The future of social media for marketers

March 28, 2014 4:15 pm Published by

Using Q&A forums can promote learning and brand awareness
You may not be surprised to hear that the internet moves fast. For a digital agency to be effective, they need to respond fast. That’s no easy task, so naturally a lot of thought goes to the future of social media.

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Trying to stay ahead of the curve, it was great to see The Guardian Media Network offer an opportunity to discuss the future of social media as a marketing tool.

There were a number of questions I wanted answers to, and the Q&A panel did not disappoint! Here are some of my highlights:

John Bannister:

As Twitter introduce App Graph with a big explanation of their new data collection activities, do you see greater disclosure of analytics collection practices being a part of the future of digital marketing?

Anna Lawlor, journalist, content creator and co-director of Social i Media:

The greater information disclosure is a fascinating – and vast – topic @JohnBannister. As mentioned in the article you flagged (http://www.theguardian.com/media-network/2014/nov/20/digital-marketing-trends-2015?CMP=new_1194), “there’s a whole generation of people that have no concept of privacy” – you’re right they are trading their ability to connect with people across geographical locations in a digital space at the cost of their personal data.

I was speaking to Rhys Williams at Taylor Vinters (international law firm specialising in tech) and he poses whether we are facing a watershed moment in privacy/data protection, specifically in response to this. He suggested to me that with drones flying all around us, filming us and soon delivering stuff to us, wearable tech companies gathering vast quantities of information about us – is it actually time to stop putting band-aids on the existing legislation and simply rip it up and start all over again?

John Bannister:

It really is a fascinating area. I appreciate the reference to the “generation of people that have no concept of privacy”, but this is likely to change. My behaviours and social media settings are very different from the way my 14-year-old-self set them up on Facebook.

Will this privacy become a coming-of-age lesson? As friends and family start to view you as less innocent and employers start to take more of an interest, will we all go through this?

Anna Lawlor:

Yes, I think that the teens (and tweens) of today will have a shocking loss of innocence as their lives mature and so much previously given information will live on online. Of course, there has been a lot of press about the ‘Right to be forgotten’ and the European Commission is trying to finalise a new Data Protection Regulation to be issued next year or maybe in 2016 (according to Taylor Vinters – I’m not a legal expert!). However, laws are one thing and cultural sharing practices are another; as @SamHaseltine says “would my mum care?” about what I say online.

So, to answer your question, there will be a coming of age element. However, for technology to be as enmeshed in our lives as we appear to want it to be (e.g. Fashtech, FinTech, FitTech, the Internet of Things), there has to be some element of corrosion to our understanding, up til now, of privacy and personal data for such technology to work. This is where we rely on our governments to ensure that such sensitive information is not and cannot be abused….But can governments be trusted either?

As an aside, you might be interested in a novel called The Circle by Dave Eggers, which explores a lot of these topics: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/09/circle-dave-eggers-review


John Bannister:

The idea of smaller companies being priced out of social media marketing is a bit scary. Do you think the marketing dynamics could be a factor of how users decide which networks to join?

For example, a platform could put a greater weighting on physical proximity in advertising bids to encourage adverts with conversions where people actually meet up with friends.

Tom Goodwin, CEO and founder, Tomorrow Group:

I think in all honesty there are not that many Networks to join with scale, we’ve basically got Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and then special interest groups like Tumblr, Quora, Reddit etc. I think “marketing dynamics” are not a big part of that choice. I think it’s interest based. We saw quite a few attempts at location based networks but they’ve never worked because quite frankly location isn’t that important to how likely you are to connect with someone.

John Bannister:

Yes, there definitely isn’t a great deal of choice!

Could I ask how you came to the conclusion that location isn’t important to users? Is that from the failing of location driven networks or from research? Whilst being nearby doesn’t encourage me to connect with someone, a vast distance definitely discourages.

Tom Goodwin:

It’s a general principle on the brands I’ve worked with that a hipster in Shanghai will have more in common with a hipster in Brooklyn and Shoreditch, than they will with a typical person 20 miles away. The internet has destroyed geography and allowed us to gather around things in common. While we have our old real life social networks, commonly for people who follow people on twitter, read medium posts, like pins on pinterest, upvote answers on Quora or follow people on Linked in, it’s what they say that makes you do this, not where they are located. I guess it’s different for different networks, Facebook is still about quasi friendship, Quora or Reddit is more about a connection of minds.


John Bannister:

On new platforms, users often struggle to see what the initial use is (Twitter, when it launched, sparked a lot of confusion and discussion) before settling on their own interpretation.

Do you see the behaviour of users being a valuable way to segment in addition to demographics?

Do the existing tools provide us with the ways to deliver content in the way our users want to receive it?

Uriel Alvarado, chief marketing and public relations officer, Saxo Capital Markets:

In Saxo we have been through a segmentation Journey. We started our segmentation based on product type, then moved to client type (based on ROI), then we tried a needs-based segmentation based on a survey on what they needed. Today we do intent based segmentation which is basically a combo of client type and needs-based but real time. This works by monitoring clients behavior real-time and adapting/automating our content, products, services, advertising and communications to their needs. Then based on the client type we prioritize the service level.

Tom Goodwin:

I like this question a lot and totally agree that most new platforms morph into something different and normally tend towards the same. Yo becomes more like Twitter, SnapChat becomes more like WhatsApp, LinkedIn and Twitter always become more like Facebook!.
But to answer your point, I think we totally need to move away from demographics and focus more on behaviours and attitudes. But all three are still vital. The hardest part of this is that while it’s possible technically, it raises huge privacy concerns. Even re-targeting ads freak many people out.
So existing tools can do a great job of this form of targeting, but privacy is a huge barrier. One day I hope we move towards accepting more relevant, fewer ads,paid for by allowing more data to be tracked, to make more valuable ads. Everyone wins.


It seems the future won’t be simple for social media. As the platforms develop and become more integrated with our lives, we have to face the inherent privacy concerns. We get value from these networks by giving up our information. It seems the main development will be our awareness of how it is used. As platforms like Ello make their data usage policies a part of their core values, it seems the responsibility to raise this awareness is shifting from journalists and tech bloggers to the platforms themselves. Either way, the importance of educating yourself in the way your data is handled is critical during these transitional phases.

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However, this barely scratches the surface of the discussion. Do take a look at the whole stream and let me know your thoughts!

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This post was written by John Bannister