To Understand the Future of Social Media, Look to the Past

To Understand the Future of Social Media, Look to the Past

Over the past 15 years, social media has evolved from a small online niche into one of the most powerful marketing assets a business can get its hands on. With this significance comes a need to understand where the future of the industry is going. After all, the only way to thrive at social media marketing is to stay on top of the game.

Back to the Future with Social Media

The good news is that you don’t have to conduct a lot of in-depth research to understand exactly where the industry is headed. A simple look backwards will tell you everything you need to know about the future trajectory of social media.

In December 1968, American engineer Douglas Engelbart addressed a room full of computer developers in San Francisco. He asked them the following question: “If in your office you as an intellectual worker were supplied with a computer display back up by a computer that was alive for you all day and was instantly responsive to every action have, how much value could you derive from that?”

Engelbart went on to demonstrate how, with a simple mouse on a screen, he could operate a word processor, copy and paste text, and search for information. While the development of such a system was still years away, Engelbart’s demonstration provided a glimpse into what the future of computer systems and a hyperlinked network of information would one day look like.

Well, here we are in 2016, and we have far superior technologies, but the takeaway still remains. There’s value in looking to the past to understand the future.

This same concept holds true when you look at any technological field – social media included. We can study past and current social media trends to understand the direction of the future.

Two Trends That Will Continue

Comparatively speaking, the history of social media is quite shallow. Some trace the origins all the way back to 1978, while the first major social networking sites didn’t appear until 2000. However, over the past few decades, we’ve experienced two major trends. And, without a doubt, these two trends will dictate what will happen in the coming years.

1. Increased Emphasis on Visual Content

Social networking is becoming more and more visual by the day. Just take a look at the evolution of popular platforms: MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, Persicope, etc. Each platform is a little more visual than the last.

In the future, the vast majority of all content that’s produced and shared will be visual. This will further blur the lines between what’s real-life and what’s online. This is why Snapchat has been so successful. As entrepreneur Sujan Patel says, “It has become the closest social medium to emulate real life.”

2. Perfect Distribution of Relevant Content

The second big trend we’ve seen – and are currently experiencing – is the perfect distribution of relevant content in real-time. Social networking used to feature chronological displays of content that users could then manually scroll through. Today, these platforms have proprietary algorithms that determine the content you want to see and deliver it to you when you want to see it. In some cases – such as with Periscope or Facebook Live – it’s delivered as it’s happening.

Putting it All Together

Take a look back and you’ll clearly see the direction we’re headed. Cory Bergman, co-founder of Breaking News, puts it best, “When news breaks in the future, it will be covered by a multitude of eyewitnesses streaming live video. These streams will knit together into a single immersive video, enabling the viewer to virtually experience the event in real time. For better or worse, the world will feel like it’s right around the corner.”
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