1. Niche Social Networks will become more popular
Google+ has recently launched to a big fanfare and lots of hype and excitement. Although I think it is great to have a competitor to Facebook, for customers and brands alike, I believe Google+ is ultimately destined to always play second fiddle to the mighty Facebook. 25-40 million users on Google+ is amazing, but when you look at that as a percentage of Facebook’s users it is only around 3-8%. This is therefore just a very small group of early adopters and interested users from the Facebook network.
I believe users are not looking for another mass social network similar to Facebook. We are now looking for smaller niche networks that can service our interests in a particular field. As fan pages in specific interests reach a certain size, the limited features within the Facebook fan page platform mean the next natural step for a community would be to establish a niche network that can have features tailored to the specific needs of the users in the community. Niche social communities allow for user connections in a more binding and relevant way.
I also believe brands will start to push back and realise the power they would have if they owned their own social networks. Man Utd and HSBC have already announced that they are setting up their own and I think this trend will continue in 2012.
2. Social TV & Duel Screen will explode
Smart TV and services like “Youview” in the UK will transform Youtube channels into TV stations. They will also allow developers to build Apps for TV shows, which will blur the lines between TV and social media. TV has held out from the onslaught of the digital world in the main until now, but 2012 will finally see this defense broken. Much in the same way that cable stations transformed the TV landscape in the 80′s with small channels like MTV becoming massive multi-national corporations, “Social TV” will see popular Youtube channels shake up the established order and become power houses in the traditional TV space – SB.TV and many other branded channels will start to make waves.
“Likes” will begin to influence more than just online text content. Digital video content providers will take into consideration friends’ “Like” preferences for video content. In turn, they will tailor and filter programming to you based on the “Likes” you and your friends provide.
By anticipating what you’ll be most inclined to watch, digital providers will help you cut through the growing expanse of online multimedia content. It’s highly probable that Facebook, either via acquisition or via a partnership with companies like BuddyTV or Hulu, will explore or invest in “Social TV.”
3. Customers & Employees will become extended parts of the Company marketing team
As social networks are used ever more frequently for aggregating and sharing interests, you can expect opinions, positive or negative, about products and services to spread with lightening speed. As a result, businesses’ customer relationships will become increasingly focused on creating and managing perceptions.
In 2010, companies began listening to customers’ wants and needs via social buzz. In 2011, they focused on responding to digital customer commentary. In 2012, companies will need to move the needle forward, scaling marketing efforts by creating and sharing information with employees and influential customer evangelists to help define their brands, products, and services from the ground up.
Salesforce’s recent extension of its chatter feature, which allows businesses to share information and files with their customers via a hosted network, is early evidence of this trend.
I also believe companies will start to realise the power of their workforce in the social space. Unlike previous years where large banks like HSBC have blocked Facebook and other social sites to their staff, I believe these large organisations will start to allow access and encourage their staff to promote their brand online.
4. Recommendation footprint will increase
Social media has taken the power of recommendation and super charged it. With an ever increasing social network footprint, and the explosion of data, expect networked recommendations to become more ubiquitous (e.g., your friend’s friend likes this product).
Content recommendations on Facebook stores and participating e-commerce sites will be increasingly powered and filtered by friends’ preferences (“Social TV” being an example). Social sign-on, group sharing, and universal wish lists will even make personalisation on smaller sites possible, and collaborative filtering will create connections between people in unanticipated and creative ways.
I believe brands will also start to become even more direct offline and online, asking users to recommend their product and using discounts and giveaways to incentive them. There is already talk of major shops and Visa incorporating social sharing at the pay point offline i.e when you buy a pair of trainers at Nike Town, they may offer you a 10% discount if you share the purchase on Facebook and your Facebook account will be linked to your credit card so the notification will go immediately.
5. Social Shopping
Brands like ASOS have brought their e-commerce platform into the Facebook arena to great success and I believe more and more brands will start to use Facebook and other social platforms as a sales platform. As I have already discussed, the recommendation footprint will mean it will be in the best interest of the brands to get you to buy via this method. The viral nature of Facebook will mean that each purchase will be shared and showing you endorse the brand in the best possible way, by purchasing their product – ASOS saw a 52% rise in turnover when they moved their e-commerce platform to Facebook.
With this being the case it must only be a matter of time before Facebook provides a similar environment to Amazon or eBay. It can’t be long until they build a shopping framework within the site that allows users to buy and sell products using Facebook credits. Brands will also be given space to have a standardised shop,that can be linked to their Fan page. There is tremendous opportunity to marry the shopping and social network markets. After all, isn’t it an enjoyable pastime for friends to shop together?
It is only a matter of time before shoppers trade in a trip to the mall for an online buying spree with virtual friends via shared screens, video chats, and group-buying discounts.
6. ROI for Social Media will become a must
As Social Media carries on replacing the role of display advertising, social media will be expected to carry out the same job and drive sales. Community growth, engagement and brand building will still be essential, but in 2012 they will no longer be enough. They will be seeking data that clearly indicates the cost-effectiveness of social media campaigns.
As more advance tools come into the market to measure the fans user journey from a branded fan page, the more marketing managers will be expected to provide results showing that their fans are making purchases.
Social Media is used in many different ways i.e customer service and the ROI model, although measuring different metrics will still become essential practice. As firm’s trial different methods with social media, they will insist on the practice showing business benefit.
7. Social Media will drive traffic and Search Ranking
Search engines are changing, and social media is a huge part of that change.
Bing, Google, and an increasing swath of nimble little search engines like Blekko and DuckDuckGo are incorporating social data into their results. This will be great news for new businesses, trying to achieve visibility in search, that are active in the social media space. It’s less great news for sites that rely heavily on link buying (illegal, but hard to catch), producing huge volumes of borderline-useless content (long-tail, content farm approach), or just really old domains (previously an SEO trump card).
Both Bing and Google admitted in interviews that their search results are positively affected by social signals, such as tweets, Facebook Likes, and +1s.
When we go to a search engine, we want to find what we’re looking for, immediately and hassle-free. It’s clear that social media is helping search engines deliver more immediacy and more relevant results. In 2012, this will help SEO-directed businesses focus on what they should be doing: creating content people love.
8. Discount Sites will grow more than expected
Considering the flagging economy and consumers’ income woes, offers from companies such as Groupon, Living Social, and niche players like One Kings Lane and Zulily, will have an even greater uptick in 2012. Those companies will grow more than many have previously forecast.
Even Amazon.com has gotten into the local deals mix, recognizing the value of even deeper discounts for customers. At the same time, daily-deal offerings will become increasingly hyper-local. Players intelligent about using the mobile market and geo-based offers will be category winners.
9. AR on Mobile will transform static advertising
Augmented reality is going to play an increasingly important role in mobile technology into the future. Mobile, web and social media are becoming more integrated every day.
Combined with location services, augmented reality is an attractive technology that promises the potential to enrich mobile maps and directory services with information relevant to our immediate surroundings: simply point your phone at the theatre building to find out what plays are on, see on-screen directions to find your way to the nearest oriental restaurant, or point at a bus stop to find out when the next bus is coming.
Just as social network integration enriches our web experiences by connecting them with our friends or social contacts, augmented reality will integrate our mobile devices with our locations and physical surroundings, making experiences more relevant, engaging and real.
The technology is still new, however, and it will be some time before the technology becomes settled enough to provide a set of standards and become seamlessly integrated into our phone’s camera and map apps. However we are already starting to see some thrilling Apps and in 2012 I expected developers to be hard at work innovating new features for exciting applications.
Augmented reality games using a device’s camera are popular, particularly with marketers looking to create an engaging experience connected with their brand. Location-based augmented reality apps will be a new area we will see explored in 2012. There are already some great examples of this; marketers have started using this technology to incentivise users to ‘check-in’ to a particular location, rewarding customers for attending specific events. A popular concept that my agency have received inquiries about from clients is the AR ‘Treasure Hunt’: this involves hiding virtual ‘treasures’ that users have to find using their phones, and can take place on any scale, over an entire city, or around a building or venue. New applications are emerging that can trigger events or gameplay features based on the user’s location, or incorporate real-world locations into the gameplay experience.
2012 will see more and more AR applications come on to the market, providing ever more exciting experiences for brands to connect with their audience.
10. Location-based marketing will grow, and certain customer use cases will shift predominantly to mobile
In specific markets, such as travel, shopping, and dining, customer engagement and purchases will happen more frequently via mobile device. A recent study found that one-third of all American adults use smartphones, and that percentage will continue to rise.
Travel-related click-through-rates are already higher on mobile devices than on PCs, and location-based marketing—fueled by the likes of Foursquare—will continue to soar.
This holiday season, we’ll see the majority of last-minute gift and store searches happen via mobile device. And with 50% of last-minute shopping projected to be done via mobile device in 2015, marketers in 2012 will have to consider mobile in their usage mix as adoption of the mobile smart device becomes increasingly universal.
Extracts taken from Brian Goffmans 12 marketing predictions 2012 & Mashable.com
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