Originally published at Harvard Business Review
It was a banner year for social media growth and adoption. We witnessed Facebook overtake Google in most weekly site traffic, while some surveys reported nearly 95% of companies using LinkedIn to help in recruiting efforts. In my outlook for last year, I cited that mobile would become a lifeline to those looking for their social media fixes, and indeed the use of social media through mobile devices increased in the triple digits.
I also outlined how "social media would look less social" or more accurately exclusive, and indeed, we've seen the re-launch of Facebook groups, which focus on niche interactivity, and more recently, the emergence of Path, billed as "the social network for intimate friends" which limits your network to only 50 people. The past year also saw some brands go full throttle on Foursquare's game-like geo-location platform, attempting to reward mayors and creating custom badges for the network's power users.
In other areas, such as social media policy, I was less accurate. Conversations around the topic did begin to take place, But a global survey indicated that only 29 percent of companies even have a social media policy. That's not as high as I expected.
So what could we see happening in 2011? I'll take a stab at six trends again. In no particular order:
It's The Integration Economy, Stupid. From Ford, to Dell, to Starbucks (client), to Jet Blue, and a host of other companies who have pioneered early uses of social media for business, 2011 will be the year these companies take a serious look at integrating social media, not only regionally but globally. Don't be surprised if the same companies that piloted programs such as Ford's "Fiesta Movement" and Starbuck's Foursquare programs also become the first companies to take on the huge challenge of integrating social media into all facets of business from global marketing to crisis management and beyond.
Tablet & Mobile Wars Create Ubiquitous Social Computing. As competition heats up in the form of cheaper, smarter phones and an assortment of tablets that may hit the market (a $35 Tablet in India?), technology consumers will come one step closer to being connected 24/7, and in more powerful ways than previously possible. Social networking will be on the go, out of the house, and out of the office. More competition, variety, power, and affordability in devices will fuel the increase of ubiquitous social computing.
Facebook Interrupts Location-Based Networking. If 2010 belonged to Foursquare and its playful, competitive and sometimes addicting ecosystem of badges, mayorships and specials, it's likely that Facebook will rain on Foursquare's parade in 2011. With tons of data and the architecture behind Facebook's response to Foursquare about to be rolled out globally, Facebook is well positioned to actually make location based services useful to business.
Average Participants Experience Social Media Schizophrenia. While social media schizophrenia (the overload of multiple social profiles) is nothing new to tech mavens, it will become something that more and more "average" users experience as they tweet, Facebook, G-mail, chat, Skype, BBM, SMS, and Tumble their way across the social web. While many mavens have adopted ways to manage and cope, average users may find themselves at the beginning of the curve in need of a 12-step social identity program. This may lead to increased demand from typical participants to have a more integrated and simplified social graph and an opportunity for platforms and companies alike to meet this demand.
Google Doesn't Beat Them, They Join Them. In 2010, Wired told us that Facebook could beat Google to win the net. But even at the end of 2010 after failed attempts to create their own networks such as Buzz, Google could prove that the best way to beat Facebook, Twitter, and the rest is to do what Google does best: Index them to pieces. Indeed, I've already noticed Google's algorithm has become smarter about Twitter data. I only have to type in a few words to locate old tweets. It's possible that by sticking to what Google does best, they may be able to take advantage of the social web by indexing any and all social data they can get their hands on. Expect the Googleplex to "strike back" in 2011, and perhaps demonstrate that they may figure out their role and relevancy on the social Web.
Social Functionality Makes Websites Fashionable Again. After several years of being told to "fish where the fish are," businesses realize that users expect social integration to existing Websites. Sites such as AMEX Open forum serve as a model for how networks such as Twitter can integrate with the Web experience. Websites will increasingly serve as "digital hubs" that integrate social activity from many platforms. For example, Apple's music social network, named Ping, recently integrated Twitter. While the integration has kinks, it demonstrates that even the most iconic of brands realizes that they do not exist in their own walled garden. They must integrate to be relevant in a socially connected world.
These are a few emerging trends that come to my mind. I'm interested to hear what you think as well, so please weigh in with your own thoughts. Where do you see social media going in 2011?
Image Credit: Valentine Westphal