Social Media Trends For 2012 & Beyond

Kent Lewis
March 20, 2012 — 1,386 views  
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Although social media marketing is a small component of our service offerings at Anvil & Formic, we’re constantly asked our opinions and advice on the matter. I’ve personally helped clients develop, implement, manage and measure social media campaigns since 1998 (no, that’s not a typo). Since then, I’ve kept a finger on the pulse of the social media industry, and I fear we’re near cardiac arrest. Regardless, I’ve put together the following social media marketing predictions and trends for 2012 and beyond.

Rapid Growth of Social Commerce & Endorsement Economy

The noise generated from social ecommerce (s-commerce) platform providers like ShopIgniter, Ghigg and others is more than just cacophony. Think of it as the orchestra warming up in the pit. That is because consumers are making social commerce a reality, whether they realize it or not. Inherent to human nature is the need for validation, commonly seen in the form of seeking product or service recommendations prior to purchase. Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube are amplifying endorsements and reviews traditionally provided by ePinions, CitySearch, Yelp! and other travel sites. Not only will brands benefit from proliferation of s-commerce platforms and the “recommendation economy” but the trend will permeate throughout the customer lifecycle, improving retention and evangelism.

 

Clean Messaging via Improved Filtering

Everyone on Twitter and Facebook has personally experienced “drinking from the fire hose” of information. With increased adoption of rapidly evolving social platforms, end users are inundated with a greater number of information streams and sources, offering little-to-no ability to digest. This saturation will see light at the end of the tunnel in 2012, as platforms consolidate and filtering options improve. This trend will allow brands and individuals to increase the probability of getting a message to the desired recipient. The reality of “clean messaging” will be realized as end users become better educated about the proper way to utilize the latest filtering tools, and become more jaded (or exhausted) with too many options and too much noise.

 

Blossoming of Data Exhaust & Content Curating Industries

As mentioned above, there is certainly no shortage of data generated via social media. Unfortunately, monitoring and acting on the unending stream of information has been lackluster due to a deficiency of knowledge, training and tools. This will not be the case in 2012 and beyond. A new breed of startup (combined with new offerings from analytic/data juggernauts) will provide platforms that will successfully harvest data to identify new revenue streams for companies. Similarly, corporations will see the value of curating social media content for future analysis and actionable insights. Look for this relatively new industry to heat up significantly by year’s end.

 

Less Shouting and More Whispering

As Seth Godin says, companies need to “tip the (sales) funnel into a megaphone” to allow customers to talk to other potential customers in a manner more efficient and effective than traditional marketing. With the adoption of new targeting technology and tools, brands will now be able to reach individuals and “tribes” through social media platforms in new and intriguing ways. With improved accuracy, companies will no longer need to shout to the masses, they will be able to whisper a relevant message into the ear of its ideal customer or constituent.

 

Mobile Real Estate Appreciates

2011 saw an explosive year of growth for mobile, a trend that will not let up in 2012. The impact will be felt across industries and by every marketer and consumer. What particularly interests me, above all else, is the concept of geo-location. Previously efforts to market geographically have been limited to outdoor signage, yellow pages and local search marketing. With proliferation of (web-enabled) smart phones, consumers are now traceable and receptive to geo-targeted messaging. Location has always been king in real estate, now the consumer is the real estate (not just their 3” screens). Specifically, keep an eye on Near Field Communications (NFC) and location-based couponing as high-growth industries within mobile marketing.

 

The Year of Empowerment

If 2011 was The Year of Engagement (interaction between brands and consumers) then 2012 is The Year of Empowerment. Mobile devices offer the ability for consumers to connect with brands (and vice versa) in new and compelling ways. I’m most excited about the concept of “empowerment” provided by mobile applications or “apps.” The concept of empowerment is relatively simple: create an app that is so interesting and compelling that it turns users into evangelists for your brand. Look back at what Obama was able to achieve with his mobile app in the last election – capturing the socially-engaged youth with a variety of tools to activate their network to vote. Essentially, the app becomes a sales tool, as it did so successfully for Obama. What is your empowerment strategy?

 

Real-time, Real-world Becomes Reality

While augmented reality is a relatively new concept, AT&T, Yelp! Mobile and other apps have effectively demonstrated the power of visualization of data through a mobile phone camera lens. New iterations of this technology will offer brands the ability to interact real-time with the real-world in compelling ways. A good example of this is the new VW Virtual Golf Cabriolet app. Watch for an evolution of virtual loyalty programs, as well as a supporting industry for distribution and measurement of augmented reality apps and campaigns in 2012.

 

Evolution of Corporate Social Programs

In the past 2 or 3 years, companies have scrambled to hire “Social Media Managers” to represent its brands within social communities. In the current model, one person was tasked with messaging to a select group of constituents (typically prospects, customers, investors and employees). The emerging model will require an evolution of the Social Media Manager to be more of a Creative Director/Editor-in-Chief, training and certifying all employees on the potential power (and associated liabilities) of engaging in social media, deploy new technologies and techniques and generally oversee content strategy and measurement of social media programs. The net result will be a shift from a “one-to-few” of the old model to a “many-to-all” conversation model, where employees throughout the organization represent the company. While the new approach will require significant effort to implement, especially from a cultural perspective, it will more accurately and effectively map to known communication methods like telephone, email and broadcast media.

 

Increased Accountability and Transparency by Corporations

What I love most about social media, is that it levels the playing field. Unethical or poorly-run companies are no longer able to “snow” customers with “PR spin” and mainstream advertising. One well-placed negative review by a high profile individual can alter the course of a company. With that in mind, corporations will need to take increased accountability for their actions, products, services and employees. Similarly, consumers will only be satisfied with new levels of transparency from companies. Companies that adopt the newer “humane” approach to business and marketing will thrive. Those that don’t will go the way of the stagecoach (or even MySpace).

 

I’m not always correct when it comes to predicting the future, or I would have retired by now (sipping a Mai Tai on a beach in Hawaii). That said, I believe you’ll find the above social media trends undeniably true in in the coming months and years. I better start planning that trip…

Additional Resources:

Death by Discount: How Brands Fuel Unrealistic Consumer Expectations

9 ways to Lose Friends and Alienate People in Social Media

How to Become a Social Media Guru in 3 Easy Steps

 

Kent Lewis

Anvil Media, Inc.

Kent Lewis is President and Founder of Anvil Media and Formic Media, sister search engine and social media marketing agencies based in Portland, Ore. Follow him on Twitter at @KentLewis or visit www.anvilmediainc.com for more information.