It’s the end of one year and the beginning of the next. First, happy new year! Second, this means it’s time for social media predictions. Dozens of industry pros place their bets on what will occur in social media over the next 12 months. We’ve reviewed a slew of predictions to help extrapolate common themes that are relevant for companies using social media. Here’s what we found:
2011 will be a year of full social media integration across the organization (including customer service).
Many companies’ marketing/PR departments spent 2010 getting a grasp on social media, and more companies will evolve to fully integrate social media into the organization as a whole. Edelman Digital’s David Armano agrees on Harvard Business Review by emphasizing the need for integration. SAP’s Senior Global Integrated Marketing Director Michael Brenner writes in “2011 Trends Report: Social Media Marketing” by Focus: “Social is much bigger than marketing and PR. It is a customer phenomenon. This will demonstrate itself as social moves into product development, operations, customer service and even sales.” This will include social customer service, and companies like Best Buy and Zappos have been praised this year for their exceptional service through social channels. Smart companies will polish their strategies in this area (Gary Halliwell via VentureBeat).
Influence – both harnessing it and measuring it – will reign.
Brian Solis writes that as 2011 progresses, influence factors (IF) will become more important to companies, as evidenced by the recent growth in tools such as Klout and the recent discussion on what influence and social capital really mean. Jesse Thomas of JESS3 concurs on Mashable and points out that brands will continue to seek out high-influence customers to help initiate recommendations, such as The Palms in Las Vegas. Its “Klout Klub” provides amenities to hotel guests with high Klout scores in the hopes they’ll pass along their experiences.
Social will drive search.
Ogilvy’s John Bell notes the continued trend of qualified traffic being driven from sites like Facebook, Twitter and other networks in the “5 platform social strategy.” Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz predicts that what we’ve seen with search and social in 2010 will grow into more connections from Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and users will receive more results from their friends on these networks.
Content marketing aka “Brands as Publishers”
Content. Content. Content. In 2011 companies will begin to fund content marketing and throw resources behind producing great content in a deliberate way. Jason Falls of Social Media Explorer notes that larger brands will “seize the opportunity to become custom media publishers” in Predictions: Social Media & Content Marketing Predictions for 2011 from Junta42 and the Content Marketing Institute (p.11). Paul Gillin predicts this will be true for B2B, and that “marketers are going to scramble to give away as much useful information as possible” (p. 15) and Michael Stelzner of Social Media Examiner says brands with outstanding content will thrive (p.22). Maggie Fox, CEO and founder of Social Media Group, writes: “Brands will need to think like broadcasters. This crosses two areas: content (you need to produce quality and quantity to drive engagement) and channel building (stop with the microsites already; attention is an expensive gift, so learn how to recycle it). If, as an agency, your business model is based on building microsites and spending millions in media to drive traffic to it only to shut it down and start again for the next campaign, you’re going to need to reinvent.”
Curation is also a big trend for 2011. Brian Solis writes in this report that this new “Information Commerce” trend will include a focus on curation, where users will be empowered with not only creating content, but filtering content for further dissemination. Success in this area will mean an increase in these curators’ social capital. “Are we in the stream?” will be marketers’ No. 1 question for 2011, writes Stephaine Schwab on Social Media Explorer. With users being bombarded with content, companies will have to ensure their content is compelling enough to break through: “If your content is truly compelling and share-worthy, it’ll get noticed and Liked, it will generate Comments and Retweets, and you’ll be okay because it will have legitimately earned its way into people’s streams,” Schwab writes.
Social commerce moves from novelty to priority for retailers.
This prediction alone warrants a dozen posts and covers a variety of sub-topics, including location-based marketing, group deals, Facebook commerce, and more. In summary, social commerce as whole shows no signs of slowing. With Groupon’s new funding, Facebook Places, and an emphasis on social website integration, 2011 will be an exciting year for retailers and customers. Even Facebook has made social commerce a part of its three-pronged 2011 strategy.
Targeted social media.
Jay Baer of Convince and Convert writes that 2011 will move us closer to true one-to-one marketing. “Soon, we’ll be able to send an e-mail just to customers that clicked a particular bit.ly link on Twitter. We’ll be able to send a Facebook status message just to customers who visited a particular page on our website. By combining what we know about our customers and prospects and friends across multiple social outposts, we’ll end up with a centralized view of each of our connections,” Baer said in an interview with SmartBrief. We think Social CRM tools and increased analysis of conversation and interaction data will help drive Baer’s vision.
So, what will 2011 look like?
The above list is by no means exhaustive, but these are a few of the predictions we saw. The growth of web video (SocialTimes) and mobile are also expected to be incredible. Other fantastic 2011 wrap-ups include Peter Kim’s summary and iMedia Connection’s interviews with pros like Shiv Singh from PepsiCo. Social Media Examiner also offers a good roundup.
CEO Jason Weaver offered his predictions for the upcoming year: “2011 will be about social commerce, integration, and influence. In 2009, companies tiptoed around social media and started planning. In 2010 they officially got up and running. In 2011, they’ll get smarter. They’ll figure out how to manage social media scalability, and retailers in social will learn how to truly tie sales to social while still being engaging. But it’s the discussion around influence that holds the most promise. Companies will recognize that the fans, followers, and customers that are the most loyal, the most influential, and the most socially savvy are their best allies. Many brands will move beyond brand ambassador programs and find innovative ways to embrace their most influential customers not only as customers, but as extensions of their own brand teams.”
The new year will see the space moving toward a more interconnected experience that’s focused on the consumer. Metrics will evolve, business goals will truly become the focus of social media marketing plans, and companies’ social media programs will come of age. No matter what happens, it will be exciting, both for companies and the end users who are rewarded with a richer experience online.
What do you think? On Dec. 31, 2011, what will 2011 look like for social media? Tell us in the comments.