Digital Future Gazing – 10 predictions for 2013

Breakfast with bright young things in the Soho Hotel

Yesterday I attended the 4th annual Digital Trends forecast presentation from digital PR agencies 33 Digital & Hotwire in the achingly trendy Soho Hotel.  It’s a world I don’t often stray into – marketeers, PR people, social media agencies, brands, influencing – inhabited by bright young things and beautiful people.  So what was I doing there?  I went because Peter Sigrist, MD at 33 Digital is part of my Twittergang & I wanted to see him present and also because who isn’t interested in future gazing & horizon scanning – especially when someone else is putting up the skittles & inviting everyone else to knock them down.

As it turns out, the bright young things were also well informed, fun and sincere & the event was very enjoyable.  I considered what impact the 10 predictions may have on my own public sector world – and my musings on this are below.  You can access the report in it’s entirety here www.digitaltrendsreport.com – it also contains some very cool b & w photographs.

Peter wants to encourage lively debate about the forecasts so feel free to join in on Twitter.  Use #hw33trends

  1. Internal Social Networks – yep – I like this one.  We’ve been using Yammer for years at Learning Pool & we know many of our public sector customers are trying to get started with something similar.  Our experience has been that it helps our dispersed team keep track of each other & it savagely reduces internal email.  In bigger organisations it allows everyone to communicate with each other on a more level playing field and it lets senior teams understand their own organisations better.  The challenge next will be to see if internal social networks will foster new ways to achieve business objectives and even sales.  We’ll see.  For anyone starting out with an internal social network, make it easy for your team to use & be patient.  There’s bound to be a few mistakes along the way but everyone learns and your organisation becomes more resilient as a result.
  2. Data Porn – the age of the data geek is finally here, Big Data has arrived.  The PR agencies are excited about the release of the 2011 Census data in early 2013.  This time around the data will be there in a format where everyone can access it & slice & dice until the cows come home.  What does this mean for the UK public sector?  A recent Policy Exchange report estimates that fully capturing the big data opportunity to drive up efficiency and cut out waste in the UK public sector could be worth a total of between £16 billion and £33 billion
    a year.  What’s keeping you folks?  For anyone out there who’d like to know more about what Big Data is, there’s a new e-learning course in the Learning Pool catalogue that we developed with the Cabinet Office & explains Big Data for public sector beginners.
  3. Digital Health – in 2011 global healthcare costs totalled £3.8 trillion according to McKinsey & in the US costs were 20% of GDP.  This prediction is about government encouraging people to measure & monitor their own health data to ultimately help them to help themselves to become more healthy.  I think whether we like it or not this is definitely on the cards.  I heard Nick Seddon of think tank Reform talk about this idea at length at July’s CIPFA conference and given that he was previously at Circle Healthcare he probably has a good idea about the way things are moving.  On a more positive note, people these days want to take charge of their own health.  We’ve seen that in our own team during 2012 with a number of people finally kicking the cigarette habit & the proliferation of bicycle purchases.

    Peter Sigrist, MD of 33 Digital, revealing the first 5 predictions

  4. When businesses learned to be good – I like this one too & definitely agree that this is on an upward & escalating trajectory.  This topic even formed part of the CBI’s recent annual conference which included an entire panel session titled “Growing with Society – the need for new Business Models” led by Unilever’s CEO Paul Polman.  Modern businesses are becoming more transparent, more connected (and in a way where serendipity starts to play more of a role) and more community focused – both internally & externally.  For the public sector, I predict that the coming years will see a complete blurring between government, the private sector and the not for profit space as a new type of organisation emerges to deliver services to citizens.
  5. Smaller can be better – the rise of the niche social network and a move away from Facebook & Twitter.  This one is all about creating communities of interest where the measure is not the size of the community but the degree of engagement.  It’s what we’ve been doing for a few years at Learning Pool with our own specialist Learning & Development community and this is a fairly well developed idea within the public sector with many niche Communities of Practice available in recognised places like the LGA’s Knowledge Hub.  Peter talked about examples of “sub compact publishing” such as Bobbie Johnson’s “Matter” project – very interesting and described as – basically the opposite of all the received wisdom about online publishing — they only publish long pieces, they don’t publish very often, and they expect people to pay for content.
  6. Sentient World – this is where it starts to get a bit scary.  Social media gave interested parties the ability to listen to what we say; the sentient world will give them the ability to see what we’re doing.  Foursquare has launched a service for business this past week and one of their original co-founders is apparently working on a version of tweetdeck for Foursquare.  One for the public sector to sit back & think about I believe as we watch the early adopters.  Sometimes called the Internet of Things, to the layman it’s sensors & transmitters within inanimate objects connected via the internet – fridges that order more milk, shoes that can tell you how to get home, a lamp that when you switch it on in London lights your sister’s lamp in Co Tyrone so that she knows you’re at home, mirrors in shops that tell you more about the coat you’re trying on, thermostats that learn which rooms you don’t go into so they leave them colder.  I loved the story about the Fitbit & the leaderboard & this is something we will definitely be trying out in Learning Pool as the New Year kicks off.  Who can walk 1,000 miles first?  My bet is on Eddie Ryce.
  7. The Rise of Storytelling – every FTSE100 company now has a community management team.  Two years ago none of them did.  This is about using compelling stories with a beginning, a middle and an end to bring audiences to you, get them to stick around & ultimately to buy more stuff from you.  I see lots of examples of public sector organisations pushing out stories about the places they are in & the people they serve.
  8. The Un-Boxing of TV – yep – agree with this.  I can’t watch tv any more without Twitter banter running in parallel & everyone I know is the same.  Can’t think of a public sector application of this one as all that is televised is council meetings & I don’t think anyone watches them anyway.  Maybe use this medium & idea to push out campaigns about public health or to encourage more engagement in local democracy?  I have a horrific metric for you however – 70% of trending topics on Twitter are TV related 😦
  9. Selling’s from Mars, engaging’s from Venus – remember that you can only manage what you measure.  It’s easy to measure sales.  Engagement isn’t as easy to measure.  We had a good laugh about Twitter campaigns that have backfired & one that we discussed was the Waitrose campaign that asked people why they shop at Waitrose – cue hilarious results (Harrods is too far to go midweek, because I was once in the Holloway Rd branch & heard a dad say “put down that papaya Orlando”, Asda doesn’t stock peacock/unicorn feed, if you buy a full tank of helicopter fuel you get 10% off champagne and so on).  Rather than backfiring I think that campaign was a resounding success.  I think the public sector understands that if you want citizens to engage, you have to hold conversations on topics they are interested in but perhaps we don’t see enough of this happening.
  10. The User Experience of Social – this one is about thinking through the entire user experience that people have when they interact with us in more than one place.  In my opinion no-one does this right.  I’ve recently been accessing estate agent websites on my smartphone when I’m out & about & they are a curse – every last one of them.  This is about waking up to the fact that channels do not contain siloed audiences – the same people are using multi channels.  Everyone including the public sector needs to think a lot harder about UX from multiple devices & including more”helping hand services” that align service offerings & save time & energy for the user.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this blog as much as I enjoyed yesterday’s event, even if I can’t extend the Soho Hotel breakfast to you.  I saw Jon Foster of Futuregov yesterday & we were debating whether or not local authorities really should start thinking more like brands.  We concluded that they probably should.  It’s certainly time for everyone to take better control of their conversations and interactions in a more holistic way.

As always, I look forward to your comments & your own predictions for Digital for 2013.

3 comments

  1. Thanks for coming and even more for the great write up Mary. I really love the way you’ve shown in each case how the ideas we’ve thrown out there apply to the area you work (mostly, anyway – perhaps public sector fridges aren’t quite ready to start ordering the milk just yet). This is really why we do this – not to be right, but to start conversations like this. I’m excited to see how Learning Pool experiments in 2013.

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  2. Not thought of you before as a crystal ball lady, Mary! Glad you’re not telling us that 2013 will be “taller, darker, stranger” than this year.

    Not quite true that no one watches local authority webcasts. Poor old Thanet Council this week was denounced as “dysfunctional” by an “expert” academic wheeled in by highly partisan local press, and he based that opinion on viewing just one single webcast!

    Where many local authorities are losing out is in steadfastly refusing to extend the utility of their occasionally longstanding webcasts, by encouraging accompanying Twitter feeds etc. A very few do this, and some, of course, tweet their proceedings in tandem with moving pictures. However, most (I suspect it will be a big majority is anyone had the resources to count) are simply not interested in that sort of feedback. For many councils, the attraction of webcasting to councillors was in being able to be seen in action. They never were much interested in what the electorate had to say after it had voted them in, and the advent of webcasting didn’t alter this. It remains, to them, principally a form of vanity tv. Any spin off, in terms of the immediacy with which the outgoing message travels, without falling into the hands of the spin doctors from one faction or the other, is purely incidental.

    Like you, a Twitter conversation with those I respect, running simultaneously, has added hugely to my own tv viewing of many events, be they cultural, sporting or current affairs. Being able to give live feedback to council meetings would take this sort of added value one step further. Trouble is, most of those “we” have elected just don’t really want to hear from us.

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