Ten Frontiers for the Future of Engagement

I am delighted to share MSLGROUP‘s new report titled Now & Next: Ten Frontiers for the Future of Engagement, which I co-authored with Pascal Beucler and Nidhi Makhija.

Ten Frontiers for the Future of Engagement

The report highlights the ten most important frontiers that will define the future of engagement for marketers, entrepreneurs and changemakers:

1. Crowdfunding (SlideShare): Inspiring people to collectively fund projects they are passionate about and help bring them to life.

2. Behavior Change Games (SlideShare): Using game design technique and the power of communities to motivate people to achieve challenging tasks in the real world.

3. Collaborative Social Innovation (SlideShare): Synthesizing community contributions to co-create innovative and sustainable solutions around a shared purpose.

4. Grassroots Change Movements (SlideShare): Inspiring people to act as change agents in a way that their actions can be aggregated or coordinated, leading to significant impact and meaningful change.

5. Co-Creation Communities (SlideShare): Synthesizing community contributions to create new artifacts including books, movies, music, art, software, products and solutions.

6. Social Curation (SlideShare): Aggregating, organizing and sharing content created by others to add context, narrative and meaning to it.

7. Transmedia Storytelling (SlideShare): Sharing interlocking parts of a storyworlds on different media channels to create an immersive experience and drive participation, action and loyalty.

8. Collective Intelligence (SlideShare): Synthesizing search, social and sensor data streams into insights about our behaviors in relation to relevant others to guide smarter actions.

9. Social Live Experiences (SlideShare): Blending technology, community and location to create immersive experiences that blur the boundaries between online and offline.

Source: pochacco20 on Flickr

10. Collaborative Consumption (SlideShare): Using technology and community to enable people to share, sell, rent, swap, barter and gift spaces, products, services and experiences.

Source: seyyed_mostafa_zamani on Flickr

Synthesizing Insights into Foresights

Throughout 2012 and 2013, 100+ planners on MSLGROUP’s Insights Network have been tracking inspiring web platforms and brand programs at the intersection of social data, crowdsourcing, storytelling and citizenship.

Every week, we picked up one project and curated the conversations around it — on the MSLGROUP Insights Network itself but also on the broader social web — into a weekly insights report.

Every quarter, we compiled these insights, along with original research and insights from the MSLGROUP global network, into the People’s Insights Quarterly Magazine.

Now, we have synthesized the insights from our year-long endeavor in future scanning as foresights into the future of engagement, in the form of this report.

We believe, like William Gibson that, “the future is already here; it’s just not very evenly distributed.” So, innovative web platforms in the areas of social data, crowdsourcing, storytelling and citizenship point towards interesting possibilities for brands programs that leverage similar models to engage people. In turn, the web platforms and brands programs of today give us clues to the future of engagement tomorrow.

In our individual reports on the ten frontiers that will define the future of engagement, we start by describing why they are important and how they work; we then examine web platforms and brand programs that point to the future (that is already here); then finish by identifying some of the most important features of that future, with our recommendations on how to benefit from them.

Five Key Patterns

We have not only synthesized insights from hundreds of web platforms and brand programs into the ten frontiers for the future of engagement, but also identified the most important patterns that cut across these ten frontiers:

1. Inspiration from Everyone

Inspiration from Everyone

Source: uggboy on Flickr

People — citizens and consumers, changemakers and entrepreneurs, artists and hackers – are creating the future of engagement, not organizations and corporations. So, organizations can learn best practices from entrepreneurs and changemakers and adapt them in their own engagement efforts.

Consider collaborative consumption, where corporations (like automobile manufacturers) are trying to adapt their product-centric ownership-driven business models to compete with the service-centric access-driven startups (like car-sharing and ride-sharing services) that are creating the sharing economy.

2. Shared Purpose and Self-Improvement

Shared Purpose and Self-Improvement

Source: camdiluv on Flickr

The shared purpose that fuels engagement is either a sense of citizenship, or a desire for self-improvement.

Sustainability, wellness and learning are the three most powerful areas not only for grassroots change movements and collaborative social innovation, but also for behavior change games. These areas don’t only have the best alignment between societal impact and financial impact, but also the strongest linkage between personal actions and a community multiplier effect.

Corporations need to tap into both these motivations, design purpose-inspired platforms and programs, and leverage networked technologies to engage people.

3. Brands as Media Platforms

Brands as Media Platforms

Source: jdhancock on Flickr

Media organizations are far from dead; instead, they are almost always in the forefront of digital media innovation, especially in areas liketransmedia storytelling, social curation and social live experiences, often in partnership with social networking platforms.

While corporations have aspirations to become owned media platforms, they often limit themselves to creating short-term programs that fit more easily into the tried and tested framework of a campaign (with the exception of Nike+).

If corporations wish to catch up with social networking startups and media organizations, they must learn the skills and mindset needed to create long-term platforms.

4. Corporations as Venture Capitalists

Corporations as Venture Capitalists

Source: werkunz on Flickr

Even as the large social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Sina and Tencent are consolidating their strength, entrepreneurs are creating niche social platforms to connect people in innovative ways and specialized software solutions, often in specific verticals, to help organizations engage people with in more meaningful ways.

Media organizations and corporations are beginning to partner with, invest in and acquire innovative startups in order to future-proof their engagement strategy. This is most visible in areas like behavior change games, collaborative social innovation, collective intelligence and collaborative consumption.

Corporations will increasingly need to behave like venture capitalists, with a portfolio of investments, with short-term, medium-term and long-term technology horizons.

5. Inspiration from Everywhere

Inspiration from Everywhere

Source: gsfc on Flickr

The platforms and programs that point to the future of engagement are originating not only in the US, but from all over the world, including Europe, Asia and Latin America, with the Nordics contributing a disproportionate share of path-breaking projects.

This means that US-based organizations must plan to not only replicate their US engagement strategy in other markets, but also learn from innovations in other markets.

In particular, European markets are taking the lead in areas like collaborative consumption and social live experiences, which need dense urban centers to be successful. In addition, big emerging markets like China, India and Brazil are producing innovations that are often amongst the best examples in their categories anywhere in the world.

As you read our reports on each of the ten frontiers, do consider how your organization might benefit from them, using the lens of these five important patterns. We hope that our report will both provide inspiration and guide action, as you continue your journey to create the future of engagement.

Future of Engagement report on SlideShare

Future of Engagement slide deck on SlideShare

Future of Engagement video infographic on YouTube

Future of Engagement infographic on Visually