I recently had some interesting discussions going on between friends, business partners and also strangers. The topic covered: what is this all about facebook, groupon, foursquare and so on and whats the next big thing AFTER Facebook? This post will be the first formulated thought on this topic, although discussed several times before.
To be clear on one thing: I dont think that Facebook will be over soon. Although, I give the network in its current stage about 3 – 5 more years, wherea its members age structure is slightly moving up (towards an older, more 40+ generation), which in fact is not that bad, because thats where the money really is.
However, Facebook itself wont be the next big thing and it wont bring it out either. Neither will Google or Microsoft, but it will be an software engineering company combining the big three things: social network, local aspects, immediate benefit – on a handy device. Yes, the next thing, and it will be covered under the umbrella of „social experience“ will be the „local grid“.
The next big thing will combine social networks, local positioning and immediate benefit (also known as „deal“) on a handy device.
Whats the „Local Grid“?
So, whats behind this fancy cover-up of a „local grid“? Well basically its things we already see happening now: the fuzz about „Foursquare„, „Gowalla“ and „Facebook Places„, people like to „show off“ where they are and more than before: with whom. It actually bigbrother but self promoted. However, if we combine this fact with another trend, the „group-buy-experience“ this really brings fun into it. How will it look like? Lets say, Michael and Sara, two friends from Zurich go shopping on an average Saturday afternoon. As soon as they pass the recently opened LEVIS store, they get notified via (maybe facebook) messaging, that there’s a decent deal going on inside the store. Remember: Michael is fan of LEVIS on facebook, Sara is into fashion and they both have not disabled the „Geo-localization“ tool on their smartphones. So back to the deal: the check the message and think, well, thats quite a nice idea, lets „share it“ with some friends. The application used (most likely it will be an online tool in the cloud, rather then an expensive „need-to-buy“ application), this tool will alert some of their friends being close (thanks to some other local oriented geo-tagging application). Here’s the big thing behind: if Sara and Michael can bring more than 5 other friends also into the shop, the discount will be even higher – or they might increase to win a trip to San Francisco – marketeers at your gates! So, basically its nothing else than the good old bargaining power of a bazaar, not really needed to walk all the time with your crowd around, because the crowd will be alerted within the glimps of an eye.
Everything is tending towards a local social experiences – but communicated, rated and shared globally
Social Experience – act local, communicate global
So Michael and Sara, our two protagonists of this article, have just made a decent deal at the local store – and in the same time, they made some new friends as well. However, this wouldnt be without the fact, that young adults (as well as older ones) have the urge of presenting their bargain not only to local friends nearby, but put it on a plattform where others can see, rate and share it further. Pictures, keywords, tags and friends will together
Having said all this and stated biggerish the title „the next big thing“ on this article, what is the core behind all this? Simple: a grid of information around the „me-net“. While „The Cloud“ will provide all the technology behind, we will have all at our hands with smartphones and handy devices. We certainly will move and live for a long time in the real world, we have to as we are human beings with an urge to breathe, eat and sleep. A reason why Second Life once failed was, that the local exchange of experience was missing in the concept. If we look at it from a socio-economic perspective, this new tools and grid-like experience is nothing else than the good old school-yard, where you gather with a clique, you move within your town and you experience „deals“ and „events“ as you go. However: while moving, you leave a trace. And thats where the „grid“ comes in.
The grid is nothing else than your trail of data, your profile, your likes, your attributes and buy-history, all put together to make your life even easier.
You move and exchange in the same time, your device will communicate each interaction with the real world into your online-profile, creating an even more sophisticated „customer“-avatar from yourself. So the next time you pass this area of the city, this database will tell your device already before hand, what to experience and where to go. Even more: as data is not bound to a local area, your profile will also suit you in any other place with a similar surrounding. Be it in New York, London or Marrakesh.
What does this means for business?
Basically, this grid is the dream of every marketeer. As people tend to lose their negative attitudes towards the internet and shared data (sure, there will also be people to protect and prevent data sharing, which is good, but it will also slow down, never stop it), those people will make it visible for stores and companys to „know their clients“ better. They also can add features like trending (what is being talked about now on the streets, whats „hot and not“ between friends) from other social communities communication streams and therefore they will see how markets develop, raise and fall in almost real time. It also means, that businesses need to be ready to open up on their supply-chain, their staffing and also in the way they communicate. Most of the information has to come in real time, not in long, monthly ahead planned meetings and sales plans – same goes for the supply chains. It will be a chance for „local and now“ and nothing else and it will be even more important to treat your customers right. Because they will bring you more customers, their friends and trustees, not only next week, but now.
The new grid is „local and now“. The times of long planned „campaigns“ will be over.
Whats your thoughts on this? Already happening? Too vague or passé? Let me know – happy on any thoughts on this. Thanks.
BTW: while writing this, http://www.groupon.com/now already is providing some sort of local based deal experience now they just have to merge with a newly developed foursquare service