Friday Dec 27, 2013

How Social Media Plays Into the Innovations of 2014, Pt. 2

lightbulbIn a previous post, we began pondering what the big areas of innovation might be in 2014, and how social media is either the driver of those innovations or an essential part of them. Today we delve into Part 2 of our journey into the social future.

Drones & Robots

As the “Internet of Things” develops, will your refrigerator have a Twitter account? How else do you want it to tell you you’re low on cheese? More and more, our devices and appliances are taking the form of robots. These robots, from your heating & air system to your Roomba to that fridge, will be able to communicate with you. And in 2014, communication means social.

The word “drone” was secured into our vocabulary in 2013. Amazon plans on delivering packages to your home via drone in the next 5 years. DHL and UPS are testing their usage as well. And because they can be flown using GPS with no remote pilot needed, they’re basically robots in the sky.

The uses for drones are legion. Louisiana uses them to hunt down feral pigs. They gather storm info, do 3D mapping, track wildlife migration, apply pesticides and fertilizer to fields, hunt for missing people, report traffic and news, etc. Some misguided souls have already been arrested for using them to fly cellphones and tobacco to pals in prison. Good or bad, the FAA expects 7,500 drones or more in our skies by 2020.

Again, the data feeding these drones and robots, and the instructions to them, will no doubt come from social sources. You’ll be tracking those packages flying to your house on your Facebook mobile app. That fridge of yours will not only tell you it’s low on cheese, the grocery store follows your fridge and will prep your order for you.

The Collaborative Economy

Seriously, how often do you use that chainsaw you own? In the new collaborative economy, that chainsaw would join a collection of community tools managed online so members can get what they need, and only when they need it. This concept, being embraced by the likes of longtime social analyst Jeremiah Owyang, is being built on foundations of social connectivity.

The industry is estimated to be worth over $26 billion as people increasingly place practical usability over own-ability. One Berkley study contents that one properly shared car can eliminate the need for 9 owned cars. Airbnb contributed $632 million in economic activity in New York in just one year. Collaboration is, almost by definition, efficiency.

What’s necessary for collaboration? It’s the ability to easily make connections and easily conduct conversations of course. And we expect to see social’s use for collaboration purposes explode in 2014, both as individuals increasingly participate in the sharing economy and as enterprise organizations instill internal social network usage into their culture and use external social for collaborative product development with customers.

The Altered Enterprise

2013 has truly been a year of disruption for the enterprise. Consumers empowered by social are turning entrenched organizational, technological, personnel, and process practices on their heads. These changes are challenging, sometimes even scary. But perhaps the corporation was long overdue for innovation. 2014 will be the year those innovations will move from talk and speculation to real action taken.

The cloud changed IT’s world in short order. 60% of current small-to-medium businesses are using cloud services and 72% are virtualizing significant portions of their servers. Tech is gradually becoming marketing’s responsibility, as it’s increasingly used to achieve business objectives. The roles of the CMO and CIO are changing, hopefully into new productive partnerships. The cloud is how machines and systems can connect (at workable scale and cost), gather and crunch the waves of big data ahead, and make it practically available to end-users throughout the organization.

In 2014, those cloud-based marketing and CRM “machines” will get fully deployed. Finally, the wealth of customer data available through social will have a place to go. And it will have a purpose, used for customization, personalization and improved user experiences the likes of which have never before been seen. Much of the resulting value will be delivered to the customer over social.

And in 2014, the socially enabled enterprise will move from vision to accepted best practice as varied concerns like R&D, product development, human resources, sales, customer service, supply, billing, shipping, etc. all tap into social data for a unified, clear view of who they’re interacting with. We will finally, convincingly know our customers.


Probably most intriguing is the understanding that much of the innovation we’ll see in 2014 has yet to be conceived, either in reality or in the imagination. That’s how fast we’re moving. And if history is any indicator, social will be a driving force or key component.

Photo: Sufi Nawaz, stock.xchng

Friday Dec 20, 2013

How Social Media Plays Into the Innovations of 2014, Pt. 1

lightbulbNo doubt 2014 will be filled with tech innovations that alter our landscape, just as 2013 has been.  But how will social media’s role, be it as part of or as a driver of these innovations play out? Some educated speculation:

Wearable Tech

It’s not enough that people have technology, now they want to be the technology. Wearables look to be a $50 billion industry in 5 years. Sure some of it makes you look downright odd. But in 2014 people will get more comfortable sporting smartrings, smartbracelets, smartwatches, smartwigs, and connected glasses.

Why? We apparently have no desire to ever be “unplugged.” Our vital signs, our exercise achievements, how we’re sleeping, what we’re eating, our location, what sounds we’re hearing, how we interact with the “Internet of Things” (including our cars), will increasingly be collected, recorded, then often published on social. We’re social creatures who like doing life together. Today, we stay “together” via social.

Wearable tech is also about immediately available info. We want to know who’s nearby, what places are nearby, what their reviews are, how to get there, and what we can get if we go. We want all that within reach, no matter the place or time. Mobile social is already being built on these capabilities, with all the opportunities for brands that entails.


Speaking of mobile, with over 6.8 billion mobile users worldwide and growing, we’re already talking about laptops being passé just as we were saying the same of desktops. Be it for work or play, people want everything they use immediately in hand.

Mobile innovations will be less about new features (a phone that bends!) and more about the movement of more of our activities to mobile. Nielsen shows 38% of tablet users and 24% of phone users bought something through their device. The public is growing comfortable with that, and the social component of commerce will make such experiences evermore frictionless, timely and relevant.

Ad spending on mobile and the social that accompanies it will soar well beyond the $11.4 billion projected for 2013 as brands capitalize on the ability to reach out to those near their establishment, or to project a need based on mobile data. Understanding the need to offer up things of real and immediate value, loyalty programs will be big in 2014, with social used to drive and administer them.

More mobile apps will enjoy downloads, which hit 102 billion in 2013, up from 64 billion in 2012. With no more patience for poor mobile browser experiences, consumers will require a mobile app to do what they want to do. Once they have the app, comfort with making purchases inside of it will grow, projected to account for 48% of app store revenue by 2017. Many of these apps will have social components, and of course will be marketed via social.

At the root of all this mobile activity is the ability to gather invaluable big data on consumer behavior, patterns, interests, whereabouts, buying activities, customer service activities, and influencer behavior on their friends. “Getting it right” in 2014 will mean being able to get and activate this mobile sourced data

Wordless Stories & Data Visualization

Action movies do well in international markets. The dialogue is sparse, and the story can be followed even if you don’t speak the language. In 2013, imagery drove engagement. We saw bigger pictures, better pictures, using images to communicate the message, infographics, Instagram Direct for visual messaging, etc. Every platform dedicated themselves to more visual experiences.

2014 innovations will make creating such imagery easier than ever, and social will continue to make it easier to share those images. People and brands will get much better at understanding the best images evoke emotion.

The imagery movement will extend to data presentation in 2014. Beyond the clever infographic, the results of massive, often complex data crunching tell stories, which must then be presented in clear and memorable ways. If that isn’t done, the data and the potential lessons are wasted.

Most will tell you data visualization is downright hard, especially if you want personal, interactive experiences. Ask for big data visualization in real time and you really get puzzled looks. But in 2014 we’ll get closer to the goal in terms of tech and cost, able to funnel social data into those equations and use social to distribute results. Yes, even real-time interactive ones.

3D printing

Want an open-source 3D metal printer for only $1500? Michigan Technological University might have one for you. And that’s indicative of how fast prices are falling and capabilities are rising for individuals to turn software blueprints into real world items.

Studies show printer owners could save up to $2,000 a year cranking out basic goods themselves, and we’ve seen 3D printers make an array of amazing things like movie collectibles, medical applications, stronger & lighter jet engine parts, jewelry, albums, clothing, hearing aids…the list goes on. Complete plastic 3D printer kits can be had for only $250, so it’s not hard to see the masses getting into this game in 2014.

To help them, 3D print shops are popping up everywhere, with no shortage of object blueprints being uploaded every day from a variety of sources where they can be downloaded free and turned into solid objects. You can bet blueprint designers will be collaborating, designing and marketing on social, requests for blueprints will be made via social, blueprint reviews will be posted on social, and photos and videos of finished products will populate social channels.

Oh there are far more innovations on the horizon than that. And for every title with “Part 1” in it, there should be a Part 2. So touch base next week for this continued gaze into our social future.

Photo: Sufi Nawaz, stock.xchng


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