Interesting guest post by Kevin Ennis full time marketer, sometime tweeter, who we featured previously here.

During the time that I’ve worked in Social Media and Digital Marketing, the landscape has changed dramatically. In recent times though, the rate of change seems to have increased. Platforms are increasingly moving towards monetisation and Facebook is starting to activate its enormous user base to change the way that businesses operate online. With this in mind, I’ve decided to write down my predictions for 5 changes that I envision over the next 5 years. While 2021 is a long way away in social media years, I predict some broad changes to how we communicate and consume online content. Here goes nothing!

Email will adapt or die

I would love to have entitled this section ‘Email will become obsolete’, but I’m not that naïve. Not because I think email will still be relevant in 5 years, but because I know that large organisations and public entities will struggle to accept this reality and react to it in five years. It’s more likely that by 2021 they will have seen this trend and will start putting the wheels in motion to change it, which will take another few years to implement.

One of the reasons I predict the death of email is because I don’t actually use it any more in a personal capacity, at least not for the purpose for which it was designed. Yes I use it to receive flight confirmation emails, promotional newsletters/ezines and to register for online subscriptions or services, but I can’t remember the last time I sat down and wrote an email to someone I wanted to communicate with on a personal level. Isn’t that what Social Media is for?

Now that Facebook has begun the evolution of Messenger and brought on board partners like KLM, it won’t be long before I no longer need an email address to book a flight, or subscribe to a service or book an AirBnB or shop online. Which leaves ezine/newsletters and marketing spam. Are we really going to keep our email accounts open just for that? Will marketing departments even bother with sending these types of communication when they can publish instant articles on facebook and/or engage in an actual dialogue with real live customers via social channels?

Still, having said all of the above, I have to acknowledge that I do receive and send an obscene amount of work-related emails every day. But with the emergence of services like Slack and the continued development of industry-serving capabilities through the likes of Google+ and LinkedIn, coupled with the improved capability in Messenger, it’s increasingly likely that companies will look towards using platforms that are better suited to their needs than email can be in its current format.

App store becomes obsolete

Facebook’s launch of bots on its Messenger platform not only impacts on the value of email, but on the service platforms engaged by organisations to sell their products or share their message. The KLM model which is still in its infancy shows huge potential in this area, meaning it’s pretty easy to envision a point where my Aer Lingus app will no longer be required. Likewise AirBnB, Uber and Amazon. Facebook has already trialled games in Messenger, so we can assume they envision a richer iteration of this somewhere down the line. In short, there will be very few requirements for apps when all of these features are available within a single platform without the need for the customer to download a separate single-purpose app for every service. Gary Vaynerchuk recently described this as Facebook ‘becoming a layer over the internet’ – in other words, if everything you want to access on the internet is available through Facebook, why would you ever venture outside of that platform? It’s an interesting concept and one I’m sure people will rebel against, but it does give a sense of where things are going and it seems likely that Apps won’t be coming along on that journey.

Live Video becomes more collaborative

This applies to Snapchat as well as Live Video through Facebook and Periscope. What we’re seeing now on all of these platforms is a generation of users who are a lot more comfortable with broadcasting their lives through video in a one-to-many environment. Recently I’ve found myself watching Snapchat almost like I’ve traditionally watched television, particularly when there is a live event happening that interests me. Snapchat and live streaming provide never-before-seen levels of access to behind-the-scenes content as well as fan/audience footage that give you more of a sense of being there than has ever been the case through television. However, generally speaking, what you see from the broadcaster is a one-person show. The one person on the business end of the camera is providing a monologue to the audience of many, and there’s nothing in the history of entertainment to suggest that this is a sustainable model. Sure, radio and TV often broadcast shows where there is a single host, but unless this is a stand-up show or a concert, these shows rely on collaboration, be it in the form of interviews, panels, audience interaction or anything else. Live video and stories face a bigger fight for attention than tv or radio have experienced, and this means that the demand for quality content will increase, meaning that broadcasters will have to provide a higher calibre of material. I believe that collaboration is the best bet for delivering this experience.

Secondly, live video and snapchat have rightly been praised for their ‘raw’ nature and the honesty of broadcasts. I believe that this makes Snapchat in particular an ideal platform for delivering theatre, for broadcasting a type of manufactured, even rehearsed type of so-called honesty. What I’m picturing is something like an episode of Eastenders, captured and delivered via multiple interweaving Snapchat stories over a 24 hour period, providing a more intimate portal for the viewer, who can choose to follow their favourite characters in close quarters over consuming the whole packaged story.

It may not happen in exactly this format, but what I’m describing is a more raw consumer experience that puts the user in control of what they consume, but which is also scripted and managed down to the last detail.

Increased regulation of live video capture

The increase in availability of Live Video feeds has resulted in an unprecedented level of instant access to live events. This has enormous implications for broadcasters who pay big money to earn the exclusive rights to show live events, and for those who record video to be sold at a later stage, such as concert DVDs. Watching live footage of a concert via Periscope raises two questions. Firstly, why would anyone pay for tickets to a concert only to spend the entire thing behind the screen of their smartphone recording the entire thing, and secondly, what must the rights-holders think about it? The first question is relatively easy to answer – we live in an era where popularity is measured in Likes and Viewer figures. In this world, someone broadcasting a live event to hundreds of viewers through Periscope is achieving a sort of short-lived fame that they desperately crave. The second is probably also easy to answer, in that rights holders are seriously unimpressed by this activity! Yet there seems to be very little they can do about it.

If you’re recording and selling a DVD you might reassure yourself that the picture and sound quality will be much higher. Don’t. The audience doesn’t care. For one thing, watching a live show for which you couldn’t get tickets is about as close as you can come to being there. For another, the time that passes between the gig itself and the release of the DVD means there’s every chance that the viewer has forgotten, or has no interest in paying for the DVD anyway. Not only that, but the quality of sound and picture from smart phones is improving all the time. It’s not going to work for every band, but watching a live periscope of the kind of gig where the audience observes a respectful silence is a very consumer-friendly experience.

I see this as an even bigger problem for sports. Generally speaking broadcasters don’t, or can’t, bid for the rights to show a live concert, but live sports broadcasting is a multi-billion dollar industry. The ease of capturing a live broadcast and sharing that worldwide has serious implications for these broadcasters, and you can bet that they will have the clout to force sports clubs to stamp out the use of live video recording equipment during matches in the future. This could mean that cameras are simply banned, as is the case in cinemas, or it may result in a more technical interference such as the blocking of Wifi or 4G signals to phones in the audience. Yet in a world where sports clubs are in the business of selling tickets I can’t really imagine them wanting to block communication entirely in this way. Regardless of how it is done, the vast sums of money involved in live sports broadcasting will ensure that regulation comes into place to maintain the value of their exclusive product.

New platforms focus on niche and retro

Facebook’s ever increasing domination of the social media scene doesn’t mean that new platforms won’t develop. As I’ve said before, I would anticipate that some people will want to rebel against Facebook’s potential monopoly, and I imagine that this will take the form of new platforms that romanticize the ‘retro’ social media. This will be the first social media generation who will be able to say ‘it was different when I was young’, and I believe that this will result in a raft of social platforms that attempt to get back to those ‘good old days’ when your social connections were made up exclusively of people you actually knew, where you didn’t share your entire life with relative strangers and where a level of anonymity was preserved. The increasingly rich media experience on the biggest social media platforms may be cause for people to long for the days when reading an article simply involved reading an article.

Niche social media platforms like Twitch for eSports will continue to thrive among like-minded communities who don’t feel the need to fall under the layer that Facebook has created, but their business models will continue to follow the successful monetization structure that Facebook has perfected.

And somewhere along the line, somebody will fondly remember email, the old favourite for one-to-one messaging, and will seek to revive it among like-minded communicators. And hey, there may even be an app for that!

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