Stéfan via CompfightPredicting the future is incredibly difficult. Ask any psychic. Or marketer. We don’t need research to tell us that the world is changing, or that the future will be different from the past. The challenge is magnified not only by the amount of change that we are seeing in almost every industry, but by the rate at which those changes are taking place.
Futurist, Tim Longhurst says to predict five years into the future you need to look back ten.
Is it any wonder that younger generations entering the workforce are finding it hard to plot their future careers?
As it turns out, I don’t think this problem has changed that much. Marketing was my fourth or fifth career, and I fell into it by accident. But even within the broad field of marketing, I have rarely held a role with a fixed job description. There have always been large grey areas in which I operated most effectively – whether as an incubator of new business units, a strategist, marketing director.
The thing is – I don’t think my career path with its twists and turns is all that different than others. But tell me. Did the job you’re in exist when you were studying?
Everything that we do on an internet connected device leaves a digital trail. Whether it is an internet enabled refrigerator, a PC, smartphone or tablet – somewhere there is a log file recording of what your device did, what it connected to and when. And if that involves sending files, or creating or consuming content – then that data grows – for those files would be copied, replicated or cached in each location.
Google’s Eric Schmidt famously suggested that from the dawn of civilisation through to 2003, the human race had created roughly 5 exabytes of data. But in 2010 (and beyond), the equivalent is being created every 2 days.
Clearly the proliferation of data since 2010, the growth in devices and digital data consumption has skyrocketed. Not just in Australia. Not just in the US or Europe. But across the globe.
How BIG is big data?
Understanding the scale of data on a massive global scale is challenging. But this infographic from the folks at Cisco provides some great examples (see the “Great Wall of China” quote”).
But the most interesting part of this infographic is not that scale – but the patterns of consumption. Sure we know that video is hot, and will continue to be so. But I like the way that types of video have been broken down. Here are some brief thoughts on each:
- Short form: This is much like our current viewing behaviour – short clips on YouTube and Vimeo are consumed as entertainment snacks. As we shift our attention from the TV to the device, we will also dedicate more time to longer forms (as suggested in the data)
- Long form: We will see an explosion not just in entertainment content, but in education and other forms of interactivity. Connected Consumers will challenge production houses, brands and broadcasters to adapt their content to be more interactive, engaging and yes, social. Longer form video will drive demand for those with storytelling and narration skills and experience. Look to see specialist practices and capabilities growing in the areas of short and longer form video.
- Live internet TV: What live blogging did for events of all kinds will translate to the web. We’re seeing small experiments with apps like Vine, but we can expect this to accelerate in the next two years. If
- Ambient: The use of music and sound to influence buyer behaviour in retail environments has been long understood. In the coming years, we will see the same sophistication applied to video. This is likely to prompt a deeper connection to analytics products that can measure retail and behavioural impacts.
- Mobile: For many people, the mobile experience will be the FIRST SCREEN and ONLY SCREEN. This will drive greater innovation in storytelling as well as in the use of location based targeting and services. Video without big data will become irrelevant (not to producers) but to consumers. Video will need to become strategic.
- Internet PVR: We are already seeing this happen – but can expect moderate growth. But with a growing on-demand culture, the focus will shift away from patterns of collecting to patterns of consuming and sharing.
I can remember my first bulky personal digital assistant (PDA). It was cumbersome, hard to use and ugly. Very ugly. But I loved it. It felt like a ripple in the fabric of the future.
While at university, I took notes on this PDA, scrambling to jot bullet points into the slim LED screen and save them before we moved onto the next subject. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes I lost whole lectures when the AA batteries failed. But even then I realised that there was serious value in being able to search through lecture notes on-the-fly.
And then along came the Palm Pilot. I thought the handwriting recognition was a breakthrough. As I skimmed my stylus across the plastic screen I really felt that I was experiencing another of those ripples in the fabric of the future. It was the right device at the right time – a bridge between my analog and digital worlds. But it wasn’t just a PDA, it was a phone too. And it was changing the world.
With each new innovation, the barriers between me and my device would evaporate. They became easier to use, smarter, friendlier – and dare I say it – more human. Each iteration would be less about the device and more about the experience. My experience. It was like the technology was disappearing before my eyes.
Recently, when Siri came along, we celebrated as if the world had turned on its side. Apple had somehow, again, not only innovated on top of its already innovative iPhone platform – they trumped themselves and changed our relationship with the technology. Now you didn’t even need to swipe and type, you could speak. You could ask questions.
And we all loved Siri. But, for me, Siri was a constant reminder that I was using a device. A particular device. It called out my own reliance on that device and its manufacturer – for always in the background, there was that awareness that the experience was being delivered only by Apple. In many ways, Siri wasn’t just a ripple in the fabric of the future, it was the rock that caused the splash.
But Google’s Glass project fascinates me – partly because it is literally transparent.
As you can see from this video, it’s freshly intuitive – and that’s saying something considering Google’s usually clunky interfaces. But the thing that excites me most is the way that experience – human experience – is front and centre. For decades, technology has drawn us away from the body and focused our minds on the screen. But here, we are celebrating, not the technology, but the body in action. It’s technology taking a back seat. It’s the always on Kodak moment.
And its the closest we’ve yet seen to the future.
At least until the next ripple.
The 2012 Jobvite Social Recruiting Survey reports that 92% of US companies have used social media to identify talent and potential employees. The survey also indicates that 43% of companies using social recruiting have seen an increase in candidate quality – with 73% successfully hiring.
Increasingly this means that personal brands and employer brands are colliding online – well before an interview or conversation takes place. This will impact both the employer and the individual job seeker in positive and challenging ways – with all having to come to grips with the potential and impact of digital marketing as the global economy recovers and the war for talent resumes.
Social Networks Are the Place Where Personal and Employer Brands Meet
In a crowded market it can be a struggle to stand out. On the one hand job seekers compete for the attention of leading businesses and promising startups; and on the other, employers strive to identify and source those with the talent, skills and cultural alignment to succeed within their business.
Increasingly, social networks are the space where personal brand and employer brands meet – bridging skills and geographies through business opportunity.
- LinkedIn allows individuals to create profiles and companies to create pages, join groups, advertise events, jobs and corporate information. It has over 150 million individual profiles and more than 2.6 million company pages
- Xing is the European focused equivalent of LinkedIn with over 7 million profiles
- BranchOut uses the Facebook Open Graph to bring a professional and skill based layer to the most social of social networks
- Ushi is a Chinese invitation-only business social network and focuses its membership on executive and senior professionals
- Tianji has 12 million members and connects China’s white collar professionals and entrepreneurs
- Niche professional networks abound, offering very focused connection based networks by industry, role or even age and experience
Finding the signal in the noise on any of these networks can be a challenge for employers and individuals alike.
Individuals Turn to the 4 BEs and Employers Respond
Even when there is a war on talent – when the demand for the best and brightest workers outstrips the supply, the sheer volume of names, profiles, links and data can prove disconcerting. And for those individuals seeking new career challenges and opportunities, it’s no longer good enough to prepare and send a CV in response to an advertisement – job seekers need to use the 4 BEs of Social Discovery:
- Be found: Without some form of digital profile, individuals will struggle to compete with the more digital-savvy. A LinkedIn profile is a minimal starting point but can be easily augmented through simple online publishing tools like about.me
- Be known: Individuals are increasingly using digital publishing platforms to showcase their skills, experience and networks. Employers are scouring this information to verify career facts and experience of candidates
- Be trusted: It’s not just what you know – it’s who you are connected to. Reputation is an essential component for both the job seeker and the employer. This goes beyond the simplistic recommendations on LinkedIn – employers are seeking overlaps in networks to create verifiable profiles of candidates
- Be successful: Reputation is also about delivery. What are the personal case studies that individuals can publish or link to? What are the outcomes and learnings that can be identified and how does this match against other profile and career data. Employers are seeking a broader understanding of candidates – information that goes beyond the facts and figures and provides a sense of “character” and “personality” (for which social media is imminently suited)
Proactive job seekers are seeking out, following and engaging prospective employers across social networks – but the reverse is also true. Those businesses who require highly specialized skills and expertise are identifying and tracking candidates across their careers. Talent sourcers are employing ever more sophisticated techniques and technologies to accelerate their discovery process.
Vendors have already begun bringing technology to bear against this challenge. Yvette Cameron suggests that Oracle’s new Social Relationship Management suite will bridge personal social and enterprise data to great effect in the coming 12-18 months; and that we should expect similar announcements to come from Salesforce during the annual Dreamforce event.
Social Technologies Disrupting the Workplace Silo
Today’s workers expect that social and mobile technologies will not only be available within the enterprise – but that they will be used to in ways that will empower them and improve productivity. Business leaders have been challenged to justify investment and to trace the value proposition involved. Social technologies and the business rigor that they provide may well provide not only the disruption required to create value within the enterprise – they may well create the future of work – and that’s where personal and employer brands may find their perfect match.
In most businesses, social media starts its life in marketing. Tucked away in the corner, a Facebook page here or a Twitter account there, staffed during the lunch hour when your brand manager gets a moment, these efforts are truly grass roots.
But the levels of consumer use (and dare I say it, “love”) of social networks have dragged social media out of the corner desk into the corner office. These days, social isn’t so much about media as about business – and this shift has put social on the CEO radar.
But it is one thing to be “on the radar” and quite another to put “social business” into a context that works for your brand and for your organisation’s broader goals. Not only are CEOs exceptionally busy, so too are their direct reports – so making time for social media training, executive support or active participation can be a challenge.
All executives, however, understand the principle that CEOs set the culture that drives business results. And in an increasingly connected world, “social” is moving from a “nice to have” to a “game changer”. A recent study from IBM indicated that high performing companies are 30% more likely to identify “openness” (as characterised by social media) as a cultural driver.
Furthermore, with a vast pool of ready-to-harvest customer data available within enterprise systems – when coupled with the unstructured sea of social network information, 73% of CEOs are making significant investments in the area of analytics and customer insight.
But at the end of the day – how many CEOs are making a shift towards social at a personal or practical level? The 2012 Fortune 500 Social CEO Index indicates that 70% of CEOs have NO PRESENCE on social networks.
So it seems – that despite entrenched consumer and customer behaviour – businesses are lagging behind. And yet, CEOs like Rupert Murdoch and Meg Whitman are embracing – albeit experimentally – and building large personal audiences and direct connections to their business stakeholders. Are they anomalies or the very beginning of a trend? For while 70% of CEOs have no presence, 30% do. And that means, according to the theory of diffusion of innovations we are already into the “early majority” audience.
And that to me is the key.
We don’t need to see the volume now – we just need to see the trend. And it smells like disruption to me.
One of the interesting counterpoints of the digital revolution is the way in which thriving “real life” social networks resist the formalising structures offered online. After all, if your RLSN delivers all you need, then why grapple with the vagaries, issues and complexities for small, unmetered gain, right?
I have long held a theory that this was the reason for slow social network adoption amongst different demographics. Take, for example, students. Yes, they are all over Facebook, but they are surprisingly absent from more formal networks like LinkedIn. Same with artists who live and breathe on the power of word of mouth.
But RLSNs lack one important feature that’s inherent in the digital realm: directed serendipity.
In a RLSN, your conversations start in a distinctly one-to-one format. They originate from you and are directed according to your interest and knowledge – that is, you will directly ask the person who you think knows the answer (or where to find it). After all, a RLSN is based on the social graph – the network of relations that connect us all.
But social networks allow answers to find questions and the people behind them. They are driven by what we call the interest graph and powered by human curiosity. As Wikipedia explains:
The Interest Graph refers to the specific and varied interests that form one’s personal identity, and the attempt to connect people based on those interests. On an individual scale, this means the different things one person is interested in—be itjogging, celebrity gossip, or animal rights—that make up their likes and dislikes, and what has more meaning to them over someone else. On a broader scale, it’s the way those interests form unspoken relationships with others who share them, and expand to create a network of like-minded people.
Once a RLSN realises the value in and potential of the interest graph, a gradual migration begins to take place.
We can see this happening now, with a recent report indicating that LinkedIn usage amongst graduates is rising dramatically – in fact, students and graduates are the fastest growing demographic on LinkedIn. More that 35% of students plan to use LinkedIn as a primary source for their job search – a 700% increase since 2010.
The question you’ve got to ask yourself is this – how are you engaging young people via LinkedIn? How are you planning your over-the-horizon sourcing? And how are you priming and directing the interest graph of those you want to attract to your business? Sound challenging? It’s the future of work.
Late last year I surveyed Australian businesses about their social business “readiness”. I wanted to determine whether the same business patterns and modes of adoption shown in the US had surfaced in local businesses:
The results indicated that marketers are increasingly comfortable with digital channels and are shifting their budgets accordingly. This shift appears to be happening regardless of business size – and surprisingly – regardless of a firm connection between investment and business value.
While the first survey focused on marketing and external communications – essentially the customer side of the business process – this survey also covers other areas such as collaboration, employee engagement and so on.
Please take a few minutes to fill out the survey – and be sure to provide your email address to receive a free copy of the final report.
In the marketing world, we love trends. We use them to help us spot and understand what is happening in our marketplaces and what is shifting in the worlds of our customers. They can also be used to help us identify where we have gaps in our customer engagement strategy or where a competitive advantage is opening up.
But so often we focus only on the trend and miss the greater underlying movement that is taking place.
Take a look at this presentation from Edelman Digital. The focus is on trends across Asia Pacific – but the reality of this is, that the same can be easily applied to any country. We are, after all, globally connected. And when I say “we”, I mean “consumers”.
As the presentation points out, trends like “touch (see) and go” and “convergence emergence” are not just on the horizon – they are happening and visible in our marketplace now. And tying this to the Edelman Trust Barometer – a measure of the trustworthiness of our institutions – shows precisely why social networks and dominating the thinking of so many business executives.
But for my money, it’s not the trends that are important for us all to consider. It’s the direction. The report touches on this under “Trend 8: Device Freedom” – but reading between the lines, it’s clear that there is a substantial shift in consumer behaviour underway. And it will impact every angle, every industry, every message and every business – whether we like it or not. It’s the ever increasing ubiquity of the mobile phone (particularly the smart phone). It’s already changing the way we shop and the way we work, but it’s going to go further than most businesses are ready for.
Those that prepare and move earlier will be well placed to guide the customer experience and transform the notion of trust that is at the heart of our often fragile sense of brand loyalty. Those that fail to move may find that they fail in more ways than one. It’s taken well over 10 years to get to the year of the mobile, but the trending time is over – the direction is clear and it’s in the palm of your hand.
I am old enough to remember using a bundy clock to mark the beginning and end of my work day. Each day, at 8:45am I would pick out the card with my name typewritten (yes typed by a typewriter) at the top and I would slot it into the machine which would time stamp my attendance. And then again, at 5:00pm, I would walk down the stairs, select my card and “bundy out”. If I think about it I can still feel the rhythm that would vibrate up the card into my fingers.
The reason I started work at 8:45am was to create enough time in our working schedule for a fortnightly “early afternoon”. Every two weeks the office closed early and we all rushed off to nearby shops to pay bills, bank cheques and so on. It afforded a small amount of flexibility in our otherwise regimented working lives.
Clearly, this was a time before 24 hour shopping. It was a world that stopped after 6pm.
Inside the office, the decor of the moment was beige. Office landscapes were designed like wagon trains – the management encircling the worker who eeked out their existence in brown hessian covered partitions surrounded by inboxes, outboxes, reading materials and filing cabinets. The only piece of technology to be seen was the Commander telephone. And yes, your desktop really was a desktop – there was not a computer in sight.
And while this environment looked and felt safe, conservative and controlled – it was anything but – for technology was about to create a massive disruption within the workplace – one from which we would never recover.
It began with green screen – or orange screen – computers. Hovering over our desks, they looked like alien eyes peering back at us from unimagined future. Suddenly the activity of “work” shifted from the pad and pen – from the desk – onto the screen connected to a mainframe locked away in a climate controlled room in the basement. We were trained, supported and performance KPI’d. And then slowly it started.
A business case here and a business case there, and soon “desktop computers” began to sprout across the office. They were like great silent triffids gobbling up our old work practices and expectations. Some of my older colleagues gave up and took early retirement. Others retreated further up the management chain, defending their positions with computer-literate PAs and assistants.
Eventually the desk was replaced with the desktop.
We now face yet another wave of disruptive change. Many now cling as tightly to their laptop computers and email as my colleagues once did with their pens, pads and sense of tradition. But those days are over. The future of work isn’t about desks or even offices. It’s mobile and it’s already here. It’s time to turn it on.