Last week, I was invited to an agency in Stuttgart to give a big-picture talk on social media and where its going. I love doing these talks, but social media is always a special case. It’s one of the most controversial topics in the marketing- and pr-business and everybody seems to have a different take on it. But it also as a special topic for us at Third Wave. We get asked a lot “What exactly are you?” and coming from our backgrounds (Igor was the social media go-to-guy at Ketchum Pleon in Düsseldorf. I created the social media discipline with my friend Gerald at Neue Digitale/Razorfish Frankfurt), it would have been the obvious thing to start a social media strategy agency. This is the field that we have the most experience in and that seems to be in the highest demand at the moment. And although we do a lot of work in this field and you should definitely talk to us when you need someone to help you with your social media strategy, we decided to make our lives a little bit more difficult by going with a broader definition. And here’s why.
We think that we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg yet when it comes to social media. The communication patterns established by the social web are only a symptom of a long-term fundamental change in our society from hierarchical organizations to networks based on emergence theories. These patterns of human behavior emerging from the social web will be the fuel that drives our communication in the near future. Patterns like the change from an inbox handling of news where we look at everything that is send to us to dipping our attention randomly into the stream of news knowing that the important stuff will “find us.” The more familiar we become with these patterns, the more universal they will get.
Social media will be ubiquitous.
In two or three years, social media will be ubiquitous. In companies, it won’t be the domain of marketing and public relations departments any more but it will be everywhere. Every designer, every developer, every strategist, every customer service representative, everyone will be using social media naturally to communicate without thinking about it. The term will probably go extinct, it just won’t be special anymore. And if it isn’t special anymore, you don’t need any more specialist. That’s why we don’t want to label our company as a social media agency so we don’t have to pivot it in a couple of years. Instead we want to focus on something that David Armano once said:
You see, businesses, brands and organizations are truly struggling with the disruptive nature of social technologies.
In fact, the term “social technologies” is part of the problem—we are all fixated on the technologies and meanwhile the real action lies in harnessing the change brought about by human behavior enabled by technology.
Until we have a better claim, the best way to describe what we want to do with Third Wave is to help our clients “harnessing the change brought about by human behavior enabled by technology.” That’s what really excites us. Observing and analyzing how human behavior is changing all around us with the help of technology. It’s much bigger than marketing or pr. In my presentation in Stuttgart, I talked about how social media is changing businesses to the core by changing the internal hierarchies and how new platforms based on social media patterns are changing the way we consume (less) and develop products. The change in cities has fascinated us so much that we organized a conference about it.
So although you can hear a lot of talk in the industry about how social media is dead or boring or failed, we say that we’ve seen nothing yet and it’s just getting started and it’s going to get a lot bigger. We currently working on a detailed presentation about our point of view on this.
While I was thinking about the big picture of social media and preparing my talk, Igor worked on the next iteration of Cognitive Cities that we’re finally able to announce. As you might have already seen, we’re going to Amsterdam next to host the first Cognitive Cities Salon. The first details are here and obviously, we’re super excited about this.
At a workshop, Peter had a closer look at Podio – these guys have really started out strong, and it’s great to watch where this is going. On Wednesday evening, he attended the first meet-up for Social Media Week Berlin (SWM) – Joel and the rest of the crew kindly asked Peter to be a member of the advisory board for SMW Berlin. It’s one of those events that shows just how much is going on in the city at this point, so it’s great to help out there. Also, Focus Magazin published an article by Peter about the future of social media and the importance of community managers (it’s in German). This coming week, though, it’s all about the NEXT11 conference here in Berlin.
We have been helping the Next with the curation of the social media track and are very proud to bring some fresh faces like Matt Gierhart and Mike Arauz to Germany while also featuring the best practitioners from Germany like David Noël from Soundcloud and many more. Peter will be moderating the social media track on Wednesday. Igor and I will be roaming the halls at the conference. If you’re there, let us know. It’s going to be totally our kind of a week: lots of fine people in town, deep conversations, preferably over good food, inspiring presentations and a good drink here and there.