The Future of Social Media: Now, Soon and Later.

Russ Horner    July 19, 2016

Thinking about the future of social media is incredibly mind boggling to me. The pace of change and learning is moving at light speed. I mean, people can now chase down animated characters in their towns and cities by using their smart phones? Truly though, not everyone is adopting social media elements at the same speed. Some companies rely solely on social media for their marketing while others use a combination of traditional and social media techniques to get their word out. All agree however, that in the future, social media will continue to grow and change to become the primary marketing tool for all business.

I had the wonderful opportunity to conduct a case interview with Captain Marc Ackert, Co-Owner of Ontario Waterway Cruises of Orillia, Ontario. He is also Captain of the Kawartha Voyageur, a 120’, 45 passenger and 13 crew cruise ship that takes guests on 5-day trips on the Rideau Canal and Trent Severn Waterway in Ontario. This family business started 35 years ago and with the average age of his passengers being 72, Marc had a lot to say about the marketing of his business. Marc agrees that “his future is now” as a new marketing strategy began last year with the updating of the website and creation of a series of online vignettes. Although many of his guests still rely on traditional marketing techniques, Marc’s new strategy for now and the immediate future will be to market to the family members and friends who have the computers, lap tops and smart phones. These will be the people who will share the information to potential cruise guests.

Everyone has a view on the future of social media. Captain Marc Ackert has the view that although social media is not going away, he currently needs to be selective in the social media tactics he uses. In the short term, many think the changes in social media won’t be revolutionary – they’ll be a continuation and acceleration of what we’ve seen already. More specifically, real-time engagement, that is, faster response time to inquiries and complaints will improve. Access to live streaming video will also be faster as consumers seek to have quicker access to real-time, offline events like those events offered through Perisope and Meerkat. Customer will also be more engaged through Social Commerce meaning the more people are engaged, the better sales become. Companies will also want to optimizing organic content which will influence a company’s search ranking. This is important as competition for visibility has never been stronger. Social media decisions too will be based less on guesswork and more on analytics. And finally, companies will put mobile first. If a company is not thinking mobile marketing in 2016, then the business is already behind. 80% of internet users own a smartphone so mobile devices should be a big part of the business focus. Note too that (14% of people would not do business with a company that does not have a mobile site or app!)

The long term view of social media is too, dotted with all kinds of predictions. In my opinion, it is highly speculative. As I mentioned earlier, just look how Pokemon Go recently came out of the woodwork and has taken the world by storm. Now gamers can walk around outside and play a game? Amazing how this new game has captured the imaginations of many, including me, as to what is coming up next. According to Mark Schaefer, in 2020 accessibility to marketing related data through social media will increase by 600%.  Chris Marentis predicts mobile and entertainment will morph and content marketing will continue to grow Additionally, the power of networking will change from the “wisdom of the crowd” to the “power of the crowd”. Mobilizing of the “network crowd” will part of marketing strategy.  

Lessons for Others

Currently, not everyone is jumping into all elements of social media. Businesses must decide at this stage of their development, which elements work for them and which elements will remain for the time being, as traditional marketing tactics.

In the near future, there will be a continued increase of customer service times and more decision making based on real data.

In the long term, there will be a shift from information gathering to action. Social marketing will become central to overall marketing plans and execution. Mobile will be king.

Organization: Ontario Waterway Cruises Inc.
Industry: Tourism
Name of Organization Contact: Marc Ackert, Co-Owner, Ship Captain

Authored by: Russ Horner

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