tell. So far internet has only taken more and more commercial route and the revenue model of the internet is mostly advertising. If social media keeps evolving in this direction then we can probably see it become just like television with only a few exceptions. However, if new purposes are found in creating social interactions online then we can hope to see the definition of engagement change.
Do you think that the motivations behind online social engagement are becoming more obscure by flooding of entertainment content? Let me know in your comments below. Try out my book Social Giraffe To Social Seller: A Pocket Consultant on Social Selling Basics. I would also appreciate if you give us a thumbs up on Facebook page.