With only two months remaining until the end of the year, there is no better time than now to pause and take a look towards the future. I predict that 2012 will be the year that marketers begin to look beyond the buzzword that is “social media” and focus on what truly matters – building engaging communities. Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc. are great channels/tools for communicating and pushing out content but without a focus on fostering a sense of community, your efforts will ultimately fall flat. But you don’t have to take my word for it. The beauty of predictions is that everyone has their own. Below are predictions on the future of social media from 38 experts.
1. Jim Spinello, Senior Vice President, Marketing Communications at rEvolution
The integration of a credible and relevant social media presence will finally be viewed as strategy, rather than tactic. Because if you (brands) are not fully embracing social in all its forms, you will have missed the bullet train and you probably won’t be able to get back on.
Engagement is going to be a key performance indicator and main focus point with so many platforms that users can “belong to.” Brands will have to engage users in different, fresh ways to sustain them. Google+ will be launching brand pages at some point, and that will force brands to refocus social efforts and designate which platforms support their initiatives. Companies will need to create one universal social strategy for multiple platforms that will serve a core marketing purpose.
Transparency will become more of a theme. People are starting to become more comfortable with sharing opinions, likes and information and less concerned with protecting information. Most importantly, business and personal lives will continue to cross and eventually become one.
3. Ian Aronovich, Co-Founder of GovernmentAuctions.org
We predict that the future holds more integration between social media and technology. For example on the new iPhone update you can post to twitter through your text or photo menu. This kind of ideal will get streamlined and be more available across other services in the future. When it comes to social media there is always something on the bleeding edge that will make an impact and we have no doubt that something major is being worked on that will blow our notions of social media out of the water.
4. Mike Hanbery, Director of New Media Strategies at www.webolutions.com
We will see a convergence of social media, online comments and search engine optimization. Currently, searches for a particular business, location, etc., return links and online reviews. By the close of 2012, the results will highlight reviews by our social media connections.
5. Matt Roche, co-CEO and co-founder of BO.LT
With everyone able to play a part in content creation, the future of social media involves the continued triumph of immediately consumable short-form content and the birth of emerging forms of storytelling. It is in bringing all the little pieces together, creating powerful narratives from scraps of participation and content that are scattered throughout the various social outlets. The future of social is about sharing, discovering and relating through cohesive collections of short-form content.
6. Heather Lopez, owner of The Mom Entrepreneur
I believe that the future of social media is social commerce. Studies show that people don’t like to be directly marketed to and respond better to personal posts. Brands will learn how to put the personal before the profit, and in turn will actually generate a profit via social media. Entrepreneurs will learn how to share their whole person to attract more clients, as the line of business and personal gets blurred. Social media will facilitate the expansion of WOM (word of mouth marketing), as people will see recommendations from their friends and family right where there are looking to make a purchase.
7. Manny Otiko, VP, social and new media at Desmond & Louis
I think there will be more pressure from social media users to ask for a share of the revenue. Chime.in, a new social media platform is promising to share advertising revenue with its users. YouTube is already sharing revenue with prolific users. Social media is already being used heavily for marketing and we will see more companies forgo having a traditional website, and go strictly with a Facebook page.
We are already seeing a move towards better content filters and propagating of the most relevant content, and I believe that we will see much more of that. We’ll see more products and services like Klout, and the existing tools will become more highly regarded in both the business community and to consumers. Tools that were previously only relevant to a small sector of social media users, again, like Klout, will become more mainstream in hopes of streamlining content and providing only what is most useful and relevant to the user.
First, the easy prediction: more and more of the information we consume on a daily basis (from news to product reviews to entertainment) will come via the social media channels we have opted into and, more specifically, from the information filters we have chosen to subscribe to in those channels. Net: In the short term, more information will come from more sources delivered through fewer channels.
Second: increasing adoption of and participation in social media will lead to a worsening of the signal-to-noise ratio both for ‘social’ information and ‘other’ (professional, or interest-based, or globally relevant) information. Net: What once felt efficient and real-time will start to feel crowded and blurry.
Third: in response to worsening of the signal-to-noise ratio, we will see significant innovation in filtering and curating technologies that allow us to: a) better separate ‘social’ information and identities from ‘other’ information and identities and b) access personalized digests of what are effectively already digests of what is happening around us. This will address the symptoms but not necessarily the root cause of the problem. Net: Expect more ‘stream management’ solutions to make your radar.
Finally: the importance (and reach) of vetted information filters (those people we follow, whether or not we know them personally, because we trust in their ability to pass on the most relevant information to us) will grow exponentially, as people realize that managing their information streams requires pruning down to only the most impactful and relevant filters. Net: In the long term, more information will come from fewer sources delivered through fewer channels. These sources will be more thoroughly (and more democratically) vetted than ever before.
With non-captive media outlets, people have the freedom to opt-out and abort the message mid-stream. Social media in particular is opt-in and holds brands/people accountable and puts a burden on the message to be intelligent, interesting, and say something that matters. Brands must honestly evaluate if they can hold their own with a non-captive audience, or if they should stick to traditional TV/radio/billboard mediums.
11. Jenny Vance, President of LeadJen
The view many companies have of social media is going to shift in 2012 from focusing on content creation and publication to monitoring and measuring response. The goal will be to engage that unique audience that isn’t lucky enough to find that one piece of content in the moment they are expressing a need in social media. Companies will begin to focus on engaging with customers and prospects in social media with nearly
real-time response and companies will begin to look for quality partners who can provide credible labor to convert leads.
12. Loren McDonald, VP of Industry Relations at Silverpop
The convergence of mobile, social, local and email, or “mocial,” is forcing marketers to change the way they interact with customers and prospects to ensure that they are where their customers and prospects are, all the time. In 2012 and beyond, savvy marketers will need to cross promote between all channels – growing an email database through social and mobile, for example. Campaigns centered around sharing will also be critical; creating content that is shareworthy and delivering strong calls to action at a point that makes sense rather than asking people to share something before they consume it will encourage sharing. Drive Twitter followers to your blog with teaser tweets, blog about exclusive SMS promotions and use email to grow followers, fans or explain the benefits of a local check-in program—integrating mocial efforts wherever possible is key.
13. Uzair Dada, CEO of Iron Horse Interactive
2012 will be a transformational year for how social media is leveraged by brands to reach prospects, with the focus shifting from awareness building to driving sales and revenue. For last two years we’ve seen brand marketers leverage social media as a platform to build awareness for their brands, establish an identity with their customers online, and drive eyeballs to their social media pages. Going forward we believe brands will focus more on leveraging social media to increase transactional behavior from prospects. More interactive strategies and direct engagement tactics will be implemented to usher in this change, such as behavioral targeting, social gaming, rewards for action/referrals, coupons, and
Google and other search engines will keep adjusting their algorithms to take account of content shared on Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon and other social platforms. This means it’s more critical than ever for small business to jump into the social pool and start creating a real identity by sharing information your customers care about. Bonus: companies also get the chance to address customer issues in real time, and show they really do care. Risk: Do it wrong and your bad rep will reverberate all over the Internet.
15. Tony Ellison, CEO of Shoplet.com
I see the ultimate purpose of social media as becoming an omnipresent source of all relevant information. When Google joined the web, it quickly became our source of information, yet, it lacked a personal touch. Google could very effectively collect relevant information, but only from impersonal sources (i.e. Business websites and unknown experts). Social media can insert the missing human touch and allow mankind tap into the full potential of the internet. Because of this, it is going to transform eCommerce as we know it. Social media allows customers to leverage one another to gain the feedback they value most when making a purchasing decision. eTailers like Shoplet, that are leveraging social media, will continue to benefit from rates of customer engagement that previously were not possible. In addition, eTailers like Shoplet will benefit from better conversion rates, gaining access to millions of customer’s friends from recommendations, and higher customer satisfaction.
16. Max Silver, Social Media Specialist at 451 Marketing
2012 will be the year of location based services (LBS) – but not in terms of how people think of them now with small loyalty rewards and badges. Instead, with services like Google Wallet and Levelup entering the mobile wallet industry, we will see integration of mobile payments and Near Field Communications (NFC) with LBS rewards through more passive check-ins. This integration will allow for you to check-in simply by paying with your mobile wallet while also making location sharing easier and making rewards simpler to redeem for people and merchants because they will be tacked on after payment as discounts. The simplification of location sharing and the ability to more easily redeem rewards – especially on the merchant side – should push LBS more into the mainstream over the next 1-3 years.
17. Martha McCarthy, The Social Lights
Shopping will become an increasingly social experience from start to finish. From researching products prior to purchase (comparing prices, reviewing ratings, checking availability, coupon/sale searching) to making an assessment and announcing your verdict post-purchase (leaving positive or negative feedback, tagging items on Facebook, photographing new products to share with your network…and so on). Brands themselves will be encouraging more of this follow-up activity through QR code integration on packaging, online contests, video demos/tutorials and calls for user-generated content.
Couponing and customer loyalty programs will also become increasingly social. The move to digital has begun, and will only accelerate as brands see the inherent benefits in tracking and monitoring their couponing campaigns and loyalty programs in real-time. Groupon, Living Social, daily deals and flash sale sites will continue to proliferate – but brands of a certain size and digital competency level will get creative and begin executing their own deep-discount campaigns. Realizing the greater return on executing such sales and promotions in house (and not wanting tarnished reputations or devaluations of their brand), this route will become much more attractive in 2012.
New apps and programs are spurring up to aid in the delivery of these new digital campaigns, making it even easier to forgo the industry leaders and differentiate from the competition. Additionally, location-based/check-in rewards and loyalty deals will increase as other below-the-line promotions diminish.
Facebook Timeline and Google + brand pages will open up new avenues for brands to connect with consumers, and it will be interesting to see how the transition occurs. That being said, it is highly probable that the brands and companies that gain first-mover advantage in these territories will be glad they did (just as the first to set up Facebook fan pages benefitted from increased fans bases).
2012 is the year that will bring your real life and your online social life into even greater unison. Get ready to start seeing songs you listen to, articles you read, and videos you watch crop up in your new Facebook Timeline in real-time. The ability to discover new things directly through friends’ profiles and the enhanced integration of all online media consumption with Facebook accounts will change the way we interact with social media in 2012.
19. Matthew Doyle, Broadcastr
The two major forces we expect to impact the world of social media in 2012 are cloud storage and privacy issues. Cloud storage will become widespread, enabling more social media usage and rich media consumption on mobile devices, and causing a major strain on cell carriers. The demand for faster networks and more consistent data-transfer will become paramount, and the sore spot for consumers will be data transfer limits, spotty service, and data usage charges. Privacy concerns will also continue to build, as users become more aware, and more wary, of the collection, analysis, and dissemination of their data.
20. Brenna Johnson, Product Marketing eBusiness at Endeca
Social Media will continue to be a great marketing tool to engage and retain customers, but in 2012, online businesses will harness the power of data from Facebook behind the scenes of their Web and mobile environments to drive everything from targeted content and promotions to how merchandise is displayed to each user. Information mined from social media combined with information from across the Web will provide marketers with a more holistic view of their customers, and enable them to create a unique and personalized experience for each and every person, no matter which website they visit.
2012 is going to see continued growth of smartphone and tablet users, and so mobile content sharing features and the market for native social networking apps are going to expand.
Along with that, social gaming, a tighter integration of digital commerce and social networks (such as being able to buy something through your Facebook account on your phone), and location-based applications will become more prevalent and more refined.
Search, information, and news media will become more social – for instance, Google Reader is being integrated into Google+, and we are more likely to see developments that curate prioritized newsfeeds according to what our connections are reading or think is important.
Finally, and perhaps the most important development, we’re going to see stabilization in ROI measurement for social media marketing. Now that the fanfare of acquiring the most friends and followers has died down, companies are beginning to realize the sort of clear-cut objectives they need, and more attention is finally being paid to how to analyze the progression towards these goals and ultimately towards brand expansion and conversion.
Companies will wake up to 21st Century marketing. That “social media” is not push marketing like advertising on television, but building societies. In 2006, I was thrown out of forward thinking marketers’ offices for saying, “You need a MySpace and YouTube presence.” They wanted press releases.
Today I am thrown out of forward thinking marketers’ offices for saying, “You need QR codes and mobile sites.” Today those forward thinking marketers want SEO. SEO? That’d be like wanting press releases in 2006. Social media will be the major way to build brands – but that was 2008. Marketers will wake up to that around 2014.
23. Jennifer Giusti, Director of Social Media Director at Adeo Media
As more businesses bring their online shopping experience to their social pages more users will do their online shopping via social media sites. From e-commerce to social-commerce, this shift will create a setting in which users will utilize social sites in a more centralized way-users will email, shop, research, and connect without ever having to click to another website.
24. Eric Harr, Founder & President of Resonate Social Media
Social media will continue its jaw-dropping growth because it’s not a media; it’s a human relationship — and connecting and communicating are not wants; they’re needs. It’s woven into our very genetic code. Humans have waited Millennia for this – and they’ll not soon give up their newly-empowered voices. More businesses will flood in, wild-eyed, without proper strategy and become quickly disillusioned by the lack of results. The smart ones will use social media strategically to drive key business objectives and measure financial impact. Globally, social media will continue to foment revolutions as these tools become more pervasive; people are tasting freedom. And, I passionately hope that social media will start to live up to its potential to help heal our world by defending dignity and fighting poverty.
In 2012, social media will continue to integrate into people’s lives. Social media will become a component of television, where show hosts and guests will be live tweeting to audiences. As reported by Facebook HQ, Dateline NBC did a live chat with Chris Hansen while the show was airing; creating a social experience in which both the host and the viewers were able to chat with one another during the segment.
Online shopping and payments will take place directly on Facebook and Google+. Rather than liking a pair of shoes and sharing the link or pictures with your friends, you soon will be able to buy them, recommend/review them and more. eBay and Facebook are joining forces and it is possible that we will be able to use Facebook Credits on eBay or PayPal on Facebook, when making a purchase.
Tablets and other mobile devices will take over computers as the main way to access social media. The average tablet owner spends 55 minutes per day on his or her device, with 24 minutes dedicated to social media access, gaming and search. (source: Knowledge Networks) Brafton reported last month that tablet shipments are expected to increase to 250 million worldwide by 2015, paving the way for mobile devices to become the primary constant access point for the web.
26. Judith Cohen, Founder and CCO of FreshBuzz Media
Google+ has huge potential – and yet, I do not see Google+ taking off, breaking all the records and surpassing Facebook as the choice network as everyone is so myopically focused on. Sure, Google’s vast integration and search potential is extraordinary, yet Facebook will hold its ground and Google will simply have to be happy to share the ground with them. Facebook has and will remain nimble and the ones at top advantage with this race (no matter the platform) are the consumers (fans), the brands and the marketers — in terms of growth, functionality and usefulness. Competition is GOOD thing.
By this time next year, a majority of companies will find ways to utilize social media as their primary place to conduct business online. Social media levels out the playing field and allows companies of all sizes to reach the same target market with a relatively equal chance of success. As more companies recognize the low barrier of entry into the social media marketplace, expect more creative ways for businesses to offer discounts, interact with customers and compete with other companies in order to win customer loyalty.
28. Dave Evans, VP of Social Strategy at Social Dynamx
2012 will mark the formal adoption of social technology across the enterprise, and in particular for customer service applications at large-business scale. The classic consumer touchpoints–marketing, advertising and in-store promotion–along with the actual product or service experience will be joined by the experiences created in and by customer service as primary drivers of advocacy and evangelism. Already, a leading source of conversations on the social web about brands, products and services is the customer experience when assistance is required. 2012 will see the adoption of enterprise-grade tools, processes and policies that capitalize on this fundamental shift.
29. Megan Monplaisir, Director of Social Media at Nology Media
Social media will be more influential in how consumers make decisions. The impact of Facebook Open Graph and how brands can more specifically target their audience via social media will be more evident in 2012.
There will continue to be a heavy emphasis on blogs and bloggers as people of influence especially regarding geo-targeted news. On a national level, AOL is addressing this trend with Patch; on a more local level, the West Seattle blog, http://westseattleblog.com/ is where you go to get news versus KING 5 TV.
The merging of offline with online (and vice versa) will continue – trade shows and conferences being live-streamed, in-person trainings being webcast and tweet-ups instead of meetings.
30. Justin Fogarty, Online Community Manager for Ariba
LinkedIn Fulfills its Promise – 2012 is the year that LinkedIn usage patterns become more mainstream. The network will be more about general engagement, not just about finding jobs. Specifically, people will use the service more to post tips, comment on industry news and seek answers to business and personal-related questions. The tools have been around for a while, but the usage will change next year.
Google+, LinkedIn Gain on Facebook for Enterprise Promotion – Facebook refuses to cave in to public pressure to change back its UIs, leaving many businesses unclear about how effectively their messages are presented and communicated on the network. This opens the door for more adoption of Google+ and LinkedIn as viable social platforms for businesses.
Social Communities’ Reputations Improve – In other words, they will be seen as vehicles to help people get out of – rather than get into – trouble. The dominant theme for 2012 will be how social communities help people improve their lives by providing resources to solve business and personal issues. Many have thought about the perceived negatives on social media usage, but next year, companies will see how social media can proactively offer a positive impact on business reputation.
More Direct Engagement – Online platforms will contain integrated widgets to communicate directly with communities, allowing users to ask questions and seek feedback live while engaging in a web-related activity. Similar to what’s done at TurboTax, the online experience of software will be collaborative, real-time and impactful on a person’s user experience.
31. Zubin Mowlavi, President and CEO of Lucid Fusion
Social media is going to continue to shatter the boundaries of social networking sites and impact every facet of our digital way of life. The way we consume media and make decisions is going to become a completely social process in the upcoming year. This has already occurred for photos with Instagram, music with Spotify and Facebook, and dining with Yelp. In the next year, we will see this extend to every medium, such as the shows we watch on television, the movies we frequent, and the products we purchase online.
32. Blake Cahill, President of Banyan Branch
Don’t dismiss Google+ just yet. When brand pages launch, the “hang-out” feature will be an amazing opportunity for brand advocates to connect with spokespeople, experts and other advocates. I’m not sure if it will take off, but I think we will see a similar initial spike in the brand pages to what we saw in the initial Google+ public interest.
The continued expansion of smartphones will drive interactions in all channels because more people will be accessing social from their phones. Location-based services may get a bump in activity from this trend too.
Common retailers will finally see the value of social and integrate it into their marketing plans; it seems commonplace for many already, but non-tech industries such as retail always lag behind tech advances by a few years. While a few big brands have tech-savvy marketing teams, you’ll see check-ins and social store promotions instead of brands simply saying “join us on social network X.” They’ll create advocates and target users with focused messages to increase their revenue.
33. Jonathan Yagel, LifeKraze
Over the next year, social media will become increasingly segmented into niche networks and apps that allow individuals to share particular elements of their lives with specific others. People are looking for more personalized, direct connection and the larger, more generalized networks have become cluttered and noisy. They will continue to serve a function—wide broadcasting of some elements—but will slowly decline as the primary point of contact and input.
34. Justin Premick, Director of Education Marketing at AWeber
Over the last 1-2 years, businesses have rushed to incorporate social media and email without much thought about the role each medium should play. What many businesses are finding is that social media best complements email when it spreads the news about their email content and gets more people to sign up to their list. In 2012, more businesses will pick up on this. You’ll see a concentrated focus on creating valuable content that subscribers are eager to share with their networks, and encouraging people who discover them through social media to join their email lists.
35. David Bradfield, Director of Marketing Strategy and Analysis at SapientNitro
Context will drive the greatest equity in social in 2012. The evolution and integration of mobile is profound and will further amplify the significance of the “here and now.” Adopting gaming dynamics to impact customer behavior will continue to drive brand addiction, and shared experiences and co-viewing will redefine sports, entertainment and politics. Social shopping will establish greater confidence and satisfaction among consumers beyond reviews and deals, with the in-store experience and contextual offers delivering a social return.
The impact of social media will ‘socialize’ traditional media. Beyond ‘follow us on Twitter or Facebook,’ traditional media will embrace and innovate thanks to social media and several of its trends. Notably, the popularity of social games and virtual currency, which will lead to “gamifying’ media. The socialization will impact advertising through hybrid campaigns tying online to offline and vice versa, and extend not only from one screen to two and even to three through mobile.
37. Ryan Allis, CEO of iContact
Social media will be part of all businesses (large or small). Few small businesses have grasped the concept of a need to interact with users through forums or social channels, like customer service-focused Twitter handles. By viewing social media as an externally-facing communication channel, businesses will be able to resolve customer service issues in a timely manner. On the other hand, they will also be held more accountable for the way they conduct their customer service since transparency is essential when communicating via social channels. On the upside, good customer service habits can earn businesses kudos and even new customers in some cases.
38. Parker Williams, Founder / Owner of http://www.start-up-a-small-business.com
By this time next year, many advertisers will be looking for more “grown up” ways to participate in social media. Right now, many of the popular social media websites, including Twitter and Facebook, are too thick with kids. Kids who don’t usually equate to targeted buyers. Either social media websites like Twitter will break off to create more grown up ways of participating or new sites will pop up like LinkedIn but with a more Twitter or Facebook-like feel.
Please share your predictions in the comment section below.