If you have been keeping up with my blogs, you’ll know that one thing I always touch upon is the idea that the future of social media is not in Facebook or Foursquare, but rather a company’s ability to integrate social media and new media concepts into their product or services.

New Media is a broad term in Media Studies that emerged in the later part of the 20th century to encompass a blend of traditional media such as film, images, music, spoken and written word, with the interactive power of computer and communications technology, computer-enabled consumer devices and most importantly the Internet (More Info). New Media is defined by the ability to access content at any time, no matter if you are in a park or in a shopping mall. It is characterized also by the integration of user feedback and the concept of a community interested in specific creative content. Social media is the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogue (More Info). In my social media training classes I like to highlight certain traditional themes of social media, including:

• Space defined by the consumer (everyone interacts together)
• two-way/ conversational
• adapting the message (Organizations need to adapt their message depending on what consumer feedback)
• beta test (Organizations can use Social Media as a beta test for policies, etc.)
• consumer focused (you want discussion to improve)
• add value (Each new post or tweet must add to the discussion and often value is added by linking to articles or multimedia pieces)
• influencing (Organizations can influence consumers, and consumer feedback can influence ways Organization functions)
• evolving  (Content, messages, and way you reach people should always evolve. Repetition is frowned upon)
• user-created content
• co-creation
• feed off of other’s content (Linking and copying of content is accepted as long as credit is given)

All of these concepts are featured in social networking sites and mobile technology today. Communities rise and fall on Twitter and Facebook everyday. They are just two of the kings of social media today, but new applications are quickly developing. As the internet market floods with these new applications and platforms, communities will begin to stretch thin. Instead of just having information overload, we will have product overload. We are beginning to see this now, even with the behemoths Facebook and Twitter, when for instance you see that 86% of people prefer sharing information through email rather than social networking (More Info). And 62% go to a brand’s website to verify information they found through word-of-mouth or online (More Info). It is my belief that as the market is flooded with more platforms and applications, that consumers will return to interacting with companies and brands through their websites and direct email marketing. If marketers are to hold their attention then they will need to build interactive tools and social media concepts into these new website-hybrids.

How can businesses meet these needs? They will need to begin to transform their products and services in ways that make sense and fit with their brand. Just yesterday I was reading how BMW is working on dictation devices in their cars that will allow drivers to dictate emails and messages while on the road. Allowing people to reach their communities and share ideas from anywhere, sounds like a new media concept to me. What’s great about this, is that it works for BMW’s brand. In today’s world people are always on the go and they can’t afford to lose what could otherwise be productive time in traffic. This means that BMW’s customers (who are primarily upper-class and often business-minded) can keep up with their clients safely. Google has integrated social media concepts into their products since they appeared on the market. Google Docs, which gives you the ability to determine the access levels and editing properties of documents among many different people, is just one example. Google Alerts even, are an example of allowing you to hear what communities are saying about you through their search algorithm. All of these services are directly found on their site and not through an external social networking platform.

One example of this that I just found today is a mobile application called iSpeedShop. The app allows consumers to upload their grocery list for their next trip to the grocery store. The app then uploads any coupons that the store or a particular brand has to offer. For example, add jelly to the list and you might find a $1 discount on Welch’s. The application also uses the geolocation feature built into most smart phones to reveal any specials available at a specific store while the customer is within its walls (More Info). If grocery stores were to either buy this app, or develop one of their one they would be ahead of the game in terms of the future of social media. This application would enhance the shopping experience at your store and provide an extra service that makes sense for your product. This is transforming the old-school idea of coupons. If the grocery stores weren’t willing to give up the sales circulars, they could even add QR codes to each circular, which the consumer could scan and have each coupon added to their application. Shoppers could access to the application through the QR Code or online at the grocery store’s site.

I believe  the future of social media is not in the Facebook’s or Twitter’s of the world, but rather in the amalgamation of social media and new media concepts and the products and services offered directly from a business to its consumers.

(Side Note: I would really enjoy hearing your opinion of the future of social media. What do you believe are the next steps in the social media evolution? Let’s get the discussion rolling in the comment section)