Think Liquid

Originally published on July 16th via the Buzz Bin.

Now that the book Now Is Gone is completed and speaking engagements have begun, I am often asked what the future of social media will look like. Even though my Mom’s a nationally syndicated astrologer, forecasting the future seems to be dangerous ground. Perhaps science fiction would be the right genre. However, if there was one take-away from Rich Becker’s Thursday post, it was to step outside the box a little and provide more insights. So here we go.

The future of social media will be dictated by the community’s rapid adoption of new media forms. As we know, change occurs dynamically in online communities as new applications develop. And marketers are a twitter, but only because their communities behavior has changed. Relationships must be maintained. Currently, there’s several hot, hot social media networks and technologies, including Facebook, Linked-In (again), Second Life and microblogging formats.

3845-w520Things are going to get even more dramatic as telecoms move to deliver 2GBPs of throughput to consumers in diverse environments. If video’s possible now at 500 Kbps (give or take), what’s going to happen when we can access massive amounts of bandwidth anywhere?

It’s going to be amazing. Second Life and other virtual worlds won’t be clunky, and new social applications will develop. Virtual reality environments will become a serious concern (for those that can tolerate the media form). Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash vision may be realized in full. At the same time other media forms may remain static… and popular. It depends on what the community wants.

However, as “webolution” continues, it will be increasingly important for marketers to avoid getting bedazzled by hot media forms. We’ve seen them come and go. Excite, Prodigy, AOL, Friendster, MySpace (fading, but still relevant) and increasingly Yahoo! are brands of the past. Therefore, professionally we cannot get too focused on specific technologies. Why? Because they will evolve, change and in some cases disappear. Instead, marketers need liquid fluidity in their thought processes and approaches.

Thinking Liquid in a Dynamic Environment

Social media continues it’s march forward (Kyle Flaherty had a great piece on social media evolution last week). As this process continues to unfold and communities evolve, their information needs and consumption of media will evolve, too. To remain relevant, marketers will be forced into a constant adaptation process. They will need to be liquid, moving with their community.

Change will continue, and it will likely maintain its current brisk pace, if it doesn’t move even faster. So blogging may go micro, podcasts may change form, video may go 3D, social networks may rise and fall, RSS subscriptions will become more or less important…

With increasingly diverse and changing marketing environments, successful marketers will focus on social media principles rather than tactics. In turn, those who cannot or won’t change risk irrelevance. Basic social media principles can serve as guidance no matter the environment. By relying on principles and thinking liquid in tactics/approach to meet the media form, marketers can best serve their communities of interest over time.

Basic Social Media Marketing Principles

These principles have been well discussed on this and other blogs. Nevertheless, collectively they are the basic rules for successful social media marketing and PR. Comments and additions are welcome. Here we go:

  1. Do not try to control the message
  2. Honesty, ethics and transparencies are musts
  3. Participation within the community is marketing (Heuer)
  4. Communication to audiences is an out-dated 20th century concept (Rosen) Marketers must take a community approach to social media
  5. Use social media to build value for the community
  6. Inspire your community with real, exciting information, not corporate propaganda
  7. Intelligently manage your media forms (RSS, frequency, etc.) to build a stronger, loyal community

If marketers and PR line managers approach social media change in this fashion, I believe they will be able to evolve with ebb and flow of webolution. However, if we get stuck on a certain social media form or a way of doing things, change will likely be a tumultuous experience.

P.S. Yes, I know BEA’s current ad slogan is Think Liquid. Similar concept, different market and application. In that sense, it was meant to break IT silos and leverage APIs. In the marketing sense, Think Liquid means remain flexible to embrace the constant change cycle of social media.

P.S.S. “Military tactics are like water. As water shapes its flow according to the ground, an army wins by relating to the enemy it faces and adapts to the conditions of the environment and modify his tactics according to the enemy’s situation.” – Sun Tzu

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