Clients always ask me, “What’s the next Facebook?” Given the turbulent ride of MySpace, and the slow mainstream growth of Twitter, I understand why clients would ask this question. They want to know if Facebook will be around – and popular – in a few years and worth the utilization efforts and investment. They also wonder what platform is going to explode next year so they can jump on now and be ahead of the curve. When I’m asked this I often laugh. I feel like they are asking me what will the stock market do next year. I have no idea – and neither does anyone else. It’s impossible to predict the future, so we have to rely on educated guesses and make assumptions and predictions based on historical data.The problem with social media is that we lack the historical data to make any real, educated guesses. Plus, we are dealing with a world of technology that changes so rapidly. You may think you have an idea of what will happen next year, but one “game-changing” announcement comes along and that’s out the window. And you cannot predict user adaptation of a product.

The thing about Facebook is that it’s sticky. For a lot of people, it houses years worth of pictures, status updates, comments, messages…basically, it’s a collection of memories. We’ve put a lot of effort into completing our pages, spending time uploading pictures, listing family members and connecting with friends. I’m not entirely convinced that 500+ million people intend on jumping ship and starting from scratch with a brand new product.

I’m not saying that I think Facebook will live forever; we all know that “all good things come to an end.” I’m just saying that trying to predict the future is impossible given the world we live in. We used to live in a simpler time, where business moved at the speed of a workweek and employees actually LEFT work at the end of their day. Now, we’re constantly connected, constantly updating, and always on. That level of flexibility, combined with unprecedented access to information, is both empowering and frightening for markers today. Things change everyday; new products, new ways to do things and groundbreaking ideas come and go before you even have a chance to figure out how to use them. The stability of a “simpler time” is gone; we are left with the unknown of a changing, rapid-moving, complicated world.

The way we socialize and interact with each other has fundamentally shifted with social media. Whether Facebook, Twitter or an unknown new product that some kid is developing in her basement, the social landscape has changed forever as a result of these technologies. The question is not really about what the next dominate social networking platform will be, or even if Facebook will be taken down by Google. The question is really about how we will interact with each other in five years and what mediums will we prefer for these interactions.

Sure – it’s scary sometimes – but it’s also fun as hell. I cannot think of a cooler time in history to be along for the ride! Smile

Christina Torri works with Social Media and Internet Marketing clients for Mindscape at Hanon McKendry