Who Will Rule the Web Once Twitter and Facebook Fade?

Steve Rubel on Digital Communications

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As Edelman's crystal-ball guy, I can't go to a meeting without being asked what will succeed Twitter or Facebook as the future king of community. It's unfortunate, but it's just how history has conditioned us to think.

Communities come and go. Hubs seem to lose their innovation edge just as consumers grow more fickle, new venues emerge and viable monetization options remain scarce. If history repeats itself, Facebook and Twitter will one day be replaced by something else. This time, however, it will be the open web.

Steve Rubel
Photo: JC Bourcart
Steve Rubel is a marketing strategist and blogger. He is senior VP-director of insights at Edelman Digital.
A group of standardized technologies are emerging that will evolve social networking from destinations we visit into something bigger -- a federated address book that makes every single website that chooses to adopt them entirely social.

Jeremiah Owyang at Forrester Research has been deeply thinking about this. This week Forrester is releasing a paper that outlines a five-year vision for how the open web, thanks to connective technologies such as OpenID, will become one giant social network. This global brain will follow us everywhere and influence every purchasing decision.

While Forrester doesn't get this tangible, here's a fictional scenario to consider.

Today online shopping means visiting Amazon.com, reading reviews from strangers and conducting a transaction.

Tomorrow, as everything becomes social, you will be able to shop Amazon directly from within your iGoogle page without ever having to visit the site. What's more, Amazon will show you what your friends in your Gmail address book have publicly said about a product and/or its category in any one of thousands of online communities. Finally, to help you further, Amazon will offer an aggregated view of your friends' friends opinions in a way that protects their identity.

So how should marketers prepare? Owyang advises to focus on advocates, evolve models from push to pull and adapt internal cultures. However, I think it starts with something more fundamental.

Marketers need to really embrace the fact that it's peers and their data, rather than brands, who will become the primary way we make decisions. The greatest rewards will go to those who embrace and participate in as many communities as they possibly can in credible ways.

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