Charlene Li is the Founder and CEO of Altimeter Group and the author of five books, including her latest The Engaged Leader, as well as the New York Times bestseller, Open Leadership and the co-author of the critically acclaimed book, Groundswell. She is a sought after speaker and advisor to many Fortune 500 companies, as well as an expert consultant on social media and interactive media. Li is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Business School and lives in San Francisco with her husband and two teenagers.
Question: Will social networks continue to be pervasive?
Charlene Li: I say that social networks, in particular all things that pertain to your social life will be like air meaning in particular that we are social creatures and we don’t want to be locked down into just one social network like Facebook or Twitter and in fact, what we’re seeing is that the relationships, the profiles, the activities that you do are really escaping the bounds of those places. So take for example, Facebook. I have a nice social life on Facebook. I share pictures and updates with people, but most of my friends aren’t actually on Facebook and in fact I don’t want to interact with them just only on Facebook. I want to see them for example on Amazon. I want to be able to read the reviews that my friends put up on Amazon because some of them are really good book friends of mine. We talk about books, but what are their favorite books? What are they reading? What are they buying? To be able to see that expressed on one of the most popular book site, Amazon, would be a huge benefit for me to be able to see that aspect things and we’re getting to that point where we can actually see ratings and reviews from friends on places like Yelp, on Amazon to some extent, on places like Good Reads where it is a social network on top of book reviews. We can see it actually in the relationships that we have inside of businesses where if I email somebody I can see their profile on LinkedIn now for example, if I use Lotus Notes. Being able to understand the entire social life and social interactions that somebody has just because I know what the email is. I can see their activities on Facebook, on LinkedIn, on Twitter, on blogs and discussion groups all in one place. So having at my fingertips that network, that information of how I’m related to people or finding people who are like me so that I can make better decisions is what I mean by I really see this future where social will be like air.
Question: What comes after social media?
Charlene Li: I think when it comes to really groundbreaking ways of reaching people I think social has so many more legs still to go. We are like just at the beginning of this. Like again, if you take the idea of social being like air we are just beginning to understand how mobile context can really change that. There are new services like Four Square that allow me to quote, check in to a restaurant and that creates a history of where I’ve been, but also where my friends have been, the recommendations that people have for each other, a social roadmap of a geographic location. It also helps people understand where I am, my network to understand the context of what my comments are by knowing exactly what I’m doing and where I’m doing this. That is just mobile. Think about shopping. Think about entertainment, all the different aspects of your life that can be impacted because of the social context that you have. What is next beyond that? I wish I knew because frankly if I did I wouldn’t probably be sitting here talking about this. I’d be doing it and making my billions, but I do know this. That this is a space that never stands still in that the one thing that has been translated through all the major shifts, everywhere from individual computing to client server, to the internet, to now again social have been things that have enabled connections between people and those connections are the things that you have to look for in the next big thing. How do things change in terms of that relationship? And I think that is the way to recognize whether it’s a seismic shift, a technology you need to pay attention to or more of a feature set that attaches to the things that you’re doing. Things that change relationships fundamentally, that have power shifts involved are the things that you really need to pay attention to because those are the things that matter, things that change that relationship and therefore change the way that you have to run and act in your business.
Recorded June 23, 2010