In Search of the Next Big Thing at Digital Media Conference

This is cross-posted at 360i’s blog.

At Digital Media Conference 2009 in Washington, DC, I moderated a panel called “What’s Next in Social Media?” The discussion invariably turned to ‘the next big thing.’ At least, it did because as the moderator I could ask it, and as a bonus I didn’t have to answer.

No one on the panel was willing to draw a line in the sand and say, “This is it.” I tried asking the question I get all the time: “What’s the next Twitter or Facebook?” Still nothing. And this was a smart bunch, including Ben Ilfeld, Co-Founder & Operations, The Sacramento Press; Chris McGill, Founder, Mixx; Haroon Mokhtarzada, CEO & Founder, Webs.com; and Bev Yehuda, VP, MultiVu, a PRNewswire Company.

Some of the speculation turned to Google Wave, but expectations were all over the map. The panelists seemed to agree that it would be something – but will it be something that early adopters would love, or will it cross that proverbial chasm?

There’s also this sense that we’re still learning how to use what we have. Twitter and Facebook Connect are two platforms in their infancy. Many sites and platforms are becoming more useful as they adapt to work well from various devices. New tools keep emerging to make it easier to make your information and identity portable, while aggregating whatever you want where you want it. It’s tough to say what this will like.

The panel closed with a discussion around changes in communication. As @sophieci tweeted while quoting the panel, “Twitter=protocol which furthers asynchronous behavior. Easier to multitask with this kind of solution.” Haroon also noted Yammer became an effective tool to communicate internally and keep track of conversations. Despite all the talk of what’s next though, Ben Ilfeld asked the room how many checked their corporate email while at the conference, and everyone raised their hands. He just wanted email to work better. if that’s what’s next, and Google Wave may even play a part in it. Okay, it’s not all that Jetson-esque, but we’re still waiting for our flying cars, so Outlook and the BlackBerry may still be a big part of the future of social media.