2012 Social Media Prediction Roundup: Common Themes for the New Year

As the new year approaches, anticipation sets in. What will happen in the next 12 months in the social media space?

Last year we distilled some of of the common themes from social media leaders. Top themes for 2011 included topics the industry has been talking about lately, such as what it means to be a social business and how influence can be tracked and identified.

This year’s predictions so far illustrate that social media is growing up, in a sense. Customers are expanding their uses of social media to more devices and into more daily tasks, and marketers are following. Brands’ social media programs will mature, and with that comes a focus on data, analytics, and integration. Among the ways this is predicted to manifest in 2012:

Social business becomes a more accepted concept in the enterprise. As Augie Ray put it, “2012 will be the year when it becomes evident how much social media will transform business.” Social business, the term used to refer to an adoption of social at every level of an organization, will be embraced by more companies. Some companies such as Zappos and Starbucks have reached this high level of maturity, as Olivier Blanchard writes in his presentation on social business.  Altimeter’s Jeremiah Owyang points out that most companies have yet to progress through a set of 5 stages he dubs the Social Business Hierarchy of Needs. While a majority will not achieve the highest level, more will move up the hierarchy in 2012.

What fuels social media decision-making matures – Data will play a more influential role. “Big data” will be given a bigger mouthpiece in 2012. Stephanie Schwab on Social Media Explorer writes that the number-crunching “marketing scientist” will become more prevalent. Social data will be used in a number of ways, including integrating across social media channels and extending the insights from that data into offline marketing as well, writes Eric Wheeler on VentureBeat. Applying this data will boost marketers understanding of their audience, strengthen relationships, and de-emphasize the mission of accumulating fans and followers, which Ray predicts will be common in 2o12.

This dovetails into another theme for 2012 – understanding mobile and how to reach customers there. The “always on” social-mobile customer will expect personalization based on that data, as Forrester predicts, and targeted content across screens will be what marketers work toward in 2012.

Influence measurement continues to be a dilemma for the enterprise, but 2012 will get us closer to a solution. David Armano points out that while broad tools like Klout have helped attach business value to the study of influence, companies will get a better grasp of influence scoring and how to leverage it strategically. Schwab writes that a perfect tool won’t emerge. But disparate data points are expected to come together to form a more compete picture of which customers influence others and how.

What do you think? Do you agree with these predictions, or do you see 2012 moving in another direction? Tell us in the comments.