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Businesses, schools, government agencies, organizations and people are now all impacted by the social web in more ways than they were 5 or 10 years ago. What’s more, if the current rapid growth and adoption of new technology is any indicator, the next 3 years (by 2018) will present incredibly drastic shifts in the ways people interact with one another, brands and businesses.
The social web is defined by the relationships and interactions people have through the Internet, but also includes the actual websites, software, hardware and systems that are designed, created and launched to support that interaction.
“The idea is that we will lead the transformation of the Web into a social Web” – Howard Rheingold coined the term in 1996
When we talk about interactions people have online, we are not just talking about sharing content or exchanging messages. Social networks, like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram and others are all part of it. However, online shopping constitutes a significant aspect of the social web. We also have MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and other forms of online learning / education. Research portals, peer-to-peer music and file exchange, online gaming and more are other pieces to the social web.
Socially, we interact online for a variety of reasons. When our society (and others) began moving beyond the industrial epoch into a more technology-centric environment (what Alvin Toffler considered The Third Wave), we witnessed first-hand the stark differences in our daily lives. The ideas of centralized services, mass-produced products and standardization have given way to a more decentralized and personalized world. Even the Internet evolved from a one-way, static environment into a more two-way (or multi-channel), dynamic hub.
This evolution has introduced us to the concept that we can demand information, products, services and more that are specifically tailored to our needs as individuals. With this change in mentality, and our expectations, the social web is fostering greater communication between brands and people that more directly meet and share our needs and interests. When they do not, we can decide if they are of any value and either continue or discontinue a relationship.
According to Pew Research, over 81% of all American adults (18 or older) use the Internet. Globally, Market Realist reports that more than 2.92 billion people worldwide access the internet—up from 394 million in 2000. What’s more, mobile internet user penetration was 73.4% in 2013. It will be more than 90% by 2017. There is no reason to believe we will not have nearly complete, global connection to the Internet (with mobile leading) by 2020.
Of course, with the increased, global use of the Internet, the amount of data being generated is staggering (Acxiom claims to have on average 1,500 pieces of information on more than 200 million Americans. For more information on Data Brokers, see recent CBS 60 Minutes Story.).
What’s more, as we interact more socially on the web – communicating, purchasing, reading, collaborating, researching – information about the kinds of social relationships and activities we engage in also will become more available. And as the social web evolves beyond applications (like mobile apps) into a greater connectivity – and of course, data collection – it is poised to become a more integrated way of life for everyone.
The number of Americans (indeed – the number of people globally) who daily use social networks, online dating, shopping, travel, employment and other types of websites has grown substantially. Our habits, experiences and opinions are being collected and shared. In some cases, this is done to enhance future online and in-person experiences (other times it is for companies to make money off our information).
However, even if the data is acquired or purchased from others, the growth of the social web is accelerated by data brokers and warehouses. Every piece of data from what kind of pizza you like to eat to what retailers you shop at has a value and is used to enhance the personalization we all desire.
The social web is going to continue to evolve. And while businesses, government and people need to always listen to the people they are interacting with to ensure they make the correct responses and take the right actions, the main current that fuels all success will be trust and reliability.
In this regard, the social web is no different from other forms of human connectivity and interaction. Humans are very tribal and expressive. The relationships we build are complex, and require time, engagement and trust to be sustained. It should be no surprise that our connection to the social web follows a similar path.
The next evolution of the social web will be towards trust, transparency and greater integration. While some people a very high on the blending of wearable technology into our daily routines – we at Social Web Tactics believe that will take time. It is the incorporation of using technology to manage our homes, interact with our cars and appliances, and take part in our government that is rapidly emerging. The ending result will be greater personal control over our lives, and a stronger connectivity to our communities and the world around us.