Having just celebrated another decade this weekend with a large party I was reflecting on the things that have changed our everyday lives the most over the last decade and what changes the next decade will bring. As I remember all the photos and videos that were taken at the party that will be replayed via Facebook and other social networks I believe that these networks have been the most pervasive internet phenomenon that have fundamentally changed how we share information and how we travel.
We can now keep in touch via our “Facebook walls” and skype, google and tweet each other – verbs that did not mean much a decade ago. We can now check in before we travel and carry hundreds of books with us on our ereader or kindle which are changing even the weight of our luggage. We can now do so many things on the move and multitask on our web enabled phones 24/7. So what will the next 10 years bring?
As the number of Facebook users rumbles on towards 600 million, I’m now even hearing predictions from those like Thomas Power at Ecademy that we will soon be banking with the likes of Facebook. Ecademy was one of the first online business communities to start up at the beginning of the decade and I remember organising for their Amazon speaker to share their future vision of online retailing which has now largely taken shape.
You might think Facebook as a bank is a bit far fetched but if you believe in the value of trusted networks then you can see how it might come about. We all know that for many high value purchases we rely on advice and recommendations from our friends and we are now seeing a raft of sites such as Trip Advisor and mobile applications such as Foursquare which enable us to do this 24/7 on our phones, I can see the beginnings of the location based applications which will change how we buy things not only on the web but instore as the web and the real world come together and as wifi becomes more pervasive and reliable.
We will see the proliferation of interactive applications as we travel which will invite us to engage with brands in new ways that reward us as customers for our engagement with them. We will also see the proliferation of social networks for business as networks like Linked In start to gain momentum. Witness the number of businesses large and small now using Twitter to give their customers updates on the latest new product launches, virtual discount vouchers for coming back to their shop and for sharing feedback on their shopping experience. Applications will encourage customers to become their virtual product development department as they test their latest applications and product and new service launches. We will be able to pass a button on our phones to send feedback on our shopping experiences. We will also be using our mobile devices to connect with our data 24/7 on the move as “cloud computing” grows exponentially.
We can already see airlines such as Jet Blue using Twitter as a rapid response customer service unit. We will also see brands reaching into online networks and related communities as publishers of these networks look to monetise their high value content. Transparency is likely to differentiate all this activity from the last decade. Rather than situations and issues sorted behind closed doors which we read about later in the press we will be able to witness the events as they unfold. We will even take part in them, as the media starts to engage the public to get involved in the creation of news.
So how will we deal with this? We will need some very empowered staff, short chains of command and a good social media policy to deal with this transparency challenge. As I celebrate my next decade I will probably be reflecting on how I ever ran a business without the global social networks that we have seen multiply over the last one as they become the pervasive force for not only sharing experiences with friends but for doing business in the next decade.