Social media has rapidly become an important part of many peoples’ lives, not just as a way to keep up to date with friends and family, but also for professional networks, exploring fields of research, shopping, sharing content and fostering online communities with shared interests. It has also become a crucial aspect of a businesses’ online presence; now a firm can connect with consumers and tailor their online relationships with customers, other brands, and with employees.

Predicting quite what is going to happen in this ever changing digital landscape isn’t easy, but it’s certainly worth noting some of the rising trends and having a look ahead to 2013. You can consider this a heads up, of sorts, for the varying challenges awaiting us all in the year ahead. It’s an exciting time and there’s lots to look forward to.

Hosted Content

The coming year will see a massive increase in companies using social media services to market their goods and services, recognising the potential for sharing content and information and enhancing engagement with target audiences.

In tandem with companies’ own websites, social media services provide a platform for hosting content and interacting with the audience both as consumers and on a more tailored, personal level. Developments in social media sites and apps will allow companies of all sizes to create engaging, content-rich multimedia interfaces hosted by social media sites.

Branded Entertainment

Advertisers are likely to continue to develop innovative means to embed commercials within content and entertainment as this type of branding replaces more disruptive and blatant forms of advertising. Social media allows advertisers to target consumers, not necessarily in a disruptive, aggressive manner; instead branded entertainment and content provides consumers with information they have a genuine interest in and advertisers can supply relevant content to the people who are most likely to be interested in their products and services.

The Growth of Video

Video is likely to continue to cement its role as the crucial technology in communications, conferencing, information sharing and social media. Advances in mobile networks’ capabilities for carrying high-speed, high-quality video streaming will enable much improved video services for mobile-based social media apps.

The proliferation of social media-enabled smart phones and tablets equipped with high resolution cameras and video apps will further establish video’s centrality in social media interfaces.

Social TV

Digital and on-demand TV has had the effect of reducing ‘event TV’, when people across the country sit down at the same time to watch broadcasts and discuss them at work or school the following day – instead people watch shows on-demand at their own convenience; no bad thing in itself, but as a result TV has become a more atomised, insular experience.

But this trend could revert next year as social TV results in a return to event TV, with broadcasters providing social media forums for real-time social media commentary as the show is being transmitted, and allow programme directors, actors, guests and production teams to communicate directly with their audiences in live web-based dialogues.

Social Shopping

Social shopping will continue to evolve in 2013, with consumers coming together for wholesale savings through group e-commerce purchases, sharing shopping experiences, product and retailer recommendations; and the growth in online shopping communities. In many ways these online communities will replicate the dynamics of a traditional local marketplace with discerning customers developing bonds with trusted ‘stallholders’.

Savvy businesses of all sizes will create new ways for interacting and selling to these online marketplaces and communities, and hopefully facilitate and engage in mutually beneficial shopping relationships.

Social Search

Social search engines could become ever more popular in 2013. The launch of Google+ in 2011 added a new layer to online searches, providing a social aspect to search results. This human input into search logarithms is likely to increase over the coming year.

The evolution of social search engines will hopefully reduce the amount of link spam in search results and provide more relevant and personalised links for search engine users.

Social Enterprise and Invention

The internet, social media and the technology facilitating these systems all advance at such a rate that predicating specific developments is problematic. Despite this we can logically foresee some trends for 2013.

Large businesses will learn the benefits of social media and develop their own internal ‘social enterprises’, linking each member of staff on a personal and professional level.

Whilst Facebook and Twitter are likely to continue to dominate social media, other innovative sites will emerge as the social media market diversifies. Creative sites such as DeviantART, image-led platforms such as Pinterest and lifestyle services such as CafeMom demonstrate the range and popularity of social media, and this variety will expand during the year.

The driving forces behind these trends will continue to be the inventiveness and creativity of the developers who advance social media apps and technologies in new and unexpected direction.

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