Today marks the beginning of Internet World, one of Europe’s largest expos dedicated to internet technology and business in all its many forms. I went there in order to pick up a few pointers about social media and how to implement a business strategy surrounding all this new hoopla; but I ended the day figuring out more about people and the way the industry will operate in the future more than anything else.
Overall, I thought the day was definitely worthwhile. I got to hear a few speakers present (unfortunately missed out on the Commercial Director of Facebook UK’s presentation…showed up 45 minutes early – which was still way too late to get in: note to organisers, it should have been a keynote presentation), and listened to a lot of sales pitches from various companies that weren’t really offering me anything I wanted to hear about. Highlight of the day? Playing with an iPad of course!
But seriously, here’s five things that were reinforced by going to Internet World 2010:
1) The revolution isn’t a fad – Social media is here to stay, period. In fact, within the next few years it is going to become so ubiquitous that it will take on certain qualities of invisibility. As one of the speakers was saying (@amayfield), we are still in that stage where everybody is talking about it at conferences and running about not really sure what to do with themselves; but before too long it will be as commonplace as television.
When this happens, we won’t be able to comprehend a marketplace that exists without it because it will become part of every aspect of business and our personal lives as well. More importantly, this isn’t just something that is going to change the way we do marketing – it’s going to impact every department and every discipline. Even outside of the strictly for-profit world of commercial business, the effect is going to be monumental and vast new areas of expression and possibility are going to open up. Get used to it, and more importantly learn as much as you can – because those who do will be those who are able to excel over the next five to ten years.
2) iPad-like devices will instigate a massive paradigm shift – Don’t get me wrong, I have many reservations with Apple’s iPad – too numerous to mention in this short piece – but I am absolutely certain that devices like it will bring about some truly monumental changes to various content industries (particularly publishing). The mainstream audience is now ready for such a device to become a central component of their living rooms, and therefore their lives. What this means isn’t simply a digital place to store old material. It means a need for vast amounts of new innovation in the areas of content creation, and particularly the manner in which such content is put together into a user-friendly, intuitive product.
Magazines and newspapers, in particular, will be amongst the first to see this massive paradigm shift – with things such as 3D-rotational product advertisements; animated imagery; embedded audio and video; and many other recent media innovations being implemented into a tactile, intuitive touch-screen interface. It’s going to be huge once this ball truly gets rolling.
3) Many social media gurus have no impressive content – Let me reiterate that actually: most social media gurus know that you have no idea what they are talking about, and therefore don’t feel the need to have solid content. This is certainly changing, and is far better than it was two or three years ago, but I still see too many examples of people selling social media snake-oil. ‘What you need is more customer engagement‘. ‘Social media is all about joining the conversation‘. ‘It’s about taking your company to where the people are‘.
I have literally lost count of the number of times I have heard consultancy representatives spout such lofty statements. The problem is they rarely back them up with any solid, practical, knowledge about how to achieve such things. It’s all ‘organisation specific’ – which is certainly true to some degree – so you need to pay them lots of money to create a strategy for you…something which by the end of it, 9 times out of 10, you could have assembled an in-house team to come up with something just as effective – if not more so – because of a greater understanding of your company and what it has to offer. Don’t trust the snake-oil salesmen; they’re still everywhere when it comes to social media.
4) You need to be multi-disciplined to be successful – The roles of departments within larger organisations are now starting to see more overlap then ever before, and social media in its many guises is merely accelerating this process. If you want to truly be successful in such an environment, you need to understand marketing principles; customer relations; PR; content and asset management; technology trends and more.
Of course, you should still focus primarily on one or two aspects in order to truly become erudite in them – but its time to stop ignoring what other people are doing and start really understanding it. The jobs of the future are multi-disciplined, so start learning.
5) Things are starting to change REALLY quickly – For those within the technology industry, or us geeky types who like to keep abreast of such things, this last one will already be quite obvious; but it really is worth highlighting to end up this post. These innovations are occurring at such a rate that literally within 6 months your strategy could be out of date. At the very least, there will be aspects of it that by the time you truly implement them they will need an overhaul.
If you’re going to implement any kind of strategy to do with communications technology and multimedia then you need to understand this aspect over all others. The time of setting something up and just leaving it be is over; you now need to be constantly aware of new trends and emerging possibilities if you hope to compete on any real level. This isn’t a case of reviewing your strategy once every two or three years any longer – reviews should be happening at least annually, and before too long quarterly. Obviously, you can’t just invest huge amounts of time and money into everything new; but you need to be aware of as many of them as possible and ready to pounce on the opportunities when they become viable and worthwhile.
So those are some things that I learnt by visiting Internet World 2010 today, and I’m not even able to attend the rest of the expo – which in a way means that I’m already going to be behind the pack by the end of the week! It’s certainly an exciting time to be interested in these things, even if just purely from a commercial point of view (not to mention the massive impacts to health, lifestyle, society etc.), but its also more than ever a time when you have to be at the top of your game.
If you’ve got any thoughts about social media, or the future of internet technology in general, let us know by commenting below!