First off, thanks for reaching out. I was asked a similar question at the 2009 IEBA convention (What is the next "Facebook") and I copped out a little by saying there are smarter people who can figure that out. As it turns out, so far Facebook is the next Facebook.
Since then I have thought a lot about the future of social media. My marketing and strategy work is heavily immersed in the use of these tools every day, and a few things are happening right now that aren't really a secret:
n is being adopted en masse (Foursquare, Gowalla, etc.)
The race to monetize social networks by embedding stores on Facebook and other sites (Moontoast, Topspin...even my company - Music City Networks
- has a Facebook App to embed our stores on a Facebook page)
These trends show how social media is moving to integrate with transactions, closing the gap between getting a lot of referrals (retweets, likes) to closing the deal itself.
In other words, it will be easier for a friend to tell you they endorse a product and for you to make a purchase right then and there, no matter where you are.
Social media is liquid. With new startups developing amazing apps that treat our experiences in new and exciting ways, there are more ways than ever to creatively exploit the use of these apps to deliver mind-bending campaigns.
Then Google's Experiments in Digital Creativity
blew my mind. Here are tools that we all have access to, being used in ways I never would have imagined. It's about seeing differently. It's about using what you have to engage the world.
The engagement is the key, not the platform. The platform is a tool.
Marketing 101 doesn't really change just because we have new tools. The internet and the glory of social media means that we once again live in a small-town economy where relationships matter more than ever. If my product sucks and I treat my customers poorly, I'm about to receive a thunderstorm of reviews, tweets, and other forms of badmouthing. But if I go out of my way to deliver a spectacular customer experience, I will be successful. Social media just lets us move that philosophy online and facilitates our ability to deepen relationships with our customers.
The groundwork has been laid for the next several years in social media. Location-based apps will bring people together in the real world, smartphones will pay for stuff, and sites like Facebook will become more deeply involved in checking you out...which, let's face it, is really an extension of what it already does. I'm excited to exploit these and other tools to make people stop and ask questions, ponder life, or just click a button.
There is also a small part of me that believes Facebook is just a data collection system to monitor human behavior and will one day be used to develop artificial intelligence on a Terminator level. But that's just silly, right?