Social media is the new normal. Social platforms are ubiquitous in people's private lives, and an understanding about social media is increasingly a basic requirement in the labour market.
We asked three European social media consultants about the field's current and future trends. And what about social media as a learning environment?
Miranda Bishop: Social media is going visual
Miranda Bishop (image above) runs her own social media consultancy business, Talking Social Media in Cardiff, UK. For her, video is the biggest trend of the moment, in the UK and also globally.
According to Bishop especially live video is changing the way we take in information. The above-mentioned Periscope and Meerkat, and Facebook Live Streaming are offering flexible ways to broadcast live feed.
Bypassing outdated education platforms
Social platforms are traditionally seen as gateways to learning experiences -blogs, tutorials, webinars and such. However, they increasingly act as learning spaces themselves. Bishop mentions her partner, a lecturer in Graphic Communications, using a Facebook group to disseminate all class notes.
-The university systems are clunky and under-used, so Facebook offers a good alternative.
Bishop also sees much educational potential in the social media video trend. Learning from a video is very close to learning from another human being in a live situation.
-Let's imagine you need to teach ICT skills to a group. A screen capture video surely is much more effective than, say, written tutorials!
Technology defines the future
For a taster of the future of social media, Miranda Bishop looks no further than upcoming technological advances.
-Social media is dependant on the technology that drives it. I think the big social platforms will be disrupted heavily when wearable technology such as Apple Watch or Google Glass (computer-eyeglasses) becomes more commonplace.
Big platforms such as Facebook and Twitter base much of their business on mining data from their users. In Bishop's analysis this will lead into social media becoming more data-driven.
-Shopping will become smarter, with social media reflecting your purchase history, your friends’ purchase history and what television shows you watch on your smart tv.
Piritta Seppälä, from Finland, thinks the future of social media is in images and videos. Apps like Instagram and Snapchat are the winners in this trend.
Photo: Ilona Savitie
Piritta Seppälä: Big attitude shift
Piritta Seppälä helms her social media consultancy Viestintä-Piritta in the Finnish capital Helsinki. Certain global trends take their time arriving in the Nordic country, as high-tech as it is perceived to be. Working with businesses and NGOs, Seppälä still occasionally bumps into old-fashioned attitudes, in the vein of: "Why should I care about Facebook: I don't need people to know I just popped into the toilet!"
Seppälä is happy to witness a big shift in attitudes, however, as social platforms become a natural part of organizations' communication to their customers and stakeholders.
-Social media is more than just another communications channel. It is increasingly used as a two-way dialogue tool between organizations and stakeholders. It’s a good idea to monitor what is said about your organization online and participate in that discussion!
Learning with social media: the educator makes or breaks it
Seppälä is convinced that social media applications can aid learning, provided the educator can use them correctly. Learners, including distance learners, can set up their private discussion groups on applications such as Yammer or Facebook, and share documents and images.
-The educator must nevertheless make sure that all shared content serves the learning aims and people are motivated to contribute. Many learners may still be reluctant to use social media, especially the more unfamiliar platforms, Seppälä points out.
Monitor your social media impact
In the future, Seppälä believes, we see a fragmentation of social media, with new applications springing up, young people adopting them quickly, and older generations holding on to familiar ones like Facebook. At workplaces, platforms for internal communications proliferate.
-Most importantly, organizations will increasingly measure the impact their communication is having online, and adjust their messages accordingly.
Consultant Antonio V. Chanal looks at social media from the business point of view.
Antonio V. Chanal: Social media enables growth hacking
Madrid-based consultant and educator Antonio V. Chanal works with companies to drive sales through social media. An online presence since the early days of the Web, Chanal also advises public authorities and municipalities.
For him, the most significant current trends are companies using more sophisticated content marketing tools and growth hacking.
Growth hacking is marketing with the foremost aim of fast growth, but often not using traditional marketing tools. Growth hackers often rely on social media instead: a famous example is the vacation home rental company Airbnb. The company used the classified ads website Craigslist to find listings of houses for rent and reached out to the renters to ask them to place their ads on Airbnb instead. Consequently, Airbnb went viral almost immediately.
Chanal stresses the importance of having active relationships with one’s social media followers
-I make sure that I never lose communication with my followers and the companies that I manage.
Applications teach us about human nature
For Chanal, social media is a constant source of learning about human behavior.
- Applications will do what we have programmed them to do. What interests me are the human reactions in these applications, he says.
According to Chanal, people seek above all recognition, applause and self-esteem in social networks. Using social media to amplify these motivations is a powerful tool for marketers and communicators.
-For example, reward an active member of your networks with a public acknowledgment! This builds commitment to your social media channel and your organization, Chanal advises.
The future is in tailor-made marketing
Antonio Chanal’s forecast of the future echoes that of Miranda Bishop. Social media continue to gather data about our “likes”, consumption and following preferences, making personal, custom-made marketing possible.
-The time of powerful social marketing is soon here.
In Three voices we look at a topic through three expert viewpoints.