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Think forward >
Think forward > Introduction Mobbie Nazir - Chief Strategy Officer
“No one can see into the future. What I try to do is outline possible "futures" - although totally expected inventions or events can render predictions absurd after only a few years. The classic example is the statement, made in the late 1940s, by the then chairman of IBM that the world market for computers was five. I have more than that in my own office.” Arthur C Clarke
Think forward > Predicting the future is a fascinating topic. It is a dream as old as history, from consulting the Oracle at Delphi in ancient Greece to the work of Nostradamus in Medieval France. This fascination has persisted into modern history which is littered with visions of the 21st century that never came true - but that doesn’t stop people and organisations from trying to see what is around the next corner. Today, we make forecasts all the time - from predicting traffic flows to the demand for turkeys at Christmas.
Traditionally, these predictions have been based on what people have already done - but now with the wealth of real-time data available at our fingertips, we are starting to see models of prediction of how people are “about to act”. In April 2011, IARPA announced the Open Source Indicators program (OSI), which would award substantial grants to three research groups to develop models that ingested publicly available data like tweets, blog posts, and news articles to anticipate “significant societal events,” such as unrest, epidemics, and economic instability. By now it is widely recognised that social media is changing our world. It’s one of the biggest shifts in culture and society since the industrial revolution and it is only just getting started. Research methodologies and predictions of future events are not the only traditional business models that social media has turned on its head.
The “sharing economy” is a disruptive economic force that creates new sources of supply. Whether this involves underused assets (private cars, spare bedrooms) or labour (people willing to fill in a few hours as taxi drivers, personal shoppers or couriers), it taps resources that could not be effectively organised before. Social platforms have also played an important role in many elections around the world, including in the U.S, Iran, and India. From trends such as these, we can see that social media can be a significant catalyst for success by empowering people and fuelling ideas. It’s important to remember that people had a desire to connect with each other way before the rise of social platforms. Social behaviour is hard-wired into our DNA. It is how we define ourselves and build relationships with others. It is a powerful driving force which brands and organisations can tap into to help them connect and engage with their audiences in more engaging, useful and meaningful ways.
Think forward > Technology Content Culture Business We have compiled this report to track some of the exciting trends we are seeing in this fast changing space, and to help brands understand where their future could be heading. By looking at trends in business, content, technology and culture, we will show you how social thinking is changing the world we live in. Mobbie Nazir - Chief Strategy Officer
Think forward > Methodology We have a trendspotter in each of our 11 global offices who were briefed to look for key social trends in business, content, culture and technology. We reviewed the trends monthly and built proof of these trends in each market.
What is a Trend? We know something is a trend when there are many different groups of people trying to find solutions to similar goals. If it’s just one good idea, then it’s not a trend. A trend is a collection of innovators working (usually) separately to solve a problem. For example, when we saw several websites and apps streaming intimate and first-person views of people’s lives we called this trend Voyeurism 2.0. This is a trend because each of these businesses were trying to serve our natural curiosity to be nosey and compare our choices to our peers.
Technology Content Culture Business Think forward >
Trend 1. The Internet of Social Things The idea of sharing your house, your bed and your bathroom with a stranger would have been unimaginable a few years ago. But AirBnB changed that, and it’s now worth billions. AirBnB gave us the capacity to share objects that previously we had to own. The Internet of Social Things is a trend which is seeing us becoming happier to share everyday objects socially through our smartphones. Bikes, umbrellas - nothing is safe... Effort Level - HIGH Time to Mainstream - 12 months TECHNOLOGY
The Internet of Social Things - Examples DriveJoy Umbrella Here August Smartlock This website/app is establishing itself in the UK as AirBnB for cars. Why leave your car in the driveway when it can be on the road making money for you? This is an app + umbrella combo that tells its users when there is an umbrella available nearby for sharing. The August Smartlock allows you to share access to your house with anyone you choose. This tech will open up the ability to socially share our the ‘things’ in our houses.
The Internet of Social Things What will happen next? In the future we won’t own as many things as we do now. We’ll hire them from each other via socially connected services like DriveJoy. Using technology like the August Smartlock we will hire out our household appliances when we’re not there and have them put them back in time for us to use them. How many of the items in your house would you miss if they weren’t there? Would you prefer to make a pound a day for hiring out your hiking boots or have them sit there doing nothing? The technology is there to allow this to happen.
TECH Trend 2. Wearable Social The forecasted wearable device market value for 2018 is $13Bn. We are entering a world of “Wearable Social” where movement, heartbeats and emojis are a new form of social language. Effort Level - MEDIUM Time to Mainstream - 18 Months
Wearable Social - Examples PPLKPR This app/wearable combo captures biometric data and gives instant feedback on how your body responds to people in real life situations. Are you ready to find out what your body says when you’re around Neil from accounts? Hands Free Tinder Digital Touch Why waste time swiping when you can let your heart decide who is the right match for you on Tinder? Drawing on your watch, or sending a heartbeat, a tap or an animated emoji may sound gimmicky, but Apple’s Digital Touch has tapped into one of the more powerful opportunities wearable tech offers: the ability to further evolve communication, into a nonverbal format.
Wearable Social What will happen next? We will see an exclusively wearable social network emerge, or the real shift will occur when the first affordable wearable goes mainstream. When that happens brands need to be ready for communicating in a new, more personal language.
Trend 3. Social VR There has been a lot of buzz recently around virtual reality (VR) and its potential as a new hardware device and software platform. The technology, which immerses the user in a computer-generated or photo-real simulation of an environment, is slowly gaining momentum. Currently most VR/360 experiences are a one person affair. VR 2.0 is almost upon us which will allow us to communicate socially in a virtual environment. Effort Level - MEDIUM Time to Mainstream - 12 Months TECHNOLOGY
Social VR - Examples AltspaceVR Zero Latency Facebook Innovates with VR This is a social platform for virtual reality that has recently received huge VC investment. Users can meet up in a VR setting in the form of avatars to have conversations, share online content and play games. “It’s like being inside a computer game”. This Aussie immersive VR game lets players fight off zombies as a team in a 3D world. Facebook has bought Oculus Rift for $2 billion, which guarantees its future as a comms platform.
Social VR What will happen next? The future of VR/360 will be hugely affected by how Facebook integrates with its Oculus Rift platform. If they can crack how to get people to communicate socially whilst wearing a VR headset, then Social Virtual Reality will be a, erm, reality.
Technology Content Culture Business Think forward >
CONTENT Trend 4. Voyeurism 2.0 When social media went mainstream it was exciting to connect with friends, colleagues and old school pals online. But once that novelty wore off, we started to look further afield. We’ve developed a taste for peering over the garden fence into the intimate lives of others. Effort Level - MEDIUM Time to Mainstream - 6 Months
Voyeurism 2.0 - Examples Mukbang This phenomenon satisfies millions of people’s urges to watch other people stuff their faces. Young girls eating chicken seems to be driving most of the traffic. Check it out. Watch me code Watch Me Date If watching people eat chicken isn’t your thing, maybe coding is. The Watch Me Code website is a treasure trove of coders perfecting their art in front of your eyes. This was the Guardian’s attempt to capture the ins and outs of a date in real time. Two people went for a date and both wore Google Glass. You can explore the date from both perspectives.
Voyeurism 2.0 People love the radical transparency that Voyeurism 2.0 brings. You can’t fake this kind of authenticity. Brands will have to find a way to be warts and all, no matter how painful, because anything less will get overlooked and even outed for its phoniness.
CONTENT Trend 5. Big Social Data Say ‘Big Data’ out loud and everyone within six feet will know you work in marketing. But Big Data is often misunderstood and misused. The ‘Big Social Data’ trend is seeing smart brands mine conversations on social to help them create products their audiences really want - in real time. Effort Level - HIGH Time to Mainstream - 18 Months
Big Social Data - Examples Crowd Sourced Gigs Snow Patrol base all of their tour dates and setlists on locally gathered digital user data from over 30 different sources. All Things Hair TOPSHOP Pinterest Unilever is the posterchild of this trend. All Things Hair learns what hair-styling tips women search for on Google and forwards these queries to a team of video bloggers, who are paid by Unilever to create tutorials. Topshop teamed with Pinterest to create a piece of tech which scans your pins and reveals your colour DNA. Using this palette, Topshop offers matching items from their website.
Big Social Data What will happen next? As brands start to develop products in near real time based on insights gathered from conversations on social, they will eventually have to change the way their businesses are set up. Could a soft drinks brand release a new flavour within a week if that flavour started to gain social traction? Could we see vending machines that produced bespoke mixes and flavours on the spot, depending on what was being talked about on social?
Technology Content Culture Business Think forward >
CULTURE Trend 6. Conscious Community Western society is becoming more conscious of the effects of our actions on the world around us. We’re now well informed about sweatshops and human rights abuses in the supply chain, which creates a collective feeling of guilt. Online groups are forming around interests that actually do something good. This isn’t hot air, but action. Effort Level - MEDIUM Time to Mainstream - 0 months
Conscious Community - Examples Be My Eyes Made in a Free World #SPCSunday This app connects blind people to a sighted volunteer using a live video chat. The volunteer can then see the blind person’s surroundings and answer questions using their phone’s camera. This is a community of people who are conscious of the fact that supply chains can, and often do, use slavery and child labour. MIAFW built the world's first software that locates and addresses these risks. This Australian canned fruit brand was on the brink of collapse. #SPCSunday was a week long community campaign that saved the hundred-year-old business from laying off its employees.
Conscious Community What will happen next? People are starting to feel the power of the crowd first hand, and it’s becoming mainstream. A brand’s ethics will increasingly become a matter of hygiene instead of an optional way to add value. CSR won’t be a choice, but a necessity.
CULTURE Trend 7. Anti-Social Anti-Social is a consumer response to the negative effects of having to maintain a social persona and being ‘always on’. Effort Level - MEDIUM Time to Mainstream - 12 months
Anti-Social - Examples Anonymous Social Networks Dolmio Pepper Hacker Photobomber Flashback Hoodie Anonymous social networks are attracting huge user bases. Whisper claims to have 3.5 billion page views a month. Dolmio created a pepper grinder that closed down the family WiFi, TVs and mobile devices with one twist. When someone takes a picture of you (using flash) while you are wearing this hoodie, your face will be obscured thanks to its reflective covering.
Anti-Social What will happen next? We are seeing a rise in Anti-Social experiences being viewed as luxury moments. Will social end up being the new smoking?
CULTURE Trend 8. Social Status Seekers Seeking Social status isn’t new, but the technology enabling this behaviour is. Effort Level - MEDIUM Time to Mainstream - Ongoing
Social Status Seekers - Examples Kander Facetune Lily Drone Kander is a social photo-sharing app that uses a left or right swipe to allow users to deliver snap judgments on their friends’ photos before they post them on social. This is the No1 app in the photo and video section of the iTunes app store. The app allows you to easily apply photoshop-esque techniques to your selfies to ensure you always look your best. Sod the selfie stick. Meet Lily, a drone that follows you to take action shots while you do crazy snowboard maneuvers for you to post on Instagram.
Social Status Seekers What will happen next? It’s a primal instinct to want to ‘fit in’ and be seen as attractive, because this ensures your connection to the tribe and your success within it. Innovators haven’t ever stopped delivering new ways of satisfying these urges. Now we’re connected socially, this trend will explode in the next few years.
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CULTURE Trend 9. Community Commerce Community Commerce is where positive behaviour, social and finance collide. We are starting to see communities rally around common causes for good, with positive financial outcomes for all involved. Effort Level - HIGH Time to Mainstream - 18 months
Community Commerce - Examples Hand Up Paystobesocial Minneapolis Co-Op Hand Up is kickstarter for homeless people. Each Hand Up user, representing a homeless person on the website, pitches for donations to help with rent, mobiles and health. This is an app which pairs you up with people making the same train journey, so you can nab a group discount. This socially driven cooperative in Minneapolis enables people to buy, renovate, and manage commercial and residential property, helping community stakeholders shape their neighbourhood through social.
Community Commerce What will happen next? As more examples of community commerce gain traction, brands will feel the pressure to empower their customers to adopt this innovative model for their own benefit.
BUSINESS Trend 10 (Inc)ubators Some of the most innovative businesses are giving startups a financial leg up in return for first dibs on their genius. The excitement of having some underpaid startups in the building can lend a feeling of being an innovative company, but the reality of integrating three man team operations within behemoth multinational companies is no mean feat. Effort Level - HIGH Time to Mainstream - 18 months
(Inc)ubators - Examples Unilever Foundry Microsoft Ventures Unilever Foundry is the brand’s plan to collaborate with innovators to make sustainable living commonplace. Microsoft Ventures is a revolving door of exciting startups. Their mission is to empower and grow early stage startups so they can realise their potential. Wayra Wayra is Telefónica’s startup accelerator that gives startups a $50,000 kick, access to mentors and its millions of customers.
(Inc)ubators What will happen next? (Inc)ubators are becoming more commonplace, but there’s a fine line between attempts at innovation and the production of geniunely disruptive products. Best practice is yet to be established and it will be many years until this approach has been proven to be truly effective.
BUSINESS Trend 11. Social Currency It’s been said that the internet is made of cats. While that’s not entirely true, Social Media got a bad name for its propensity to share feline footage. But this has changed now you can buy a mortgage on WeChat. Some people trust sending payments and talking about it publicly on social. It’s time to reappraise social as a cat meme dumping ground and get onboard with the new economics of Social Currency. Effort Level - HIGH Time to Mainstream - Ongoing
Social Currency - Examples Barclays Pay By Tweet Snapcash Venmo Barclays are the first British bank to allow people to make payments to each other and small businesses using just their Twitter handle. Snapchat partnered with payment system Square to create money transfers on Snapchat called Snapcash. Once Snapchat users have linked their debit card in the app, they can send Snapcash to anyone in their contact list who is eligible to receive Snapcash. The PayPal owned Venmo is a way to pay your mates for stuff while being social about it at the same time. You can exchange payments with people you know via your smartphone, linking to your Facebook friends and email contacts, as well as your bank account.
Social Currency What will happen next? Ultimately, people on social want to spend the least amount of time doing mundane financial tasks. If social networks can provide a consistent and trustworthy way of transacting with financial services then they have the ability to draw traffic (and eyeballs) away from the more traditional methods.
Think forward > Next Steps So what should you do with all these trends? Good question. We can help you take these social thinking trends and turn them into actions for your brand. If you’ve got the appetite to innovate, we can walk you through the process one step at a time. The first step is to firstname.lastname@example.org