What happens when everything is social media

The CEO of Activision, Bobby Kotick, appeared on CNN this week and said something very powerful and portentous:

“The audience of ‘Call of Duty‘ is probably greater in terms of size than in any other interactive form of entertainment. If you look at the 500 million people who are on Facebook and the way that people text each other and instant message and use video chat, there is now an evolution of media. Those are the characteristics and attributes that a generation and audiences feel are very important to their media and entertainment experiences.”

What Kotick was doing was drawing a important parallel between the expectations of social media users and gamers, and the growing importance the same complex dynamics across all media. Whether you’re a gamer, advertiser or long form content creator, your audience increasingly expects a multi-dimensional experience in which you simultaneously interact with the content and with each other in a free flowing social conversation.

You see the same multi-dimensional dynamic at work as more and more people watch television with their laptop, tablet or iPad at their fingertips. Not content with one form of content they watch and surf simultaneously filling every second with inbound content that they scan and abandon just as quickly. In fact Nielsen reports:

In Q1 2010, Nielsen data showed that nearly 60% of people were watching TV and using the Internet on their computers simultaneously. With more and more consumers going on online while they watch TV, many viewers have already been engaging in a two-screen experience, primarily using social media for ‘background chatter,’ or activity in the margins.

Not surprisingly media sync technologies (like ABC’s My Generation iPad app using Nielsen’s Media-Sync technology above) are on the rise, but that doesn’t make the challenge for marketers any easier. How do you capture and keep the attention of customers darting across different media?

The challenge for media companies, brands and advertisers alike becomes how do you monetize such behavior and how do you measure it? Each media, whether its the iPad, mobile phone, television, movie, VOD, Xbox, game console, tablet or Hulu, has its own ‘use case’ (why someone is selecting that device) that has to be cross-referenced with the others and then measured as a whole. Only then can you know if your marketing spend is having any impact on share of conversation, brand awareness or sales.

In truth, I doubt there is any definitive answer for two reasons. Firstly because the market is in such a high degree of flux right now that any stake in the ground would be quickly swept away. And secondly, because the very presumption that there should be a simple or singular answer is false. The marketplace now demands that companies demonstrate a long term entrepreneurial spirit that welcomes and accommodates shifting technologies, profit centers and consumer behavior, rather than seeking to carve out, own or monopolize a certain category or media.

As the process of integration accelerates in the next few years, more than likely dominant players will get the chance to monopolize large proportions of consumers behavior seamlessly across different media. Or perhaps an increasingly fragmented media and content marketplace will promote countless micro-communities that must be won and maintained individually?

What is sure is that technological change is accelerating in all directions and, like children playing in a fountain, consumers are reveling in the experience. On such shifting ground the best hope for brands is to know who they are, to clearly define their purpose and to work tirelessly to integrate the daily dynamics at work across the different media.

Do you believe dominant players will emerge or that the marketplace will become increasingly fragmented?