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Nostradamus and social media

I've been in conversations lately in which people predict that social media will prove to be a marketing folly – a waste of time and money better spent in other channels.

This may or not be true.  I don't know.  I'm not sure even the great 16th Century seer could give us guidance.

However, I do believe that the way in which we'll use this medium in the future will be very different than how we're using it today.  It will evolve in ways we cannot yet see, and in doing so will become more useful for marketers.

Why do I believe this?  Sometimes the past can give us a clue to the future.

Back in the late '90s, and even in the early 2000s, the way in which agencies and marketers used the web bears no resemblance to the way in which we're using it today.  First of all, dial-up was the dominant access method, so it was unrealistic to use rich images and long-form video (the dominant form of interactive marketing today).  Second, we were very inexperienced in this new medium, so we treated the web as a one-way, broadcast version of a brochure.

Back in the 2000s, there were breathless predictions about the advent of interactive television.  The battle for control over this new form of marketing was being defined by the set-top box – the source of viewer interaction.  Or so we thought, until recently when we began witnessing the emergence of "second-screen" viewing, in which viewers interact with broadcast content through a smartphone, tablet or laptop.

In the case of the web, we couldn't see a near future in which broadband would change the online experience, and how the web would evolve from a broadcast medium into a service channel.  And as for interactive television, we didn't see the iPhone coming.

The moral of the story is that we should not define a medium's future potential based on our current practices and the current state of its technology.

So will social media evolve into a powerful marketing platform?  Probably.  But not in the form in which it exists today.  Savvy agencies and marketers will test, learn and be ready for what comes next.

Oh, in case you're wondering, @Nostradamus has 1,449 followers.