12 Questions for Social Media in 2012

Post in Trends


Foreword: 2011 has been the year when the general public have finally seen what we meant when we said; ‘the greatest invention since the printing press’.

I genuinely believe intellectually there has never been a more exciting time to be alive with so much happening around the world both good and bad. The cultural, political and social effects of social media enabled connectivity continues to drive great disruption.

Typically this time of year would see people make predictions about what 2012 will bring, but given the complexity of the world around us, I thought it wiser to highlight the questions 2011 has raised for the New Year and beyond. By chance rather than by my own genius this actually comes in the form of 12 points.

If you are a more visual thinker (like me) I’ve also created a slide-deck to support my points.

Social media review 2011 12 questions for 2012

Q1. Can social media bring real change not just revolution?

The Arab Spring has given us no doubt social media can empower people to unite, self organise and bring down oppressive governments but can it bring about real and lasting change?

The big question levelled at countries such as Egypt is; a leaderless revolt by the masses is all well and good, but can it replace what it has overthrown with something other than just constant chaos?

Revolutions of the past have usually had a figure-head, a central force, to rally around but in today’s world it is decentralised and fragmented. It will be interesting to see the shape of what happens next in the modern revolution.

Q2. Can social media empower the WHOLE world?

The Arab Spring has made many powerful leaders concerned that they too could lose their control but does social media’s power extend to toppling the world’s super powers?
More recently Putin has found his Government’s monopoly of media and heavy control of the streets does not make him immune from the attack of its unhappy citizens. With more serious resources at his control is Russia immune?

Q3. What is the social impact of connectivity?

Whilst many have used social media empowerment to challenge oppression around the world others, particularly in the UK, have simply used and abused it as a point of advantage over an out-dated system.

Will we see an increasing amount of anarchic social unrest or have the Western world’s government’s and police forces learnt their lesson from 2011?

Q4. What does the new politik look like?

Social media has given almost everyone in the Western democratic world a voice and forum to share their opinions. The consequence is an increasingly fragmented political landscape and crowded public agenda that really tests traditional party politics. What does this mean to the new politik and how will governments react to a REAL democracy?
The Tea Party movement in America has torn the Republican party in two complicating traditional pluralistic politics and playing havoc in the decision making process where clear majorities are needed to act quickly in a challenging world. This dramatically saw America lose its AAA credit rating what other complications will arise from the new normal?

Q5. Can social media be ‘State Sponsored’?

Whilst one can only really speculate on the intricacies of what actually goes on in China they have, to date, been able to by and large control social media. This has been through careful regulations and policing of the Internet and actively supporting state ‘sponsored’ ‘own brand’ equivalents of Western platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. But there are signs that excessive censorship, and lack of trust is seeing people move off local platforms. What will fill the vacuum in their place? And as China’s economy faces slowdown are its citizens still prepared to ignore their countries problems?

Q6. Do social media movements develop an agenda over time?

One of the most intriguing trends is instant global movements such as #OccupyWallStreet. They have enabled ordinary citizens to drive the news agenda, despite the establishment’s best efforts to dismiss them (see video) to voice populous frustrations but have been criticised for not having any clear agenda or set of demands.
It will be interesting to see if they merge with other movements, create figureheads and begin to drive / serve a political agenda. What will be the evolution of such trends as they mature?

Q7. What happens when social media IPOs?

2012 will see the West’s big social media players launch their IPO’s. Will this lead to a bubble as many predict?
As companies go public will the requirement of open accounting and public obligation expose what is really under the bonnet of these commercial enigmas?

For those that stick around through 2012 how will they spend their money and how will this impact the media landscape

Q8. Can Google finally put all its pieces into place?

Google launched Google+ to much excitement and mixed review adding another interesting component to their tool suite. Will they finally manage to integrate social media (Google+, YouTube) with search results, browser (Chrome) and mobile (Android) to dominate the user brand journey? If they can it will create a real challenge to the social media status quo.

Q9. Can The Establishment control The Hacktivists?

Wikileaks and other ‘hacktivists’ have run rings around the establishment and have seemed all but immune until the recent lockdown on Julian Assange. Can old-school clandestine tactics of defamation; honey traps and the blocking financial payments finally put a stop to their greatest fear?

Q10. What will happen when the last screen in our lives is finally connected on mass?

The last few years have seen a plethora of new AND ever more connected screens introduced to our lives. But there is one, the TV, which still remains largely as a silo. As internet connected TV’s become the standard what will be the cultural effects of social TV and who will dominate the war Android, Apple or Amazon?

Q11. Is this officially the end of the era of auteur and the birth of the crowd?

What does the death of perhaps the last great auteur of industry mean to the Internet? Steve Jobs a man obsessed about control and often quoted alongside Ford dismissing customer feedback, was a leading advocate of the ‘closed platform’ and gave those who argued against customer centricity an excuse not to leverage social media to become more open. He fooled many into thinking they didn’t need the consumer like Ford said, ‘I don’t ask them what they want I show them’. With him gone has the excuse to not open through social media also diminished in business discussion?

Q12. Does social media impact financial market volatility?

We know news travels fast ever since the 24-hour news channel popped up but what happens when social media exaggerates the rate and virality of how information spreads exponentially around the world.

A VC fund recently discovered there was a direct correlation between Twitter sentiment as a predictor of movements on the financial market. Does social media mean more volatile markets in the future? Will it amplify panic buying and selling? It’s to be seen how much it is a driving force into today’s economic turmoil.


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