Apps will be the platform of choice for workplaces of the future. Image Credit: Gulf News

As the UAE marked 48 years of its union this week, the celebrations and achievements were shared widely across a range of social media channels, with government institutions, private businesses, and individual citizens contributing enthusiastically.

However, it’s worth remembering that it hasn’t always been this way. Having been established in 1971, the UAE is a relative newcomer in global terms. But at 48 years old, it’s a card-carrying member in the world created by Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Together, these apps now play such an integral role in our day-to-day lives that it’s easy to forget a time when they never existed. But it really wasn’t that long ago.

Recent history

Indeed, Facebook – the undisputed powerhouse of the social media universe with well over 2 billion active users – only went live in February 2004. Twitter arrived on the scene a couple of years later, while the young pretenders Instagram and Snapchat didn’t stumble into the world until 2010 and 2011, respectively.

The billions of smartphones in use today have consumerized technology, communication, and collaboration to the point that one in three people on the planet now use a Facebook-owned platform at least once a month. Today, a mobile search answers nearly any question, an application download addresses various needs, and collaboration saves time and money. Video chat has become the norm for many users, and the visual world is becoming the online norm (think Instagram and Snapchat).

Personas as brands

The proliferation of social media apps has enabled digital natives and digital adopters alike to share experiences with their friends and families, while it has also facilitated improved interactions with the businesses from which they purchase goods and services. As brands have realized the importance of these engagements, they have become more personal on social media, responding as if they were a person.

People, conversely, have started to become more brand-like in their personas, protecting their “brand” in new online communities.

Leading companies understand the importance of leveraging and responding to user-generated content, as well as creating their own content to drive engagement, awareness, consideration, and retention. Those posts and responses create the real-time perception of their brand.

Apps for work

And with a growing number of people engaging with businesses and each other on social media sites, the population that does not see user-generated content is shrinking. Word of mouth suddenly has global reach. And within these conversations exists a great opportunity for each business and its employees, partners, and customers.

Paired with other social platforms across the spectrum of innovation-accelerating technologies, these conversations will form the bedrock of the future of work.

As social media, communities and collaboration converge, the social enterprise emerges. In turn, this creates opportunities and challenges that directly impact customers, partners, employees and, perhaps most important of all, the perception of the enterprise by others.

The digital customer experiences enjoyed by consumers are changing expectations when these same people go to work. After all, why should they be able to communicate and collaborate better at home with family and community groups than they can with their colleagues at work?

This is all about the employee experience, and it is expected to be on par with the experience the employees have outside of work and with other companies. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the presence of a robust collaboration platform is a strong consideration for the modern job seeker. And why not?

Students coming out of college have likely used Slack, Google, Quip, or other platforms where it is easy to see who did the work, and what they did. It’s a meritocracy. They expect that from the workforce they are entering, and leading employers globally are recognizing this trend.

The future of work is, for the foreseeable future, going to be based around the growing importance of shared workspaces and more asynchronous, two-way conversations. And these conversations, together with associated assets (documents, meeting transcriptions, images, etc.) will be enhanced by technologies such as artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things.

Social media has already revolutionized the way we interact at home. And now its influence is about to reshape the way we work.

Jyoti Lalchandani is regional Managing Director at IDC.