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The Present and Future of Social Media: A Q&A With Tom Webster

Will Facebook remain relevant in 2020? How do people interact with content? What’s hot now and what will take the future by storm?

The list of social media marketing questions goes on and on and on. Fortunately, marketers and media organizations can turn to Edison Research, which finds answers to these questions through market research and exit polling.

Tom Webster - Future of Social Media

Geoff Livingston caught up with Demand Success speaker and Edison Research VP of Strategy and Marketing Tom Webster to ask him five questions about the state of marketing now and in the future.

1. You recently released some research at Edison that shows Facebook is doing well. So Facebook will not die anytime soon?

No, I don’t think they are going to die anytime soon. Fifty-eight percent of all Americans aged 12 and up have a profile on Facebook. Those numbers can sound like wallpaper after a while, and investors always love to see growth, which has clearly slowed. But it has slowed to nearly 6 in 10 Americans using a single brand. Can you name another single brand that 6 in 10 Americans use, of any kind? Not sure I can.

I’m especially bemused by the people claiming that Facebook is no longer being used by teens. Facebook may not be *cool* with some teens, but cool and usage don’t appear to be all that correlated. Besides, Facebook the company owns Instagram, which is the second most popular site with teens (after Facebook). I think we’ll be talking about Facebook 10 years from now.

Want to hear more from Tom? Register now for the June 5-6 Demand Success Conference in Washington DC!

2. You recently studied major social music channels and people who share their music. Who are the new curators?

Well, it’s you and me, Geoff—it’s the people who check their social media sites frequently, and share (or create) content online.

There was some received wisdom about the Internet from a few years ago which postulated that 80 percent of us consume, 19 percent curate, and 1 percent create. Over the past couple of years the tools to easily curate have become legion, and the definition of “create” has changed dramatically, thanks to Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and other visual sharing tools. More of us are “creating” in that sense, and curating as well.

Encouraging curation to date has been largely focused on influencer outreach. We are all influencers, however, and we are all one great photo away from influencing millions. Or just a few of our friends—but in a meaningful way.

3. Why are podcasts getting hot again?

They never went away, really. I think this current renaissance in podcasting is all about two things: mobile, on-demand listening, and mainstream content.

Our clients at PodcastOne are putting people like Stone Cold Steve Austin, Brandi Glanville, Chris Jericho and Jillian Michaels right next to podcast pioneers like Adam Carolla. The content is a huge driver, and more and more mainstream content providers, and those who serve passionate niches, are jumping on board to get more in touch with their fans. But the smartphone is just as significant.

Today, 61 percent of Americans aged 12 and up own a smartphone, which enables them to stream podcast content no matter where they are with no friction. The days of “podcatching” software and syncing to a media player are waning.

Podcast - Future of Social Media

4. What are you thoughts on the recent visual media trend?

I’m so glad you asked that, because I think the visual media trend is not about content marketing, or brands—it’s all about sharing experiences, which is one of the major themes of a book I am co-authoring with my good friend Tim Hayden right now.

The visual media trend is a mobile trend—and it’s all about enabling people to share experiences with other people in the most frictionless way possible. These aren’t “content creators” in the sense that marketers are—but they are creating content, nonetheless. What marketers may see as a visual content trend is really not about them—it’s about humans sharing their offline experiences with the help of today’s mobile, visual sharing tools. The content isn’t the story—but it’s helping to tell a very different story.

5. What’s next for Tom Webster and Edison Research?

We are currently exit polling the Iraqi elections, a job we are enormously proud of. We will also soon be releasing some brand new data on social networking users (at Demand Success!) and continuing to advance the field of combining digital metrics with human intelligence in order to help our clients understand the behavior of their customers and prospects. Melding online and offline data is  my passion, and I’m fortunate with Edison to be at the forefront of the best science in that field.

Don’t miss out! Hear from Tom and other top industry thought leaders at Demand Success!

Image: Social Fresh (Creative Commons)

About Geoff Livingston

Geoff is president and founder of Tenacity5 Media, a digital marketing agency that provides content marketing and social media services. A former journalist, Geoff continues to write, and has authored five books. Follow him @geoffliving.

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