Career Boosters: The future of social media

Three industry execs on the future of social and how to stay relevant in the field

Career Boosters is usually an e-panel discussion that scouts out leaders in the marketing, digital, communications and advertising space to provide their perspectives on industry topics related to career development, talent acquisition and hiring practices. This time, we’re looking at where the social landscape is headed and how to stay relevant in the field.

Today’s panel: Ed Lee is senior director, social media at Tribal Toronto, Duri Alajrami is founder and executive director at Relevance Club, and Casie Stewart is an award-winning freelance social and digital strategist and speaker. 

Messaging apps have been viewed as the future of social, with research indicating they will surpass social networks in number of users before year’s end. How will we see brands leveraging this trend over the next five years?

Lee: Social media is about connecting people – that will never change – but the pendulum is swinging from mass connection to a more intimate experience. The brands that can add value for their consumers lives, with authenticity and legitimacy, will win. For B2B brands, this could be industry news – UK agency Battenhall’s Whatsapp feed is a great example of this. For consumer brands, a feeling of exclusivity such as behind the scenes at fashion shows, sporting events or the like, combined with insider looks at celebrities they sponsor would all be of value to consumers. But as always, the promise of a place in your consumer’s pocket comes with a caveat. As a famous letter goes, “pretty much all I’m looking for from the maker of sausages is some really tasty sausages.” Brands cannot overstretch or overestimate their place in culture.

Alajrami: I think a messaging functionality has become an intrinsic app of every social network, given that all of these networks were founded to allow people to connect, learn and share. The challenge facing brands today is that messaging apps (be it SMS, Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, Viber, etc.) are all considered private P2P channels, where privacy is highly guarded by both the users and the providers. So, unless these providers offer unique added value and proper profiling to allow these users to accept third party messaging, its going to be a challenge for brands to find a place in these P2P conversations.

Stewart: It’s hard to predict what will happen in the next five years given new technologies and apps emerge so rapidly. I think brands have to be agile, adoptive and collaborative. Brands must evolve if they want to stay relevant; innovate or die. Snapchat grew from just a messaging app to offering stories so brands can mass communicate with their fans.

While commerce is increasingly social, payments are still mostly made individually. Is there a future for social payment, and if so, what does it look like?

Lee: I’m thinking less about payments from social businesses such as Uber (fare splitting done through the app) and more about payment through existing social networks, like Facebook/Twitter/Amazon, or digital players like Apple. There is a cadre of established players who are acting like platforms and who have already garnered a large, consistently engaged user base. People are used to spending time there so the next question is whether they will spend money and trust these folks with their credit cards. I trust Amazon and Apple with that information, but I’m reticent to give it to Facebook or Twitter. As payments move away from analogue to digital, the big winners could be the credit card companies like American Express, which incidentally has done some extremely innovative experimentation on both Twitter and Facebook, or the new crypto currencies, which do what digital has done best and disrupt the intermediary in established industries.

Alajrami: I think we’re barely beginning to see the tip of the iceberg as far as social commerce is concerned. Consumers are now communicating directly with brands and they have all the tools and networks they need to make the best consumer choices (utilizing the true power of social: wisdom of the crowd). The stage is being set for a polarized digital marketplace where manufacturers (brands) and consumers are becoming the two key driving forces of commerce, cutting out all the middle men and optimizing the waste in the process. This will happen through a demand-driven market, where, for example, a person looking to make a last minute trip from Toronto to New York can be made aware of a 50% discounted rate on the five remaining vacant seats on a flight departing the same day (50% vs. 0 revenue). To top it off, they can book using their mobile wallet at the terminal. There will no longer be any lost opportunity in this real-time, demand driven, consumer optimized market.

With the space evolving so rapidly, what are the three most important skills for social media marketers to ensure they remain relevant in the future?

Lee: Hard skills will come and go, but if you have energy, curiosity and chutzpah you’ll remain relevant and help create a fulfilling working environment.


1. Listening, listening, listening. And by listening, I mean being well equipped with both using the various listening tools as well as translating all of the conversation into actionable insights
2. Be in the weeds. Even the smartest marketing strategists wouldn’t know what to do on Vine, Snapchat or Instagram unless they used it daily.
3. Consumer centricity. Yes we get paid by the brands, but every social marketer needs to be loyal to their consumer first and foremost. It’s not a statement, it’s a mindset.


1. Stay on top of what’s new. Having your own brand is a great way to test out all the platforms, apps and, technology so when a job comes up, you’re ready.
2. Constantly innovate. Stay the same and you’ll get left behind. This is where innovate or die comes in.
3. Be positive. It may seem simple, but don’t forget everything you do on the internet is there forever. You want to make sure you create a good digital footprint for yourself. Swearing, nudity and trolling look bad when someone Googles you for a job.

In what ways will social media influence human behaviour in the future?

Lee: It’s the other way around! Humans have always been social, from when cavemen left markings of buffalo to depict a great hunt or fruitful pastures, we’ve always felt the need to connect to and with each other. Technology is simply enabling that behaviour so for me, it is going to be fascinating to see what aspects of humanity digital enables in the coming years.

Alajrami: Four words: Wisdom of the crowd. The ability for each one of us to be as informed as the most involved person in any field has been the most profound impact social media has had on human behaviour. This, of course, is forcing the brand side to work harder and deliver better.



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