Social media, itself once the innovative new trend on the block, now spawns them. The foundations of social media have been laid; now we’re waiting to see what empires will be built on top. As we hurtle towards 2012, let’s take stock at some of the big trends we can expect to see:

  1. TV goes social. We’ve started to see the first forays, but internet and TV will become far more interlinked in the coming months. Multiple screens will converge, and your social activities become part of the TV experience. Keep an eye out for Apple – the noises about them producing a television set will probably signal a reinvention of the entire concept.
  2. Essential social. Gone are the days when a social media strategy was optional. Social media has become so entrenched in the lives of consumers and businesses alike that in-house teams dedicated to social media will become commonplace, and social media will also extend beyond marketing to other departments and areas; think recruitment and sales. Social media will be an essential discipline – not just an option.
  3. Buy social. Social commerce will become serious. It’s now in the early stages, much as social media was itself recently – businesses opting in or opting out. But now, as user reviews and recommendations increase their influence on consumer behaviour, social commerce will stop being the ‘add on’ channel and, used wisely, start to generate serious volume of sales on a par with traditional channels.
  4. Branded content for social. Coupons and discount days are not the only big guns in the marketing arsenal these days – that honour goes to branded content used to engage with consumers on their own territory. Blogs, videos, audio, graphics, games – the potential is limited only by your creativity.
  5. Social search. The big names – Facebook, Twitter, Google – still have some improving to do despite their achievements, and the search function is one very obvious area; search experiences on these sites are simply below par. Expect significant step ups in 2012 to rectify this, particularly Google’s + button development.
  6. Back to tablet. Not the old fashioned stone type of course, but the slick and smart electronic ones. As the price of tablets comes down (Amazon Fire is one to watch) then print will find itself falling by the wayside. Smart brands will already be thinking – or implementing – their swap to the next evolutionary step in communication.
  7. Some Faces stay the same. And that face is Facebook. 2012 will see it hit 1billion users and become a public company. Far from a website, it will become an operating system in its own right – on your smartphone, on the web itself.