Three connected trends are emerging that will have an impact on brand reputations and comms. Plus, challenge us to rethink what is 'media'.
First. Crowd-sourcing is not only here to stay, but is set to revolutionise what we do. It is giving us the ability to exercise influence in ways that invert traditional relationships. This revolution means rethinking comms so as to make the people the message. It also means having a healthy respect for the so-called 'weak ties' people enjoy online, as they can have a strong impact on social and commercial trends.
Second. 'Social' is beating 'search'. To date, one brand is more readily associated with the rise of the internet, and that is Google. In an information age Google is king, because of the algorithm. However, we are no longer in an information age. We are in era of 'networked intelligence' where our peers are more prominent and more important than an algorithm. Google recognises this, which is why it launched Google+, 'a social layer' that sits across the top of existing services.
However, there is already a social layer that sits across much of the world – Facebook. And what makes Facebook tick will make other businesses successful, with sociability and creativity. Either directly, as companies successfully aggregate news and views, such as the brilliant Flipboard, or as the beneficiaries of positive aggregation and peer review. Understanding this value chain is key to good PR.
Third. Privacy is fast becoming the touchstone issue of the decade. As technology improves and becomes more accessible so we will increasingly 'live' online. Businesses and governments will encourage us to live in a paperless world where everything is stored in the cloud. This will involve transferring and committing more personal data online. How that data is used and managed generates significant potential risks for individuals and for the reputations of the organisations involved.
This may sound like an ominous note on which to end, so I should point out that the company that has successfully branded file sharing in the cloud, Dropbox, is now valued at up to $4bn, which might explain why Drew Houston has been strolling around SXSW with a smile on his face.
Malcolm Gooderham is the MD of TLG Communications