As I sit here at Gate E2 at PDX enjoying glorious free WiFi, I hearken back 15 years ago to the days when being “mobile” was much more of a big deal. I remember one particular East Coast business trip in ‘97, when because I had to be reached remotely, my cellular phone involved a backpack-sized device and a handset the size of a smallish terrier. Fast forward to now and I’m more concerned about which new, cool application to download to my iPhone.
So, we all agree that social web is on the cusp of becoming something even bigger and more valuable to large organizations and global brands. What’s more important is how it affects each of us. Everyone is writing about the stages of social media adoption, conversations, relationships, and metrics and I can’t discount any of it – as a digital strategist it’s what I live and breathe every day. As an example, just a couple weeks ago, Jeremiah Owyang of Forrester posted his take on The Future of Social Networks.
The thing I’ve noticed the most is how everyone tends to agree with what social is becoming, but nobody wants to have opinions on what’s holding back the proverbial floodgates. If I had to point at one single thing holding us back right now, I’d say it’s mobile infrastructure. Last summer, I had the chance to briefly entertain a group of Japanese ambassadors. We talked about the current state of technology in the U.S. and Japan, specifically mobile. What became glaringly apparent is the sheer proliferation of Internet usage via handheld device in Japan. It’s not only happening in Japan, but also in Western Europe. With advancing improvements like 3G and Intel’s WiMAX 4G network, devices, operating systems, and applications will also get smarter.
When we can shoot, edit, and publish video quickly from one device; when we can sync up, beam out, capture, and create other forms of media; and, with that same device we can transact, do business, entertain ourselves with downloadable and streaming media, and most importantly, do the stuff we’ve been doing already, called “social media,” then truly the social web just becomes an extension of us. A daily accessory we automatically carry like the shoes we put on every morning. In this framework social media is the interim vehicle to continue relationships and conversations when we can’t be face-to-face. It’s something more creative, more emotional and therefore exponentially more appealing than an email or text message. Consequently, in the future we’re all going to look back on Twitter (and SMS) like a scene where Indiana Jones brushes the dust off the etchings of the Ark.
Again, in this construct there will be no excuse to be AWOL from your clients, friends and family for multiple days just because you can’t get back to your hardware. That is, of course, unless you’re leaving the grid on purpose.
So don’t worry too much about whether or not you should do something because @Oprah or @Pepsi is doing it. Worry about whether WiMax is coming to your major metropolitan area and keep abreast of the latest handheld devices coming up by grabbing RSS from Techcrunch, Wired, mobile blogs, etc.
In the meantime, I’ll be firing up Tweetie (my favorite iPhone application) and getting into the conversation; that crazy social web just might lead me to a handshake (offline).