Where is Social Headed Next?

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Social Media 2.0 and the New Era of Storytelling
By Edward Balassanian, CEO & Founder, Strings

As we head into the summer, social media is emerging from its winter of discontent. And while major social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are scrambling to make platform changes to address user frustration, there’s no doubt that the social media landscape is changing quickly as people demand more control over the content, their privacy and the information they see and share.

Where is social media headed next? With the growing undercurrent of dissatisfaction among users, I predict a necessary shift will take place over the next year. This shift will move away from personality-centered social media, or what we can call social media 1.0, to a new social media environment in which people will focus more on the stories and experiences that bring them together. I call this social media 2.0.

Social media 1.0: personalities, likes and a growing level of dissatisfaction
Social media 1.0 started off with the goal of providing us with a platform to express our digital selves. However, the natural evolution of digital self-promotion has led users across the board to fight to break through the noise of it all. With social 1.0, it’s nearly impossible for an individual or a brand to share their stores or any type of contiguous set of posts related to a topic or a shared experience. Posts are scattered across timelines, mixed in with other people’s posts – and ultimately any sense of a story is lost. So, what started off as a way to bring us closer together has morphed into disconnected moments and musings, emphasizing the person and the post over the topic and story.

What’s more, in social 1.0, we are not in control of what posts show up in our feeds, or what ads we see. With individual posts and click-bait competing for attention in our timelines, social 1.0 has devolved into the bastion of the provocative, the inflammatory and the outlandish.

And there is growing evidence that the pendulum might have swung too far:

  • According to a recent eMarketer report, it is estimated that the number of U.S. Facebook users ages 11 and younger will decline by 9.3% in 2018. Additionally, the number of users ages 12 to 17 and 18 to 24 will decrease by 5.6% and 5.8%, respectively. In all, the report estimates that Facebook will lose 2 million users ages 24 and younger this year.
  • In a 2017 Consumer Content report by Stackla, 57% of respondents indicated that less than half of brand-created social media content resonates as authentic.
  • A 2017 study by Global Public Health at UC San Diego and Human Nature Lab at Yale University found that excess use of Facebook by users was directly correlated to increased mental health issues, citing that the constant cycle of “liking others’ content and clicking links significantly predicted a subsequent reduction in self-reported physical health, mental health, and life satisfaction.”

People have been trained in how to communicate in the social media 1.0 landscape. However, it is still human nature to go looking for things that make us feel happy, and to find shared experiences and stories that reverberate authenticity and inspiration beyond a quick “like” or share. As research reported in the New York Times suggests, “the human brain responds to the descriptive power of stories in deeply affecting ways, influencing both the sensory and motor cortex. To read a story is to feel an experience and to synchronize our minds with the subject of the story.”

Social 2.0: Bridging the gap to shared experiences
I believe that the future of social media should emphasize the stories and shared experiences that bring people together. By bringing the focus back on more curated, story-centric experiences and dynamic content, people will have more opportunity to connect on a more personal level, with ideas and topics they are interested in. I also believe that social media users and influencers should be in control: control over the content they develop, control over the audiences they curate, control over the ads they are associated with, and control over the conversations they are a part of.

The wave of sea-change in social media will happen as more and more people voice their frustrations over the lack of authentic, inspired and controlled experiences. It is time for social media to allow people to focus more on publishing and sharing the stories that matter the most to them. More than 14 years ago, Facebook and social 1.0 changed the way we interact with each other. We predict that social 2.0 will be more focused on the beauty of collaboration where the story is the center of attention.