When Things Matter More than People

The Internet of Things is beginning to drive the tech industry and soon the marketing and media sector. You need look no further than this year’s CES to see the trend unfold. At the same time, social media is losing luster in the eyes of traditional technologists and marketers.

Before we get into that, let’s discuss the Internet of Things trend. The Internet of Things incorporates Internet capable sensors into many objects in day-to-day life, including current electronics but also new unthought of ones (like refrigerator magnets).

iStrategy Labs’ Peter Corbett recently noted that Internet of Things trend was becoming a powerhouse in marketing: “If you’re a communicator and you’re not at least conversant in what’s going on in that space you’re at a dramatic disadvantage. With this technology you can build anything from a James Bond style bookshelf opener to a Spongebob Skill Crane that you can play with over the Internet.”

Silcon Valley investors like Marc Andressen are focusing on start-ups that leverage sensors. And with good reason. The market opportunity for this new layer of smart things is huge.

From a marketing perspective, the Internet of Things allows incredible new possibilities for precision. Connected ads allow brands to serve content based on someone’s demographics as determined by their physical body or the data they willingly surrender via social media, mobile phones, and web cookies. Unique applications can be created (like pizza delivery by pressing the aforementioned refrigerator magnet), or apps like Nike’s sensor-driven Fuelband.

Really, we are just beginning to learn how the Internet of Things can be applied to marketing. It will certainly allow a level of personalization that heretofore had only been imagined in science fiction novels (and believe me, I do have a related novel concept brewing).

This kind of precision demands a new series of capabilities, including the abilities to analyze data, and deploy relevant products and content. This skillset group — from marketing automation skills to data analysis — is in great demand within corporate marketing departments.

That’s why young professionals looking to break into marketing would be wise to learn data analytics, and its application to customer segments, lead paths, and yes, conversion. The data analyst is this decade’s lucrative position in marketing departments. Social media, well, it’ll get you a decent job, but not like this.

The Social Star Loses Luster

I have a sneaking suspicion that 2013 will be remembered as the year that social media marketing peaked as a trend.


While still the stuff of social media expert conversations, marketing blogs seem repetitive, and industry publications like Advertising Age are moving on.

It’s not a big surprise, afterall 73 percent of online adults in the United States now use at least one social network site. Really, the only big things that happened last year in social were private messaging (which seems like a reaction against public forms of social media) and video social networking.

It’s not that businesses won’t continue spending on social or that PR people/community managers will be out of work. Far from it. Social isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it’s a primary driver of data needed for contextual media and word of mouth trust. Social remains a valuable asset for companies.

It’s just that, well, social media marketing is not new anymore. You could argue that companies are in the learning phase, but last I checked they were still determining how to build a decent website, too.

Plus companies just seem to fail when it comes to connecting with people online. The native advertising boom acknowledges that brands would rather pay to play than do the hard work of scaling social media communities.

Such is the way of things. What goes up, must come down.

What do you think?

You can learn more about the Internet of Things at xPotomac this February 28! Use my first name as a discount code to get 20% off.

Featured image by catalysis_comms.


  • Great insights here, Geoff. Oh, and Happy New Year!

    As a PR guy,
    I’ve been cheering for “symmetrical communication” approaches since the
    scholars began to promote them back in the early 80s. The idea was to
    listen carefully to the stakeholders and to humanize/personalize
    people’s relationships with organizations and brands. This required
    organizations to adapt their behaviors to better align with needs of
    customer and society. A tad idealistic, to be sure.

    The Cluetrain
    Manifesto was a “holy shit” moment for many of us. It got us all
    thinking differently and experimenting with new ideas — many of which
    unfolded before our eyes (and sometimes with our help) over the past

    But that nagging question about social media never went away: Will it scale?

    the “Internet of Things,” the idea of personal connectivity loses
    ground to mechanized and largely one-way solutions. It takes us back to
    the idea of “scientific persuasion,” which has long been the M.O. of
    marketers. I agree that social isn’t going away, but I get the sense
    that most marketers and most CEOs would rather just push buttons and
    hope that behaviors follow.

    It feels like a step backward. But as you point out: Such is way of things.

    • If there is one thing I have learned in my years, it’s that most CMOs/CEOs are always looking for the easiest fastest answer. In that sense, they tend to ignore customer good will for short-term revenue, and that can ultimately lead to secondary and tertiary market position, if not overall failure. If you treat people like they are fast food customers, sooner or later someone will make a better burger! That’s why connectivity still has value.

  • Geoff,

    Today’s consumers are so used to things evolving at lightening speed that it seems only a matter of time before SoMe becomes So Ho Hum.

    The Internet of things is something else. While I can appreciate the convenience that we get by companies using Big Data, I also find it a little scary/creepy that some entity knows more about me than I might know about myself.


    • This is going to get very creepy before it is said and done. There will be many a strange story that will be told in the news, and many a blog damning companies. Sounds like social media to me ;)

  • Pingback:CES: the buzz is going to be Internet of Things, enchanted objects and looking beyond social media « GREG SWAN

    […] Livingston says the marketing industry is pivoting from social media to the Internet of Things, and he’s completely […]

  • Hi Geoff!

    Love this post because I have just had two exchanges recently that had me thinking ‘Brands failed with Social Media’. First is the autoplay videos on Facebook Mobile. Second was an agency trying to take a client from me by pitching push marketing on Facebook via Pages while poo pooing Twitter as a dying network and when I asked our peers some said ‘I don’t use it as much because no one talks on the network anymore, it’s just posted links’.

    I don’t think social is dying from a human to human stand point. I think we all talk to each other just fine on the channels. And we use them more. And there was a point in 2011-12 when we actually had brands talking with us and building loyalty. Until the beancounters realized doing that on a mass scale takes lots of people. Marketing has always been the little stepchild to direct sales. Most products to consumers (cars and homes excluded) really can’t afford to pay someone to knock on a door. and being social is knocking on that door.

    So what comes next. And what you bring up sounds logical. It sounds like the technology is now here or coming, and going back years there was the everything connected dream of even appliances in your life connected with the net. So why not marketing?

    • I mean, it gives brands a great opportunity to provide something of value, a great relevant branded experience. Isn’t that the holy grail that everyone is looking for? I think so!

  • I like your suggestion about young professionals learning about data analytics. I truly think data analysis is timeless. I recent told my son-in-law, who is a software developer, that I chose to go away from learning the “latest programming language” about 15 years ago. Instead, I focused on ensuring my apps rested on a solid foundation of good data.

    Programming languages will come and go, but data will always have attributes, behaviors, and relationships. Whether you are looking at it through the lens of some of the awesome analytic tools out there (canned and ad-hoc), or whether you take it a step further and learn how to model data, you will have a fruitful career!

  • Customer service, relationships, etc., are still the most important.

  • Pingback:Monday Roundup: Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

    […] 3. When Things Matter More than People […]

  • Pingback:When Tech Goes to Main Street | ChangingMedia

    […] the rise of the “Internet of Things,” a term used to describe new technology that embeds internet capable sensors into everyday […]

Comments are closed