How the Future Social Web will Transform Marketing

In a recent white paper titled “The Future of The Social Web,” Forrester’s Jeremiah Owyang predicts the social web will  morph through 5 different stages over the next 5 years, wreaking havoc on the way brands market. In his summary, Owyang states:

“Today’s social experience is disjointed because consumers have separate identities in each social network they visit. A simple set of technologies that enable a portable identity will soon empower consumers to bring their identities with them — transforming marketing, eCommerce, CRM, and advertising. IDs are just the beginning of this transformation, in which the Web will evolve step by step from separate social sites into a shared social experience. Consumers will rely on their peers as they make online decisions, whether or not brands choose to participate. Socially connected consumers will strengthen communities and shift power away from brands and CRM systems; eventually this will result in empowered communities defining the next generation of products.”

Portable Social Networks

Consumers will still use Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and such, as they do today. What’s different is that OpenID, Facebook Connect, and similar capabilities will enable consumers to traverse the web, and have their networks flow with them.

The Future Social Web -- Transforming Brand Marketing ?

The Future Social Web -- Transforming Brand Marketing ?

The implications of this are potentially profound, given that ~50% of consumers now belong to at least one social network. And even more important, these “portable” social networks will bring data and knowledge that is more trusted than the content delivered via traditional marketing contact points.

Changes Due To Social Network Portability

Owyang points to a number of important changes which will be driven by portability:

  • Social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn will aggregate member activities and preferences and sell or leverage this data with brands
  • Consumers, using OpenID or Facebook Connect, will be able to expose all or portions of their personal and network information to the web sites they visit
  • Web sites will be able to use the personal information enabled by OpenID or Facebook Connect to personalize consumers web experiences
  • Consumers will visit web sites and know to what extent the site has been frequented by their community, what their community thinks of the site, product or service, etc.
  • Social communities will feed data and insights about web sites, brand experiences, product and services, etc. to members on an as wanted basis.
  • Search results will account for user preferences, habits, as well as the users social network preferences

My interpretation: Social communities will play an increasingly important, and perhaps even dominant role, in the future. Brand Marketers are going to have to rethink how they organize and market their brands.  This is because the future social web will make “portable” the opinions, insights and knowledge of friends — which all research shows is much more trusted than virtually any other information source–as consumers travel the web and interact with brands, products and services.

Implications for Marketing

  • Social Network Segmentation — Segmentation will potentially move from traditional demographic, usage, or needs based schemes to social networks. Not necessarily the group of friends an individual belongs to, but the aggregated set of individuals that tend to be like them based on habits, practices and preferences.
  • Focus on “Amplifiers” — Influencers will become more important because they will be omnipresent. Word of mouth theory posits that 10-15% of any population are “amplifiers”–consumers with unusually large social networks who also are on the leading edge of sharing new information. These amplifiers will become portable and follow their non-amplifier friends and inform them as they travel the web. The future social web will enable marketers to identify these amplifiers and develop programs to interact with and influence them.
  • Personalized User Generated Content — Consumers will be able to see what their social network — either their immediate network or people like them — think of a given store, product or service, wherever they go on the web. Thus, user generated content will become more personalized–and more impactful. Marketing organizations will need to develop new tools to influence and monitor this new content.
  • User Experience Personalization — Consumers will come to your website, along with a wealth of information about themselves and their network. Brands can use this data to personalize the experience, recommend products, etc. Brands which fail to take advantage of this opportunity will be at a disadvantage.

Owyang is quite bullish in predicting all this will happen in the next 4-5 years. Personally, this feels a bit aggressive. But, there’s no doubt that if the world above materializes, even in 10 years, marketing will be a far different place than today with far reaching implications for how brands market themselves. The time is now to begin thinking through the implications of social network “portability” and how the Marketing organization of the future should be designed in response.

11 Responses to How the Future Social Web will Transform Marketing

  1. Gail Nelson says:

    Thanks for the clear explanations and for adding your insight as to what it means for marketing execs. The social web and the semantic web are the next frontiers for marketeers. The timing is TBD, but I wouldn’t bet against that five year year timeframe yet!

    • beardrs says:

      Thanks, Gail for your comments. We are certainly living in interesting marketing times and I agree that the web is transforming many elements of the marketing model. Thanks for reading the blog.

  2. Thanks for this great analysis and dissection. Regarding the timing, the vendors tell me it’s too slow, yet the brands tell me it’s too fast. I went somewhere in the middle.

    • beardrs says:

      Jeremiah — I found your white paper to be a very stimulating and thought provoking piece. Thanks for developing the core ideas and, of course, I appreciate your feedback on the blog.

  3. jimholbrook says:

    Randall (and Jeremiah), does this mean the end of marketing (i.e. no more broadcast)? – if its all moving to p2p, then the new marketing is really customer service, pr, product innovation etc right? ‘authenticity’ becomes the new currency (vs ‘compelling’ messaging)….

    • beardrs says:

      Jim–Thanks for reading the blog and providing your perspective. I think we will continue to have tv and other marketing contact points, although they will change as well (e.g. tv will become digital, etc.), but I think as social media drives portability, this will just increase the relative importance of amplifiers and word of mouth. As for the value proposition, I think that a compelling benefit will always be critical. What’s changed in my opinion is that the web has made it far easier for consumers to understand if what companies are saying is consistent with what they actually do and how their products and services actually perform. Kryptonite locks could talk all they wanted to about the safety of their bike locks, but they lost all credibility when a video showed up on line showing a consumer picking the lock with a safety pin. No amount of advertising will overcome that kind of gap. Consistency will be key to being perceived as authentic. And authenticity will be important for consumers to trust brands.

  4. I found the discussion very informative but at the same time stimulating for the HISTORY, the PRESENT and the FUTURE.

    Makes us wondering, why should we continue paying advertising in the printed newspapers, printed magazines, TV and Radio at such high prices? Those MEDIA will be less important in the very near future. Several reason like i) Measuring ii) Responsiveness iii) two way communication etc. I run a tradinional ad and i never know (other than the sales) if I succeed. May be I have BIG success but low sales short-term.

    Also, it takes TOO LONG to prepare an ad and run it with the tradinional way. I am in the technology sector and 2-3 days is TOO LONG. We sell products that on the average will stay 2-3 days in our warehouse and after that, you loose money. SO SPEED is VERY important. Thus, again the DIGITAL/INTERNET MARKETING is the way to go.

    I am working on this PRINCIPLES OF THE NEW ERA in MARKETING and I am betting that as we go along, the NEW METHODS/TECHNOLOGIES will be more important. Will it be in 5 years or 10 years? With the Newspapers (Publishers) economic problems if they do not adjust FAST, we may see this time to be even less than 5 years (more like 3-5 years)

  5. […] Social Network Portability – Recommendations from people you know are increasingly portable. Facebook Connect and other similar capabilities are beginning to provide consumers with the perspectives of people they know as they traverse the web. Implications are large, as I covered in a previous blog post: How the Future Social Web will Transform Marketing. […]

  6. […] as I discussed in a previous blog post, “How the Future Social Web Will Transform Marketing,” Sidewiki will likely eventually also enable you to filter Sidewiki comments by people in […]

  7. […] with new social media and digital initiatives (for more on social media marketing, see “How the Future Social Web will Transform Marketing”). Social media has entered the traditional marketing […]

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