Seven Fearless Social Media Predictions for 2010

2009 will go down in web history as the year that social media grew up and marketers from all industries and company sizes took note. Social media has permanently transformed the way people connect and share information, but while many folks are still trying to wrap their heads around what’s going on (no easy task, to be sure), we’re assimilating all the pundits and factoids in an attempt to coolly calculate what’s next. Here’s what we’ve got, so far:

     
  • More companies become more invested. According to the Direct Marketing Association, U.S. marketers spent $1.2 billion on social media in 2009 and are projected to spend $1.3 billion on it in 2010, an increase of 10.4%. Of the businesses surveyed, 69% and 59% said they will increase their spending on e-mail and social media respectively - making these channels the two highest-growth areas of marketing expense.
     
  • Integrated and sustained programs replace one-shot initiatives. In other words, one-shot campaigns turn into ongoing programs, much like how e-mail marketing has evolved. Social media will help companies become more “real-time responsive” - as it has with Best Buy, whose “Twelpforce” leverages hundreds of employees to provide customer support via Twitter.
     
  • Platforms will increasingly cross-connect. TweetDeck, for example, will now let LinkedIn viewers view status updates and reply to them (and do other things) from within Twitter. LinkedIn will be integrated into the 2010 version of Outlook (as always, the best way to predict the future is to invent it). As one LinkedIn development partner remarked, “Essentially, LinkedIn is not just a destination anymore. You can take your network wherever you go on the Web.”
     
  • E-mail becomes more sociable. One major e-mail service provider has added a feature that allows its clients’ e-mail recipients to post messages they receive to their MySpace or Facebook pages. Reporting tools reveal which e-mails have been picked up and posted, which social networks have produced the most shares, and how those shared messages have performed. “Encouraging e-mail recipients to share your message on their social networks can make a big difference in turning a message viral,” says Scott Voigt, Silverpop’s vice president of marketing.
     
  • Social colonization segues to social context. By late 2009, Forrester analyst Jeremiah Owyang writes (www.destinationcrm.com/Articles/ CRM-News/Daily-News/Social-Media-The-Five-Year-Forecast-53635.aspx), technologies such as OpenID and Facebook Connect will begin to break down the barriers of social networks and allow individuals to integrate their social connections as part of their online experience, blurring the lines between networks and traditional sites. In 2010, the era of social context will dawn, as sites will begin to recognize personal identities and social relationships to deliver customized online experiences. Social networks will become the “base of operation for everyone’s online experiences.”
     
  • Mobile gets big. We’re talking Godzilla-big. With over 258 million wireless lines in the U.S. alone, SMS (or “texting”) will proliferate as a marketing tool. From new customer acquisition to ongoing customer retention programs, SMS is a way to reach audiences in a timely, effective, and measurable manner. 49% of mobile users in the U.S. actively use SMS in any given month, according to m:metrics. The introduction of mobile payments could definitely add fuel to the fire. From PayPalX to Amazon’s mobile payments platform for developers, the big players are already seizing the mobile payments opportunity.
     
  • More solutions for “too much information.” If your desk or inbox looks like mine, you know what I mean - there just aren’t enough hours in the day to keep up with the whirlwind of information we can access 24/7 and any which way. Sites like Google News source the best stuff by technical means, but don’t allow for much personalization. Facebook Connect lets your friends become your filter - content personalization based on the collective preferences of your network. Google’s Social Search is also based upon this type of filtering. Twitter’s “Lists” feature allows users to create collections of interesting people to follow on the micro-messaging service. Filtering by experts in their fields (like the topic moderators on about.com) will also be offered.
     
  • More engaging and intuitive data depictions. As Buzz Canuck notes in his Agent Wildfire blog: “To be able to pull out insight from the excrement of data, smart left brains have teamed up with smart right brains to look at interesting ways to visualize data (http://thedoublethink.com/2009/08/). Look to advancements that wend their way into social media and make tag clouds and social graphs look like simple hobby horses in the future.”

  In her recent and highly recommended book, The Facebook Era: Tapping Online Social Networks to Build Better Products, Reach New Audiences, and Sell More Stuff, Clara Shih likens the status quo of online social networks to where we were with the Internet in the late ‘80s: “Though there are plenty of unknowns, such as which vendors and business models will prevail, certain trends are already taking shape: flatter organizations, stronger offline communities, more small businesses, greater collaboration across organizations, and tighter integration with mobile devices. Despite the uncertainty, companies can and need to start thinking now about how this revolution will affect their business so that they can take the necessary steps to thrive in the Facebook era.”

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