Where the social Web goes from here


It’s good to talk. The more people can reach out and find the right people and organisations to relate to, to discuss the issues important to them, to learn, to hang out and have fun, to contribute content and opinion and ideas, then the more satisfying they will find being part of society. I’m no sociologist, but it sounds like a good heuristic to me.

I stand by the assertion in my ebook on Social Web Analytics: “Ultimately, the Social Web has revolutionised communications massively and irrevocably, to the benefit of the consumer, the adaptive and agile organisation, and those who cherish an open society.”

Organisations’ engagement with the Social Web is still sufficiently nascent that it offers earlier adopters competitive advantage. And in the longer term however, it will be a condition of staying in the race.

Three amazing things

I’m posting today because three pretty amazing things have happened recently to catalyse this future; to extend the highly networked and Twitter-fuelled connectivity enjoyed by the minority today to the general population. I discuss these below, but first let me put this into context for those of you who not only have a FriendFeed, you’ve already fed it your BackType profile.

You’re not normal.

I mean that in the statistical sense of the word of course. My colleague Gemma and I presented the social Web to 250 would-be new PR consultants today at the CIPR Careers Day. Sure, they all use the Web and have a mobile phone. Sure, they all knew what a social network was. But only three had heard of Twitter; that’s about 1%. Many had not even appreciated why they might want to look after their personal brand in the social Webisphere, which was slightly disconcerting given their immediate or imminent priority is securing a job interview.

So how will this change? What needs to happen to get more people really connected via the social Web?

Well first off, it’s worth noting that whilst the first billion people connected to the Internet with their PC (or Mac), the first experience of the next billion will be on their phones, or phone-like devices more precisely. Moreover, small mobile devices are so much more personal and, stating the incredibly obvious, portable.

Let’s posit that three things must happen then:

  1. They must have a cost-effective small device, a smart phone or mobile Internet device or netbook, that will happily go for days without recharge
  2. The device’s operating system must be open, as opposed to proprietary, to encourage wide spread innovation, development and localisation (just like the Internet and Web themselves)
  3. The device’s window on the world, the browser, must also be open to achieve the same, but also capable of playing the Web’s multimedia content, such a vital component of the social aspects of the Web.

And this is happening. Check out the news:

Firstly, UK company ARM, whose intellectual property is already found in more microchips around the world than any other company’s, will soon be able to run PC-like operating systems such as Ubuntu, a distribution of Linux. Moreover, ARM’s approach to chip architecture means they need less power so batteries last longer.

Secondly, ARM’s membership of Adobe’s Open Screen Project means they’ve just announced the capability to run Flash multimedia on ARM powered devices (Flash is the software that underpins much of the Web’s multimedia, such as all the videos on YouTube).

Thirdly, Mozilla [disclosure… client], the organisation behind the world’s safest and fastest growing Web browser, Firefox, has unveiled the first look at Fennec, their mobile browser. Due for 1.0 launch in 2009, Fennec will bring similar advantages to small mobile devices that Firefox has delivered for bigger screens.

So, there we have it. 2009 marks the year that rewarding and engaging interaction with the social Web comes to a battery-sipping, highly capable and open, small form factor device near you. Marketing communicators take note; the ability for your organisation to engage in open, honest and engaging dialogue with more of your stakeholders is nearer than you might think.

Better get social.

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Click here for more about netbooks and here for a similar look at mobile Internet devices.

Image courtesy of Daniel F. Pigato.

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