With attention spans reduced to 140 characters or less in the contemporary, high-tech era, it's no surprise that lists have shortened.  It won't be long before end-of-the-year 'top 10 lists are reduced to 9, then 8, then 7, ... until they disappear altogether.  However much I may enjoy the Village Voice's 'Year-End Film Poll' and Pazz and Jop Poll, once you get to 'The Last House on the Left' 'and Nine' on the former, and Abe Vigoda's 'Reviver' on the latter, I think it is safe to say that it's time to start cutting.  Getting to the point, in this installment I begin a two-part series (how's that for short?) on 'top 5s for social media' - with a look to future social media trends.  Next up, a look to the present (I know that sounds backwards), with some advice on how to advance a social campaign today.  Conveniently enough, both topics come in the form of simple five-point bullet lists.

FIVE TRENDS THAT WILL SHAPE SOCIAL MEDIA 

Some intriguing insight into the near future vis-a-vis evolving technologies and social media provided at The Next Web.  Let's face it, however smart we may be, predicting the future is still pretty tricky business, and Marshall McLuhan's much-quoted future-thinking acumen, still applies: '. . . we tend always to attach ourswelves to the objects, to the flavor of the most recent past.  We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future' (Ray Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near notwithstanding).  Given that caveat, TNW's list, with useful commentary provided by PSFK and Paul Marsden, is more than interesting, and I believe their predictions fall within the timespan of plausibility.  Here are the trends, with verbatim commentary lifted from the aforementioned sources:

1.  Identity will become embedded in devices
Imagine this: your social media identities (Twitter username, Facebook profile, etc.) will be entered as part of the initial process of setting up your new devices, and will be propagated into all applications. You no longer will need to enter your Twitter or Facebook credentials to access related functionality on mobile applications – instead, they will seamlessly access your profile. The recently rumored Facebook phone offers an example application.  Paul Marsden suggests that this possibility will provide an opportunity for smart app-based loyalty programs and deal feeds that use social media identities to personalize communications.  Of course, the transition from paper to electronic couponing is well underway and the conversion of the portable device into a credit card reader has become a reality, but embedding identities, albeit threatening from a privacy perspective, takes these developments to a logical next level.  PSFK illustrates this first trend by envisioning a typical product thusly:




2.  Online sharing will become embedded in media life

With social identity embedded into the devices we use daily, social sharing will become an integral part of the way we enjoy media on our regular TV’s, DVD players and music players. These devices will evolve towards all being Internet enabled and allow us to share likes, links and personal commentary. Remote controls and store shelves may include “like” buttons which autopost to Facebook, while music players will sync preferences to preferred identity.  Disney's buggy ABC.com Full Episode Player (FEP) is a start in concretizing this trend, providing greater intimacy for the TV viewing experience. 

3.  Location will be embedded in all activities

Location aware devices will employ pre-emptive use of location to alert the user to things or people nearby that may be of interest. Four-square writ large.  Users won’t have to check in to a place to see if their friends are nearby, as their device will automatically alert them. This trend bears particular implications for marketers, enabling them to provide consumers with value in that message and offer – and not just another annoying discount offer that they will eventually tune out if it becomes an onslaught.  Individual targeting is clearly a trend I think we can all agree on for marketers, for whom broadcasting no longer makes sense.  From a personal perspective, we can only hope there is a clear opt-in aspect to this trend, so that consumers can decide where, when, and for whom they willingly can be located.  In more cases than not, more than I need to know is not always better and persistent targeted messages from marketers can get annoying pretty quickly.  But these personal tics aside, Paul Marsden intriguingly inquires about this potential scenario:  'Opportunity for a new breed of tuangou group buy offers, bringing together real time flash mobs to buy in bulk in store?'

4.  Smart devices and web apps will automatically check in and post updates

Identity aware devices, empowered by embeddable RFID tags, will allow this type of technology to spread beyond the mobile phone. A smart coffee thermos, for example, could enable automatic check-ins and send coupons to your phone as you enter your favorite coffee shop.  This is going to be the nuclear explosion in the coupon business. 

5.  Social networking will redefine how large organizations communicate

Large organizations have always struggled to share knowledge across multiple teams, divisions and geographies.
Social media inspired design patterns applied to existing enterprise software and/or intranets opens up opportunities for collaboration on an unprecedented scale. Employees in large organizations will finally be able to find colleagues with knowledge or experience they could benefit from. Collaboration will no longer mean simply sharing documents and version control, but the ability to find colleagues by shared interest and collaborate seamlessly in a multi-channel environment.  To some extent, this echoes, but also advances Tapscott and Williams' Wikinomics ideas.  As TNW points out, at present, current examples of this fifth trend include disruptive innovators like SocialText, Yammer, Podio and SocialWok.

In summing up, TNW suggests that what links these five trends into the big picture is convergence, as in traditional media (TVs, radios, etc.) becoming social media devices, corporate intranets becoming private social networks, and so on.  All of this, of course, is being powered by ongoing developments in consumer generated content and content creating tools.  No question, the future is now.