Carefully Crafted on January 16

The Social Water Cooler: How Messaging Apps are Changing Everything

I love college football, so when I had the opportunity to be a “social media correspondent” at the Outback Bowl, I jumped at the chance. And, through that, I got to know Dan Holm. At the time, Dan was working on social strategy for Outback Steakhouse. Today, as one of the savviest brand-side marketers out there, he leads digital and social marketing for Bloomin’ Brands.

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Post by @DanHolm

There continues to be innovative and interesting developments in the social landscape. I’ve been an observer and analyzer of how people behave on social for seven years now, both from a personal perspective and in my professional work.

What first intrigued me about social in the beginning (by beginning I mean Xanga and Myspace) and continues to interest me today is how people communicate on social platforms and how it evolves our real life communication.

Beyond just allowing us to share photos and update what we’re doing, social platforms are forever changing the way we dialogue with one another. This change of dialogue is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly … as what we share on digital changes how we share in person.

Ponder this: When was the last time you talked to a friend about the TV show that was on last night? And, when was the last time you talked to a friend about a photo your mutual friend posted on Instagram?

In the olden days we used to gather around the “water cooler” at the office to talk about our favorite TV show or current events. The water cooler represented a central conversational gathering place for small groups of people.

Today, however, over and over again I find my wife and our mutual friends breaking out into full conversations about what our friends post on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. These types of dialogues happen offline when we’re together, plus we are having similar conversation in the digital space through group messaging — usually this conversation is dominated by visuals (screen shots of other photos, etc.).

Our mutual friends’ social content has replaced traditional media in our daily conversations. The challenge is — we need a “social water cooler” to gather around to have this dialogue. We need a social platform that encourages and allows this type of intimate and private group conversation.

The race to group conversation/messaging was the most important innovation in social in 2013. Every single social channel tried to get there and at an increasingly rapid rate. Consider what’s happened in the past year around group and private messaging:

There has been a massive shift in the past 18 months about how we communicate with one another on social media…

The future isn’t conversation with everyone, it’s conversation with the people we care about.

The future is a gathering place, or a “social water cooler,” for us to communicate around. Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. are desperately trying to be that destination, to be the social messaging platform.

In many cases, and most of this group, water cooler-style dialogue is occurring via text messaging. However, texting costs money for users and as messaging app features continue to enhance and outpace what texting offers, I have no doubt that people will shift usage into social messaging apps for private and group conversations.

What’s unpredictable at this moment is: What platform will win the messaging game? For the one that does win, how will they monetize it without alienating users? What role does a brand (or advertiser) have in private messaging between users?

What is predictable is that it’s sure to be an exciting ride and that nothing, absolutely nothing, will stay the same.

The platforms and brands that evolve the quickest to customers’ ever-changing communication behavior will survive.

Dan Holm head shotDan Holm leads digital + social marketing for Bloomin’ Brands Inc, a portfolio of national restaurant brands: Outback Steakhouse, Bonefish Grill, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Flemings Prime Steakhouse and Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion. He’s passionate about building customer relationships through social channels and working on innovative 360-degree digital engagement programs. He lives in Tampa, FL with his beautiful wife + three kids and his other loves are coffee and Dave Matthews Band.

He occasionally blogs on Medium and tweets about stuff that inspires him

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Image via Flickr Creative Commons, Natureza Agua Pura.

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