Smokey Robinson wanted a lifetime of devotion from his girl. Mark Zuckerberg wants the same from you, his product user. Of course, what’s at the root of that desire isn’t the quest for unconditional love like Smokey’s. No, Zuckerberg’s (and his brethren of techno-genius competitors’) focus is strictly profit driven. And, as is often the case in the world of our social media giants, that drive for dollars begets innovations, conveniences, pleasant surprises – tastes of honey, if you will – many wonderful, until, maybe, they aren’t.
Our future social media use is, right now, in the process of being foretold by – our present social media use. Our search engine queries and patterns have been collected for some time. Our habits and preferences, dutifully recorded somewhat more recently. All of that data, when processed, can act as a prognosticator, giving our social network honchos accurate indicators of what we might be expected to do in the future as users of their service. Now being added to that existing trove of pattern and preference information is sentiment analysis – how we feel about things.
The recent expansion of available emoticons with which to express your feelings about posts on Facebook? I’ll wager most users saw that rollout the same way I did at first, as a well-intentioned reaction to user feedback that it seemed inappropriate to “like” a post heralding bad/sad news, yet a thumbs-up was the only available option of acknowledgement. So we got new little yellow faces – happy ones, sad ones, impressed ones, angry ones, etc. Now we can click a proper response to our friend whose dog just died, or our prolific Hillary/Trump-hating neighbor, or our co-worker who just bought a new car or took a fabulous Hawaiian vacation. Yay! Facebook listened and gave us what we wanted! Yet the reality is, with a scientific number of clicks on those emoticons, we also are telling Mr. Zuckerberg’s techies that we have a soft spot for pets, lean hard to a particular political side, and, best of all, might be interested in a new car or a beach vacation ourselves. Cue the increase in pets, politics, and ads for fabulous travel.
Standard YouTube License
It’s predictive – even manipulative – but it’s okay. We like those things. Our user-experience is heightened. Our social network of choice is giving us what we want, never mind that it’s reciprocal. We are semi-wittingly giving our part-time digital life assistants information that allows them to finesse us in their ultimate quest for
world dominance cash.
My predictions for the future of social media have nothing to do with new networks, technological leaps or advanced gadgetry, though those will, no doubt, be many. They are simply that we, the users, are going to be fantasmogorically finessed into spending even more time exclusively inside our social networks by ever-and-ever-smoother user-experiences as we communicate, consume and create content, shop, etc., in exchange for the information that proclaims exactly who we are and predicts with striking accuracy what we will do – all of which will help the honchos monetize the works. The future of social media is about money.
I believe more extensive “onboarding” information when signing up for a network will become the norm. A profile photo and specific demographic and psychographic information will be required. Subsequently, emboldened by predictive analytics, marketers will shift even more creative effort and ad dollars to digital networks since they’ll be able to reach more exact target audiences. Social platforms will become increasingly legitimate news sources. Auto-bots built right into content management systems, and, worse, robo-journalists, will be creating and seamlessly distributing well-tailored content. Maddeningly, the intrepid, aging professionals who successfully made the transition from traditional to digital content production will ultimately still be felled in the all-consuming quest for shareholder return. (Is there a “bewildered” emoticon to click here?)
In the classic song, we don’t know if Smokey wound up with the girl or not. In the social digital future, Zuckerberg and friends will get the cash.
Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism – http://digitalnewsreport.org/publications/2016/predictions-2016/
BBC iWonder – http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/zthd7hv