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The Queen Of Tech Trends Sees Big Things For Social Sharing

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by Michael Hinshaw
Managing Director
MCorp Consulting

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Article Highlights:

  • Mary Meeker’s report provides context for where social sharing is going and what this might mean to businesses in the fast-moving years ahead.
  • Mobile-driven social sharing is just getting started in terms of its growth potential.
  • Unprecedented transparency is an inevitable result of social sharing.

For people who keep a finger on the pulse of digital trends, the week of the D11 conference is like Christmas morning, and this year was no exception.

Tim Cook was tantalizingly tight-lipped on Apple’s “grand vision” for TV. Elon Musk promised to change life in California forever with his Hyperloop idea. And despite all this, one of the biggest stories was Mary Meeker’s 2013 Internet Trends report, which has had more than 1,000,000 views on Slideshare in the four days following its release.

Mary Meeker has been the authority on Internet trends since, well, since she convinced Wall Street that Internet trends were worth tracking in the first place. A long-time executive at Morgan Stanley and now a partner at Silicon Valley VC firm/kingmakers Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), Meeker first began compiling these reports on technology usage and trends in 1995.

Trillions And Trillions Of Gigabytes In Social Influence
A major focus of Meeker’s 2013 report is the explosive growth in social sharing, particularly from mobile devices. Driven by always-on connectivity, social influence—the result of all this social sharing—is one of the four major disruptive forces Bruce Kasanoff and I describe in our book, "Smart Customers, Stupid Companies." Specifically, social influence is the impact that social networks and the sharing that occurs over them have on the relationships between companies and customers.

What Meeker’s report does is provide context for where social sharing is going and what this might mean to businesses in the fast-moving years ahead. Turns out the growth numbers make Carl Sagan’s “billions and billions” look miniscule. Citing a report from IDC, Meeker points out that 2 zettabytes of data were created and shared by 2011. And that number is expected to grow to almost 8 zettabytes by 2015.

Like most people, I had no idea what a zettabyte is. Turns out it’s 1 trillion gigabytes, meaning the world is expected to create and share 8,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes of data by 2015.

We’ve been telling companies for years that you can’t count on hiding anything from smart customers because of the tremendous power of social influence. As Bruce and I point out in our book—and as Meeker made so clear—mobile-driven social sharing is just getting started in terms of its growth potential.

Social Sharing By The Numbers: Ramping Fast, And Still Early
Meeker’s report outlines four social sharing trends fueling these zettabytes of data: photo, video, sound, and data. Specifically:

• Photos: There are currently more than 500 million photos shared online every day, including more than 300 million daily on Facebook. The mind-blowing thing is that this growth is accelerating at such a rate that it’s expected to double year-over-year. Snapchat, a mobile app for snapping and sharing photos that quickly expire, is the catalyst of the moment with up to 140 million daily photos in 1 year.

• Video: YouTube, of course, is still the giant in this space. Today, 100 hours of video is uploaded every minute, compared to 20 hours in 2009. And, once again, we see an upstart accelerating the trend. Vine, a mobile app for making six-second videos to share, has captured almost 8 percent of the U.S. active iPhone user share since its launch in January.

• Sound: Sound, ironically, is the next big mobile device trend that Meeker foresees. SoundCloud, a service for sharing music, podcasts, etc., generates 11 hours of sound uploads per minute. Tencent audio messaging has 400 million users.

• Data: Meeker’s concept of data sharing is multifaceted—from community-driven knowledge (e.g., Waze’s 40 million users sharing traffic and road congestion data and Yelp’s 100 million sharing reviews) to sensor-driven (another disruptive force Bruce and I discuss) wearables, such as Jawbone’s UP. In fact, wearables are heavily featured later in her presentation—and in another of my recent articles.

An Age Of Unprecedented Transparency
The key driver behind these massive numbers is a cultural shift toward sharing as a way of life. The biggest example is Facebook, which has more than 90 percent penetration among social media users around the globe. Of its 1.1 billion-plus active users, 60 percent log in daily, 68 percent are on mobile, and they’re uploading 350 million photos. Every day.  

It’s too early to understand where all of this sharing will lead. But one thing is certain: Unprecedented transparency is an inevitable result. We’ve all seen the power of social sharing do tremendous good—even change countries. We’ve also seen its dark side, where half-truths and momentary indiscretions quickly and viciously spread.

For businesses, though, the inescapable constant is the presence of other people inserting their opinions and influence into what used to be a relatively closed relationship between a company and its customers. So if you run a company of any size, you can be certain that more than a few of those trillions of bytes being shared—whether photos, video, sound, or data—are focused on you.

The good news is, the power of social influence is in your hands, too. Whether the message that’s shared is positive or negative depends a lot on you—and on how you (or don’t) embrace social sharing and the transparency that results.

About Michael Hinshaw

Currently managing director of customer experience innovation firm MCorp Consulting, Michael Hinshaw radically improves how companies connect with, serve and profit from their customers. On CMO.com, he shows executives ways to drive value for their firms by transforming customer experience, and the interactions and processes that support it. Michael is also co-author with Bruce Kasanoff of the best-selling book "Smart Customers, Stupid Companies: Why Only Intelligent Companies Will Thrive, and How to Be One of Them.

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