TECHTRENDS 2018 -- 4
Social Media was about two-way communication empowering individuals. Now it is being distorted by corporates who are reviving old style one-way broadcasts.
December 31 2017: Like the Tale of Two Cities, this is at once the best of times and the worst of times, the spring of hope and the winter of despair. Consider how we understand old school broadcasting: "the distribution of audio and/or video signals which transmit programmes to an audience which could be the general public or a large subset of the whole, such as children or young adults.”
Then came Internet -fueled Social media -- and we experienced a new-found freedom: user-driven two-way communication, giving voice and power to individual consumers and redressing the balance between senders and receivers. This is an era of Personally Selected Viewer Experience. We have made a break away from the one directional flow of information that comes from TV in the living room.
We post something - an image or an experience -- on Facebook -- and hundreds, perhaps thousands of friends are alerted and have an opportunity, if they chose to empathize/ criticize or in any case participate. We share instant images from a party, a wedding or a birthday on WhatsApp. We react to events with our own take in ( what is now) 280 characters on Twitter. Using tools like Periscope and Meerkat, we can even broadcast live video and sound from our phones to other people on Twitter.Great -- as long as you are in charge.
But the corporates are muscling in. They just discovered that social media marketing has huge advantages over traditional channels: print, radio, cinema, TV. You know exactly who is watching your stream, when, for how long, on what platform, in what geography, whether they like it, whether they share it, comment or otherwise interact with it. Social media is being overrun by one-sided broadcasters and the new trend of Social Broadcasting: "The broadcasting of video, text and pictures directly to an intended audience through social media channels such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and other channels as opposed to traditional channels such as radio, TV and print."
Well heeled influencers hire followers and use artificial intelligence (AI) bots to fill social media with traditional broadcasting messages – turning social media back into a platform of one-way communication. Businesses exploit YouTube and pepper their marketing with its video links. So many big and small companies uses WhatsApp in its largest market -- India -- that the company decided: If you can't fight 'em, join 'em. It has launched paid, business versions of Whatsapp for marketers
Politicians never slow to recognized a good thing, now use social media to spread their propaganda. Every major party in India has its social media cell. Celebrities and other bold-n-beautiful people employ social media specialists to write their blogs and compose their twitter words of wisdom in reaction to any and every happening. And millions dutifully 'follow'.
The result? The naive enthusiasm for Social Media is replaced in many of with a new cynicism: Fake News is everywhere. Doctored videos, Photoshopped images, tampered voice bytes spew out regularly, spreading lies to a vast audience of innocent recipients. An Ericsson Consumer Lab 2018 survey of hot consumer trends finds that half of its respondents would also like to use AI to verify the truthfulness of what politicians say. In other words, the time has perhaps come to use technology to fight an abused technology.
The new year will show if we succeed or fail. If social media regains its high ground as the tool to empower and give voice to the rest of us -- or if social broadcast barbarians at the gate, crash through and take over the most promising tool that Internet spawned. Welcome to 2018!