I was recently asked a GREAT question by someone I respect and admire from an insurance marketing industry association in which I’m involved. If I may give perspective on the question, know that this person leads the marketing effort of a for-profit insurance agency tied to a large non-profit professional trade association. She’s been in the business a long time, is squarely in the boomer generation, but to her great credit, and as a significant point of separation from her peers, is open-minded wrt Social Tech and its potential application to the enterprise. The question originated in the Linkedin Group for the industry association. As I was seeking a topic for my next post, I thought I’d answer the question here for the wider audience and then link to it back in the Group where the original discussion can ensue – so killing two birds with one stone.

“Mike, just curious to get your perspective, since social media is evolving at such a rapid pace and has totally morphed from its earlier iterations … If you were to look into the proverbial crystal ball, what do you see as the most important trends or new uses coming over the next 12-18 months?”

Good question. As always, but perhaps now more than ever, it’s definitely imperative to put on the high-beams, look out farther, and thereby make some decisions, set some long range objectives, and translate those plans into short-term action items.

Social Tech Integration into our lives

The following thoughts come from the last part of my Social Tech Boot Camp for Insurance Executives – Future of Social Technology.  (Next up: Chicago, May 24th) I give credit to one of my mentors, Scott Klososky, for hitting my radar first with a lot of these concepts.

Mainstream use of Social Tech – 2013; Mandatory in 2017

Right now, Social Tech is in the hands primarily of the early adopters. As more people acquire and begin using Smartphones and Tab’s for work (legit one’s – sorry, with the exception of the Torch, the Blackberry Smartphones don’t cut it – for a number of reasons), and as business begins building these new technologies into their everyday, core workflows and processes, executives will be forced to assimilate – and THAT will be the key to widespread adoption.

Social Tech Standards

As with all new technologies, standards will emerge that will make it easier to operate the tools, provide for interoperability across platforms, etc. Nuf said at this point. Pretty intuitive if you understand tech.

Integration into our lives and the outboard brain

As we all know, it’s becoming harder and harder to keep information in our heads, especially the older we get. Our minds are ‘leaky’. The Smartphone will morph into something new, and the tech will become smarter and smarter, eventually to the point of virtually ‘reading our minds’ and assisting us with mundane information storage and retrieval, eventually even decision making and execution.

Increased holistic use

Right now things are commonly segmented between personal and professional, home and work, etc. Technology, especially Mobile and Social, has already begun to blur those lines. Expect more of that. Thus the need for effective planning, business management, work-space awareness, and boundary-setting. Of course, this will have the potential to create significant companion business opportunities for those that, as always, are capable of creatively forecasting and quickly acting on the new evolutions of Social and Mobile Tech.

Crowdsourcing Explosion

More on Crowdsourcing in my next post, but for now, Crowdsourcing will become a key differentiator between the top performers and also-rans in the coming years. An aggressive surge in Crowdsourcing is strongly recommended. Again, more on this later.

Idea Harvesting and Vetting

Creativity and ideation will see greater definition – essentially Crowdsourcing techniques. This will be especially useful in the insurance space. Most insurance veterans will agree: In the last generation or so, common home-office cultures essentially beat the creativity out of employees the longer they stayed in the business. Understanding and adapting to that inherent limitation, companies that deploy intelligent strategies and tactics around idea harvesting and vetting – across the various functional areas of the business – will see competitive advantage.

People Rating

Just like business and products, individuals themselves will also have rating scores. We’re already seeing this with personal rating systems such as Klout, albeit very imperfect and with significant maturation issues as of 2012.  Thus the importance of personal integrity and ethics, work/life balance, and all the corporate cliché’s we’ve been talking about these past couple decades. Social Tech is beginning to integrate these core human disciplines, perhaps even monetize them. Online Reputation Management is critically important. Don’t give the online world the ‘silent treatment’ by attempting to remain invisible. It will come back to bite you.

Online Credentials

We’ve seen this in sites like eBay where sellers have ratings which impact their viability moving forward. Systems will emerge that will aggregate rating scores from across the Social Tech landscape. The systems will score individuals and organizations to make it easy to know who to recruit, do business with, etc. based on the history and experiences of the users. Again, pay attention to Online Reputation Management – critically important.

Virtual Work-spaces

Clearly, the trend to work-from-home and distributed work-spaces has been in full swing for years, perhaps accelerating due to wide access to broad-band internet connectivity and the technologies like tablets that take advantage of that trend. That said, Virtual Workspaces, ala SecondLife, will return the human-touch essentials of the face-to-face environment of ‘the office’ while adding Social Technology to increase efficiency, grow IQ, reduce business risk, and so forth.

Information filtering

Clay Shirky famously said, “It’s not information overload – it’s filter failure.” I heard it said recently that the rate of information creation is on the upward part of a hockey stick curve, and that the volume of new information out there is doubling every two years. It’s insane. Therefore, advanced filtering systems will help with access, consumption, digestion, and thus assimilation into our lives, both professionally and personally. The organizations and people that master these tools and techniques will develop huge competitive advantage – seriously… HUGE.

Game Dynamics

Especially given the fact that a huge majority of U.S. Millenials have grown up with gaming technologies constantly in their hands, the integration of Game Dynamics into core business cultures and processes will likely see wide-spread adoption as Millenials rise to influence. So instead of getting raises at work, the carrot will be the next ‘badge’ or attaining to the next level that can only be experienced by successfully completing the current level. The concepts in play are as timeless as the sand, but the characterizations and manifestations are the key with Game Dynamics.

Connection Addiction

On the negative side of things, yes, we’re already seeing the adverse impacts of hyper-connectivity. I saw recently one study that attempted to identify how important Social Networks were to people and how likely they would interrupt activities to respond to Social Networks via their Smartphones. In fact, a surprisingly high number of people admitted to letting text messages interrupt sexual activities! Okay…. But you get the point. We’re already seeing people post too much content across their Social Graph and the adverse impacts that has, both on the sender and the receiver.

As I said, it’s hard to predict the future, and things are changing quickly making it even more difficult. But these seem to be pretty safe bets.

So what Comments do YOU have? What is YOUR perspective on all of this? Yes, I really want to know, and I’m sure other readers do as well. Please Comment and Share. Thanks in advance.