Cannes Lions 2015: The Next Ten Years of Social Media

With Cannes Lions just around the corner, I revisited my presentation from last summer. So I guess it’s now “the next nine years of social media.”

The ten trends for the next decade:

  1. Gone
  2. Shoppable
  3. Snackable
  4. Automated
  5. Connective
  6. Filtered
  7. Integrated
  8. Chinese
  9. Subcutaneous
  10. Empowering

For a summary of coverage and media takeaways from the speech, click here.

The Next Decade of Social Media

On Stage at Cannes Lions

Last week, I shared some thoughts on the next decade of social media at the 2015 Cannes Lions festival. The key points are highlighted in this Guardian article:

  1. Gone
  2. Shoppable
  3. Snackable
  4. Automated
  5. Connective
  6. Filtered
  7. Integrated
  8. Chinese
  9. Subcutaneous
  10. Empowering

More coverage of the talk is available in these write-ups:

More images from my week in Cannes:

Can brands be human?

Seeking Shambhala


“I’m only huuu-man / Of flesh and blood I’m made / Huuu-man / Born to make…mistakes…”

— “Human,” The Human League, 1986

One of the biggest supposed benefits of social media has been its potential to “humanize brands.” You should know the story by now — the world of brand marketing is filled with one-way communication, where institutions fill airwaves and fiber optics with unwanted commercial messages. Social media enables brands to improve on the wasted spend of traditional messaging by allowing direct consumer engagement for business purposes.

For example, we celebrated the way JetBlue handled their Valentine’s Day crisis with adept use of social media. On the other hand, we use the same channels to complain about brands and their lack of understanding. All in all, we expect brands – and the people operating their social media accounts – to engage in personal, colloquial conversations. To act human.

However, our society has a long history of denouncing institutions: goverments, religions, corporations. Social media has empowered individuals with voices and given that consumers love to hate advertising, is it any surprise that brands, no matter how hard they try to “humanize” themselves via social media, are never allowed to succeed?

Last Wednesday, I saw many people post stories on Facebook of where they were on September 11, 2001, using the hashtag #neverforget. That day some brands – and the people operating the accounts – took to social media to acknowledge the tragic events that happened that day. I didn’t see any criticism of people’s stories or Instagram photos — but I did see plenty of criticism of the posts from brands. Most of criticism called out implicit commercialization of the tragic events of twelve years ago.

Most of these brands weren’t trying to be a jerk like Kenneth Cole, who deliberately tries to profit from the suffering of others. These brands – and people – were just trying to be more human…and many people hated them for it. Whether necessary or not, AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson posted a public apology for his brand’s tweet — a very humanized response.

It’s difficult to know the exact intent behind each of the brand posts — commercial or not. But what’s clear is that consumers hold brands to a different standard in social media communications. For years, brands have been advised to use social media to be more “human” — but it seems to me that consumers will never let that happen, no matter how hard brands try.


I originally published this post on Medium.



Understanding China’s digital and social media landscape

China is the world’s most populated country, with over 1.3 billion inhabitants. It also maintains the world’s second largest economy, on track to become the largest by 2016. This growth has contributed to the rise of consumer classes within the country and in turn captured the attention of global brands.

As brands ramp up marketing efforts in China, they are increasingly prioritizing digital channels. The country has 560+ million internet users – more than any other country – and the average user spends more hours per week online than with TV, print, and radio combined. Despite this high amount of time spent online, adoption of major digital and social platforms in China has been limited. Many Google properties including YouTube, Blogspot, and Google+ are blocked to regular web browsing, along with Facebook, Twitter, and others. Instead, Chinese users spend their time on country-specific sites like Kaixin, Douban, and Jiepang.

From what I’ve observed, there are many similarities to global marketing tactics than one might assume, given China’s restricted access. However when you get past differences in channel and focus on consumers and content, the lessons are similar. People have become the medium. Listen first. Your real job is storytelling.

But of course there are differences as well. China’s social media sites are similar to US sites and analogies can help keep things straight, but they have different capabilities and user bases. “Weibo” (微博) is Chinese for microblog, but should you use Sina, Tencent/QQ, or another? Pinterest-like sites Mogujie and Meilishuo don’t have monetization challenges, however many brands (particularly outside of the fashion industry) are struggling to find a place for these sites within their digital strategy.

And don’t forget scale: during the 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony, Twitter recorded almost 10 million related mentions. Sina Weibo? 119 million. The biggest day in the history of US e-commerce was Cyber Monday 2012, with an estimated record US$1.5 billion in sales across online retailers in a single day. Last year, Taobao doubled that on Singles Day (11/11), seeing US$3.06 billion in sales.

On the surface, the landscape appears similar to the rest of the world, but the details are where the differences start to matter.

What’s beyond social business?

Let’s face it. Great brands need to be thinking about what’s beyond social business.

Social Business

You might be thinking, “Wait a second…the social business era has just begun!” And if so, you’d be correct…

Let’s rewind it back:

  • 2003 – 2006: Early Adoption. Professionals viewed social media with curiosity and kept an eye out on the trajectory of corporate+consumer engagement. Despite early brand experiments like Randy Baseler’s Boeing blog, most companies were skeptical of the long-term impact of this emerging media/technology. However, some unlucky brands would eventually have no choice but to participate, as detractors used new outlets to broadcast their dissatisfaction – and mainstream media amplified the discontent. Early adopters including Charlene Li, Steve Rubel, and Robert Scoble explained to the world what needed to be done. 
  • 2007 – 2009: Early Majority. Brands decide to get involved. They’re getting educated, listening to consumers using new technology, rolling out internal collaboration platforms, and starting to consider how to integrate “social” into existing operations. However, as the global financial crisis caused the world to slide into the Great Recession, budgets were slashed and program momentum stalled. The silver lining to financial meltdown? Brands had to get clever with what they had on hand and also had time to think strategically about integrating social into their businesses. Thinkers like Jeremiah Owyang, David Armano, and Chris Brogan help move brands, big and small, put pieces together and move forward. I identified over 300 brands using social media marketing.
  • 2010 – 2012: Mainstreaming. Budgets start returning to brands and technology adoption starts to hockeystick. The term “social business” becomes increasingly adopted and companies go on record to report return on investment from their initiatives. The pace of social technology acquisitions and IPOs picks up as investors seek to monetize their bets. Social business leaders including Scott Monty, Michael Donnelly, Richard Binhammer, and Bonin Bough have pioneered the creation of corporate social media teams and the presence of this construct is now common for most brands.

So what now?

Social business certainly still has a way to go. Many brands still lack coherent strategy and tactics for coping with two-way engagement, not to mention internal change management. However, the trail has been blazed by pioneers like IBM, Coca-Cola, and Dell for others to follow. The mainstreaming of social business will continue throughout 2013, as brands focus on scaling programs externally and internally. Emerging challenges like SoMoLo (social/mobile/local) will occupy attention even further. Most approaches are focused on building four of five capabilities outlined by Umair Haque: singularity, sociality, spontaneity, and synchronicity. I see this playing out primarily in employee education and consumer engagement, with a focus on training, tools, and measurement.

But what’s beyond social business?

Solving for social at scale requires implementation of solutions for today, not tomorrow. That’s delivering on mainstreaming.

Along the way, the concept of “social business” risks losing meaning, similar to the reductive definitions placed on originally expansive concepts like BPR and CRM. Is the pinnacle of social business success equal to the presence of robust two-way communication? That’s difficult for many brands and a step forward for sure, but ultimately limiting. It’s only focused on plateauing on the top of the social media S-curve.

It’s critical that brands position themselves to participate and potentially own experience ecosystems. In a world of increasing connectedness, brands must employ a holistic point of view with regard to consumer relations, employee collaboration, and value chain management. This requires thinking through communications and how they’re aligned with products and services.

“Social” describes everything we do, but technology always underpins the change. As Deb Schultz has said: technology changes, humans don’t. The rise of social business has not been about figuring out humans – it’s been about how people and companies use new technology to communicate, transact, and entertain.


Review: Clay Shirky and Cognitive Surplus

Clay Shirky crystallized what was going on with social media in his 2008 book “Here Comes Everybody.” Shirky has a new book out called “Cognitive Surplus.” For a summary of the book, you can read this speech transcript from a couple years ago. You can also watch this video, similar content.

Shirky’s concept certainly has, as Seth Godin puts it, “world-changing” potential. In fact, Tim O’Reilly has already pointed out how to make this a reality, imploring us to work on stuff that matters.

Beyond a straight summary, here are some of the concepts I found thought-provoking:

  • Media is the connective tissue of society. This is a wonderful definition of not only what we share, but also hints at why we connect and how.
  • Digital sharecropping. An idea that social sites create an unfair situation whereby individuals create content but platform owners get the monetary rewards. Theoretically feasible, but rare in practice.
  • Consumers will take control – if you let them. “If you give people a way to act on their desire for autonomy and competence or generosity and sharing, they might take you up on it.” This could be for better or worse with regards to your brand.
  • The problem is us, not it. “Many of the unexpected uses of communications tools are surprising because our old beliefs about human nature were so lousy.” Fewer people today say they don’t get Twitter, namely because we have shifted mental models regarding how people communicate online.
  • Why sharing ideas works. Thomas Jefferson: “He who receives ideas from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine.” I can share ideas through this blog that do not detract from my own ideas – and in fact this community returns the value through comments, retweets, and other responses.
  • Culture is key. It’s how alchemy evolved into chemistry and the world ended up gaining from a greater degree of openness.
  • There are drawbacks to more connectivity. “Increased communication and contact with others isn’t risk free, and any new opportunity requires ways to manage risk.” Moreover, “social media introduces social dilemmas into a number of environments where they didn’t previously exist.”
  • Building a business case may be difficult. “We can’t ask people running traditional systems to evaluate a new technology for its radical benefits; people committed to keeping the current system will tend, as a group, to have trouble seeing value in anything disruptive.” Don’t limit the definition of “systems” here to IT only – think of processes and culture within ecosystems as well. 

The entire last chapter focuses on starting, growing, and adapting efforts – solid advice for anyone responsible for community development. Shirky has created a wonderful outline of the what, why, and how of our society’s Cognitive Surplus – the only question left is “what now,” which can only be answered by each of us.

A List of Social Media Marketing Examples

Hello – if you’re here’s for social media examples, you’ve come to the right place.

Here are some related resources you might find helpful:

Background on why I originally did this:

I’ve been thinking about how social media works.  For example, applying game mechanics to understand participation, thinking about users vs. customers, and deconstructing ego traps in PR campaigns.  This analysis makes me wonder if social media marketing matters and if so, does it scale.

I thought you might benefit from some of my background research on these topics.  And I’d appreciate your help in curating this list by providing more details and submitting additional cases.


Wiki analysis


>> Last update: 23 November 2008
>> Total brands: 324

Examples of companies using and being used by social media marketing:

[Notice anything missing?  Leave a link and description in the comments below.  I’ll add to the main list on a periodic basis.]

1 Jeremiah Owyang’s A Chronology of Brands that Got Punk’d by Social Media
2 Mashable’s 35+ Examples of Corporate Social Media in Action
3 Forrester’s Groundswell Awards, 2007 and 2008
4 Mack Collier’s Company Blog Checkup Series
5 Social Brand Index – Twitter
6 Credit: Gavin Heaton
7 Credit: Philippe Deltenre
8 Credit:  zeroinfluencer, David Bausola
9 Credit: Bruce Eric Anderson
10 Credit: Nick Ayres
11 Credit: Jeff Glasson
12 Credit: Luke
13 Credit: Mike
14 Credit: Robin Seidner
15 Credit: Tom Shea
16 Credit: Ed Nicholson
17 Credit:  Stefan Halley
18 Credit: Tom Hoehn
19 Credit: Debbie Weil and her list of 67+ Big Brand Corporate Blogs
20 Credit: Marta Kagan
21 Credit: Paull Young
22 Credit: Kevin
23 Credit: Paul Fabretti
24 Credit: Nick Huhn
25 Credit: dominic
26 Credit: Michael Pranikoff
27 Credit: Kyle Flaherty
28 Credit: Ed Terpenning
29 Credit: Chi-chi Ekweozor
30 Credit: Lisa
31 Credit: David Bressler
32 Credit: C.B. Whittemore
33 Credit: Torley
34 Credit: David Jones
35 Credit: Keith De La Rue
36 Credit: Sean Lew
37 Credit: Tom Cummings
38 Credit: Donna Tocci
39 Credit: Adam Singer
40 Credit: Yianni Garcia
41 Credit: Matt Cronin
42 Credit: Stephen Manning
43 Credit: Jim Dietzel
44 Credit: Clayton
45 Credit: Mike
46 Credit: Kira Wampler
47 Credit: Woody Meachum
48 Credit: Lee Aase
49 Credit: Toby Bloomberg
50 Credit: Adam Denison
51 Credit: Colleen Gatlin
52 Credit: Davezilla
53 Credit: Gina
54 Credit: Marcos Fargas
55 Credit: Marianne Richmond
56 Credit: Kevin Barenblat
57 Credit: Dan Entin
58 Credit: Bruce Ertmann
59 Credit: Sean Moffitt
60 Credit: Elana Bowman
61 Credit: Dan
62 Credit: Andrew
63 Credit: James O’Connor
64 Credit: Herve Kabla
65 Credit: Sachin Agarwal
66 Credit: Lou Cuming
67 Credit: Danny Urguia
68 Credit: Kathrin Lohmann
69 Credit: Rafa
70 Credit: John Galpin
71 Credit: Ken Kaplan
72 Credit: Kathy Mandelstein
73 Credit: BJ Cook
74 Credit: John Welsh and list of UK SMM examples
75 Credit: Nils Koenig
76 Credit: James Finnen
77 Credit: Miko
78 Credit: Yvonne DiVita
79 Credit: Juny Lee
80 Credit: Massimo Cavazzini
81 Credit: Gunther Lie
82 Credit: Alan Edgett
83 Credit: Kelly
84 Credit: Søren Storm Hansen
85 Credit: dlafont
86 Credit: Greg Weinger
87 Credit: Katie Mingo
88 Credit: Patricia Romeo
89 Credit: Kate Elzer-Peters
90 Credit: Jason
91 Credit: Penny Schouten
92 Credit: Gillian
93 Credit: Valorie Luther
94 Credit: Shannon Swenson
95 Credit: Rachel Happe’s Social Media Examples via @MadLid
96 Credit: vidarbrekke
97 Credit: Kylie Lewis
98 Credit: Guy Kawasaki
99 Credit: Mikael Lindecrantz
100 Credit: Alex
101 Credit: Steve Radick
102 Credit: NewTarget Web
103 Credit: Jason Dojc
104 Credit: Chrissie Hsu
105 Credit: Aki Spicer
106 Credit: Liza Hausman
107 Credit: Eric Hoffman
108 Credit: Kami W Huyse
109 Credit: Sean Hudson
110 Credit: Eric
111 Credit: Matt
112 Credit: Larry Gee
113 Credit: Urs
114 Credit:  Harry Gold