After attending a recent conference in New York and hearing some of the brightest social minds in the business and entertainment world discuss their ideas, one thing became very – painfully – clear: social media has reached its apex. It has peaked, and is already on the downward slope.
What was a bold and audacious movement a few short years ago has now become a slow, methodical trod toward the commonplace. Instead of continuing to iterate on social, it is time to leap forward. Social is now on a collision course to “jump the shark.” It would be better to go out in a brilliant blaze of glory – Sonny Corleone style – and allow its successor to take hold. This new “regime” is based on relationships, collaboration, and data.
Relationship: Quality not Quantity
The early excitement of social caused us to correctly focus the quantity of our interactions. Never before had we had the ability to interact with so many people. Think of it this way – you are in a sea of people. Early on, social media gave you the ability to stand on a platform above everyone else. Suddenly you were able to interact with the throngs of people around you. You were unique. Soon, others wanted what you had, so they created their own platforms. Now, everyone has one and everyone is speaking. No one is unique. Quantity is no longer working; so, in comes quality.
The idea of quality in relationships is not new. But what is truly exciting is to hear folks now talking about utilizing social in their ability to influence and interact with a smaller, but more rewarding group of people. This allows us to still capitalize on a wider audience than ever before, but the reward comes from the quality of these deeper relationships. It takes into account this notion of “contextual relationships” where we have influence and relationship in context; these are not absolute. Think of this like the rings of a “bulls-eye” – you have an area of expertise in one or two things, a few things you are proficient in, a few more things you interested in, etc. You are not influential 2 or 3 rings out, but you have quality relationships with people of similar interests in the center of that ‘bulls-eye.”
Social media 1.0 has been based on some dialogue, but it is mostly a monologue. There has been little true collaboration between influencers and audiences. Our next big leap forward will encompass some notion of both public and private discourse and collaboration between people who share common interests. Thus far, social media has enabled sharing an idea and then commenting back. Until now, that has been an exciting interaction for people who never before had a voice that was heard or engaged with.
Now, however, groups of people want to take that a step further and find an easy, intuitive way to co-create or collaborate on ideas in a collegial setting. We no longer want to rely on having people in the room with us – social media has shown us how to find similar people in any location. We want that ability to share and iterate on ideas with people in real-time and around the globe. We want to move our passions from talking about something to solving something.
Everyone is talking about data; “big data” has become a big buzzword. The power of the data comes from the wealth of digital fingerprints available now that we have moved our conversations and interactions online. More online conversation means more data to uncover. There is tremendous need to bring appropriate – if not personalized – content and conversations to the right people, at the right time, and in the right format.
We all want something – from shoes to cheap sources of energy, from balancing a checking account to the nearest really good taco stand. Uncovering what people want and helping to bring that to them is a powerful and compelling goal. Where we will see great leaps forward is in being able to uncover that data, quickly and efficiently, and make smart analytical use of it. Getting the data isn’t hard – sorting through it and make sense of it is a real challenge. One which smart organizations are already thinking about uncovering.
Bringing It All Together
There is no lack of smart people out there in the current social media space. There are still some interesting changes being made to our existing social media platforms. There are some new social technologies that have real promise. But there is a stagnation that comes with maturation of the space. We need some big thinkers around relationships, collaboration, and data to really shake things up again.
Interested in learning more about big leaps forward or where I did find that really great taco stand? Follow me on Twitter @toddmwilms or connect on LinkedIn. I would love to collaborate with you on these ideas.
This story originally appeared on Forbes.