When the tip of a limb is repeatedly used, it is strengthened for even greater advancements — AMCan we forecast the future of social media? What about going out on a limb to illustrate innovative ways of seeing this field? Chris Brogan just posted “The Future of Media”, but it was not his intention to talk about the future of human connections between those media. In this post, I am going to use a few case studies to point out that right now is the "future" of social media. 

Social Media Pioneers

There have been several examples where companies were not afraid to leverage their own social media platform, but I'll raise a few key case studies here to keep it simple. Dell created ideastorm, which was a relatively pioneering forum where buyers’ feedback eventually reached the customer service department, which in turn improved products, services and consumer satisfaction (This evolved into Dell's Social Media Command Centre).

Starbucks can also be credited as one of the pioneers of opening corporate PR practices to customer feedback, implementing and managing the myideaswebsite, which has led to several products. Let us not forget though, the pioneer in companies leveraging social media, as discussed by Paul Gillin in his book “The New Influencers” (2007), is Microsoft. They unleashed a powerful yet simplistic blogging policy on their employees in 2003 (pg. 103 – 112), which simply mandated, “Be smart”. Vic Gondotra called the experienced blogger Robert Scoble, and in a nutshell, they started improving Microsoft’s brand. Admittedly, Microsoft was fighting to fix their public image after the monopoly antitrust case, but nevertheless, Microsoft is the Pioneer when it comes to going out on a limb and opening up to customer scrutiny and feedback.

Exceptions to the rule

I am backing up a statement here that claims we are already in the future of social media. Well, it has to be said, there are always exceptions to the rule, but the counter argument can not be: "Well, if social media is evolved then how do you explain users breaking community rules?" The reality is there will always be members of a community that bend or break rules.

Companies and some individuals are guilty of sending out begging messages to get more followers. I also know of some users who leave their Twitter account to send out automated tweets through a scheduled application, pushing blog entries, and automatically managing followers. However, this does not mean social media is still in its primitive phase. These kinds of digital network behaviors will not go away. There will always be the user type who will bend the rules, and there will always be a user begging for more followers.

Here’s another truth about social media that does not mean it is in a primitive state. Managing corporate feedback forums is not a perfect system. The amount of traffic could be minimal and worse, the small amount of traffic that is streaming is SPAM. Some forward thinking professionals even see company branded communities as expensive ghost towns. Corporate/branded online communities are the exception. I would point to Dell, Starbucks and Microsoft as successful corporate/branded communities that thrived. Notice the past tense on that, we have been there and done that.

Conclusion

Based on the pioneers mentioned above, I believe that we are already experiencing the future of social media! There are still many late-adopters who refuse to look at the benefits of this field, and there are always challenges and rule breakers, but social media as an industry is very well versed and experienced. Microsoft went out on a limb back in 2003, and we’ve been bouncing on it ever since. Do I think there is a lot of room to grow? Of course, social media and web-network technologies will grow immensely over the next two years. Web based platforms have that obvious fluid tendency of getting bought and sold faster than cars! I just like the idea that we are already experiencing the "future" of social media and wanted to share that with you.