It isn't easy to make predictions about the future. But doing so about the ever-changing world of communications and technology can be especially difficult. Avaya, a business communications provider, decided to try and tackle this with its "Ten Communications Trends for 2010." However, the folks at Avaya aren't the only ones with ideas about what forces are shaping the futures of content and communications.
Social media may seem "so 2009," but Avaya doesn't quite see it that way, listing "Social Media and Contact Centers" as its No. 4 trend for 2010. Last year, companies experimented with using Twitter to respond directly to customer concerns and inquiries. According to Ajay Kapoor, managing director of strategic communication consulting within Avaya professional services, an increasingly connected population will prove more receptive to this kind of direct company outreach through social media. "Those that have embraced social media as a main communication device in their lives ... they love this, because it reaches them and it works with them in a way they prefer to be communicated with."
John Blossom of Shore Communications seems to agree that the maturity of social media might make it more attractive to businesses this year. "2010 may not see the explosive growth in specific social media platforms that we've seen in recent years," says Blossom, "but that factor in and of itself may help to promote greater investments by enterprises in using social media as a more stable and mature marketing and communications medium."
Marc Strohlein of research and advisory firm Outsell agrees. But he feels social media-based communication depends on the company providing useful information to consumers rather than just promoting products and services: "I think the evolution is going to be that people who are doing it in a gratuitous fashion-they're only looking out for their interests, not mine-they're probably not going to be successful."
Monetizing social media is a different story. Blossom echoes Strohlein's feelings on the value of social media-based communication. But he adds that analytics are the key to monetizing social media. "Sometimes it will be in the analytics themselves, but often it will be through more traditional licensing of content to analytic services and even directly to marketing organizations. Not all content uses are created equal in social media, so expect more tiering of content access terms and conditions as the social media marketing environment evolves."
Another topic on the minds of our industry professionals was information overload-perhaps a side effect of social media and the associated user-generated content. "Overcoming Communications Overload" came in at No. 8 on Avaya's list. "Right now, everything is designed to give you instant information rather than the information you actually want," says Kapoor, adding that technologies that blend and prioritize content and communications across multiple platforms will be crucial to companies in fields such as finance and the legal profession.
According to Strohlein, semantic technologies will be crucial to helping companies able to cope with such huge amounts of information. He notes that semantic intelligence has grown from "academics arguing about algorithms" to actual business implementations, citing Collexis' use of the PubMed database to prepopulate its BiomedExperts social networking community. "They crawled this PubMed database ... and they extracted all the relationships between authors and publishers, authors and co-authors," says Strohlein, explaining that this freed users from having to manually input their publishing history and professional connections. By his reckoning, semantic technology is ready "to catch fire."
Mobile technology, however, has already been setting the content industry ablaze, and everyone seems to agree; 2010 will see big advances and changes.
Kapoor notes the increasing presence and utility of smartphones in the business world. Strohlein says mobile devices will move more toward a unified experience in 2010 rather than fragmentation. He cites Apple's success at creating "a whole environment" of content stores, media applications, and mobile devices. "The challenge we're looking at right now is we're seeing this proliferation of devices and, as always seems to be the case, each device has its own proprietary format and media formats. ... People are not going to go buy 49 different devices to read different kinds of content."
Blossom predicts that people will realize mobile devices are "the center of the content universe." However, he also casts the hype and buzz about tablet PCs in a more realistic light: "At the end of the day a tablet is just a screen with content. It's whose lives can be changed by that screen that matters most now."
(www.avayablog.com/archives/2010/01/ten_communicati.php; www.shore.com; www.outsellinc.com)