9 Predictions for the Future of ‘Social’ in 2020

Yesterday I spoke at ExactTarget’s Connections 2012 conference on the "Future of Social: 2020." While I put a lot of time and effort into thinking about this topics for the conference, no one knows what the hell will happen! Nonetheless, here are some my predictions on the future of 'social'.

  1. Expect to see ‘social’ as a word wither and become integrated across all functions. Social competency centers inside organizations will go away as it becomes a way of doing each function. For example, email, websites, and advertising all experienced a similar transition.
  2. As such, tools that support social and functional execution will also become integrated. That's an easy one... it's already happening. :)
  3. There will be increased sophistication and programs around influencers based on their points, reputation, and influence by topic. As such, companies will get better at integrating gamification and loyalty programs that track this influence and reputation. If we are obsessed now with hotel and airline points, imagine how interested we will become in our social points especially as it becomes more obvious how such scores will impact our experience.
  4. Social TV will become embedded resulting in ubiquitous consumption and interaction based on what's on TV (taped and live). With an increase in noise, individuals will be rewarded with points for influencing others to watch. In an effort to increase participation, viewers will be presented with curated content that matches their interests.
  5. Screens will be everywhere and socially enabled too. Social engagement will be integrated into virtually every touchpoint and anchored to the appropriate social networks. For instance, individuals will see real-time content in grocery stores that inspire people to buy. Individuals will participate with numerous screens while having dinner, going to concerts, watching TV. As this shift occurs, more and more of our physical experiences will become 'second-screened' to our mobile phone, apps, and big screen displays.
  6. Facebook growth with search will drive more people to share useful content publicly.
  7. Intelligent machines will share more helpful data that integrates nicely into social.
  8. Mobile device form factors will not matter as much as the interaction between these devices and other devices and screens. As such, companies should be preparing for the implicit and explicit participation between the devices and people. As a result, operational and real-time data will become more important, as will creating context based on the participant.
  9. Social integration will have intelligence embedded. If a brand integrates social into their owned properties, the source, geographic origin, and velocity of the social content will trigger changes in website’s structure, promotions, and offerings. Offline this information will alter in-store offerings drawing a straighter line between social conversations and brand operations.


  1. My most confident and perhaps relevant prediction for companies is that the challenges will occur on the people side of things. To adopt and change at the rate that technology is evolving, we will need new models for experimentation, learning, change leadership, developing authentic voices, and technical deployment. All which, as you probably noticed, relate back to #1.

In conclusion, reflect on this quote:

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” - Andy Warhol

Sam Decker's picture

Sam Decker

Sam Decker is a current member of the Spredfast board. Sam most recently served as the CEO and co-founder of Mass Relevance (now Spredfast). Prior to Mass Relevance, Sam was founding Chief Marketing Officer at Bazaarvoice, a provider of SaaS social commerce technologies serving over 1,000 brands, where he was responsible for building the company’s brand, products and platform.