Seven Digital and Social Media Trends For 2012

Friday, December 16th, 2011

‘Tis the season for shopping and eating and predicting what will happen over the next twelve months!  2011 brought the proliferation of tablets, an abundance of QR code adoption, the evolution of Twitter and Facebook, and the introduction of Google+.  Topics like influence, social commerce, social media measurement and geo-location have also continued to evolve.

Based on technology trends and behaviors, here are some things to look out for in 2012.

I. We, the Digerati of America  

This year the social web transformed how people use Facebook, Twitter and other social channels to promote change.  Dictators in the Middle East fell from power because of how social media played a pivotal role in helping people organize for change. Currently, people are using social media to rally around the Occupy movement to push for economic equality.

In 2008, the social web was in its infancy and society was getting comfortable with these new tools.  Today, Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare and other social technologies are engrained in American (and global) culture, and will play a crucial role in the 2012 U.S. presidential election.

There are already signs that the social web is showing different sentiment towards candidates when compared to polls. For example, at the time that several polls show Newt Gingrich as the GOP frontrunner, a new study shows Ron Paul is the most popular GOP candidate on Twitter.  Will that make a difference as the nation heads into primary season? You bet.

Probably not an option for 2012, but it’s a matter of time until Facebook, Twitter and Google+ make it possible for the American people to vote through one these networks using a “.gov” web portal.

II. Content Curation and Google Will Change SEO

Many 2012 predictions will emphasize the growing implications of Google+.  However, many marketers are forgetting that Google is still about search.  Google+ may be invading every nook and cranny that makes up Google, but it’s the outcome that will make brands and people pay closer attention.

Google will change Search Engine Optimization (SEO) with a combination of +1 and the human collective. It’s a matter of time before Google triggers a reset and modifies its page ranking algorithm. The +1 button is already integrated into Google analytical tools, so the next logical step is changing what constitutes relevance and authority.

III. Social Media and Copyright Revisited 

Napster, the site that started illegal music sharing, was officially laid to rest this year after being bought by Rhapsody.  However, the issue over copyright is heating up with the new legislation, Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).  Many predict that if SOPA is passed, it could change the Internet forever.

In short, this law would force websites to police consumer’s activities and censor whether a site gets any traffic.  If passed, every URL will fall under scrutiny and potentially be scrapped by Google and other search results if the government or a company believes a website is violating copyright.  Every link shared across the social web will fall under scrutiny as well.  Several companies, including Google, Twitter, Facebook, Zynga, along with civil liberties groups have protested against the bill.

Complicating matters is the growing misunderstanding of what constitutes copyright infringement. As was pointed out by Waxy.org, there are thousands of YouTube videos that have “no copyright infringement intended” or a similar disclaimer added to a video description.  It simply means people acknowledge it isn’t theirs and want to share it, but the law doesn’t view it that way.  Either education is needed around an incredibly confusing law, or the laws need to change.

SOPA will be the legal technology debate in 2012.

IV. Content Marketing Matures: Brands Become Entertainers

The mantra “content is king” continues to remain the focus in the social media space.  However, Brands will have to work harder as the social web is invaded by content providers like Netflix, Spotify, Hulu and others.

Social media marketing success is based on a brand’s ability to earn AND retain attention.  People like to be entertained, so it’s a matter of time until brands recognize the need to do more than the typical Facebook updates, Twitter giveaways and YouTube video contests.  In 2012, a brand will acknowledge this fact and begin producing entertaining content regularly.

V. Influence Gets Overhauled

Influence will come under greater scrutiny in 2012 as a result of unclear definitions and uncertainty over who really has it.

At some point, influence scores will need to include data besides mentions, reactions and activity from a variety of social channels.  What people do offline has equal, if not greater weight, in conjunction with digital activity. Either social influence scores will be more transparent in how they assess influence, or marketers will have no choice but to ignore them as people choose to take control of their own digital identity by opting out of these systems.

The relevance of influence scores was a greatly debated topic in 2011 because of scoring systems offered by PeerIndex, Klout, Kred and other similar tools. In October 2011, Klout upgraded its algorithm triggering uproar by social media enthusiasts because of automatically calculating scores of individuals who hadn’t opted into Klout.  In addition, there was no clarity as to what was contributing to the changing scores. People woke up one morning have their scores drop without any logical explanation other than, improvements had been made.

VI. Apps Create an Ecosystem That Drives the Economy

It’s an app invasion and we can’t or won’t get away from them. It’s simply because apps make digital behavior easier.  In fact, apps are changing how we shop.  Not only can we compare prices with e-retailers using apps, we can shop from anywhere.  And soon, consumers will be able to use mobile apps to pay for all their goods too; just like you can now using the Starbucks mobile app.

Furthermore, apps will invade every crevice of the social web, making it possible to shop from Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.  Social commerce is only possible with the ongoing evolution and experimentation of apps integrating with other popular technologies. Facebook’s new app ecosystem makes it possible for consumers to shop through the network using Facebook Credits and automatically share their purchases with friends.  Apps will make social commerce possible and abundant in 2012.

VII. Year of the Cloud, Thanks to the Tablet

2012 will be the year tablets begin to take over our global society, and PCs and laptops become less of the norm.  The demand for tablets will continue to grow. As a result, we will begin to depend on the cloud to synchronize all our data. Don’t be surprised if we hear about businesses providing staff with tablets in place of laptop and desktop computers.

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