Thursday, December 15, 2011

Social Media Predictions Beyond 2012 [pt. 2]

"I figure lots of predictions is best. People will forget the ones I get wrong and marvel over the rest." ~ Alan Cox

With a few basic top-level predictions earlier this week - namely brands beginning to better understand social ROI, integration of shopping functionality into social channels, and web 3.0 and the semantic web doing our discovery and finding our markets for us - let's take a look at a few more for the coming year (and for the future of social media and the Internet in general). It's fairly safe to make predictions this year, as apparently the world is going to end before I'm proven wrong. Here goes:

Pitiful excuse to use a picture of extreem awesomeness.

Social Gaming, and Gamification

With games like Farmville attracting millions of users and creating billions of dollars in revenue, it's not surprise that the social gaming industry is huge. Around 60 million players strong in the US alone, and growing daily. One in five Americans from the ages of six and upwards currently take part in some sort of online social gaming platform. Revenue possibilities don't only look good, they are the sort of 20ft barrel throwing gorilla we just can't ignore. In 2009 social gamers spent $2.2 billion on virtual goods. In 2013 it's expected to hit over $6 billion.

Looking at this another way, being on a diet is now a social game. We are encouraged by our peers and through input by friends and relatives. ”I ran 5 miles and burnt a bazillion calories” is now a common thing to see from a friend in our streams, and we give them a quick casual click to say well done, point, "go you". Facebook is encouraging this still further with it's new integrated apps and imminent 'Timeline' (legal problems pending) and Google+'s inherent games platform.

A lot of iPhone and Andriod apps seamlessly connect to our social profiles, almost by default, and let us keep track of our progress as well as share the data with our friends. We want to share our achievements, and there's a certain 'gamification' that bridges social and real world together almost seamlessly now.

Social gaming is definitely growing, but more brands are going to cotton onto it. Already we're seeing growing game sponsorship, especially by the entertainment industry, and free sharing applications based on achievement (all sponsored by brands).

Even Klout is a form of social gaming, gaming the channels themselves, and it's possible we'll see a call for regulation in 2012 and for an 'independent social standard' in this area to fight current skepticism of such metrics.

Mobile is MASSIVE & GROWING

All serious social channels have a mobile component. Smartphone access to our channels is in our pockets 24/7. There's 160 million Apple iDevice users and 152 million Android users. I've personally posted photographs to Facebook (and Twitter) from just about everywhere, and logged into 4SQ from the top of the highest peak in the UK. I love Instagram (and it's coming to Android any day). Network coverage is growing, functionality is growing, apps are getting more affordable and the internationally accessible skill base for developers is growing. We share our lives, immediately as they happen, via mobile. We share our experiences of products and places, immediately as they happen. If we want an app it's within our reach to build our own, and we can already see a massive shift in the time spent on social networks on mobile devices. This is going to continue to rise. Soon, word-wide, the majority of people will experience the World Wide Web in their hand, and not their desktop or in their lap.

Imagine combining our geographical location and with added Web 3.0 targeting. Imaging that Mall scene out of Minority Report where Tom Cruise walks into the mall and the advertising knows who he is, but instead your phone is receiving push notifications when you're in a certain geographical area with products, deals and services that are targeted just to you. Imagine quickly sharing that with your networks. Delivering advertising based on your geo-location AND your interests could be gold, both together. Ok, maybe not so much in 2012 but we're getting closer (Japan is way ahead of the game) and it's only just around the corner.

Starbucks and others are already using smartphone technology to allow you to make payments. We should keep an eye on this for sure. The Google+ app for Android has a mobile payment system, which could open a wealth of possibilities for shopping and payment.

The age of the all purpose Star-Trek Tricorder is with us NOW, and it's growing. Just wait 'till India catches up, which brings us on to...

Access

Right now there are 860 million social network users, and growing. Anyone can set up a social channel. It's part of our every-day and integrated into our routines. Look at the London riots – from coordinating clean-up to coordinating unrest – it's part of life now...

India and other countries and catching up. Wi-fi and 3G, soon 4G, are everywhere. More an more people will get access, and the world is multi-linqual. The point of social is it gets people talking, from the scientific community to hobbyists, and this will continue to grow and people will find new ways to use social media that we just don't expect. It's social. It's the best and worst of us (well, those of us who have access) as a species, and the number of people getting access to connection and technology is growing by the hour.

Changing Channels

Sort of obvious really. Things will become more popular, and less popular, and things will stay the same. I know, I know, but it's true.

Sure we can make some broad sweeping statements. Google+ will get integrated into EVERYTHING Google does in a very obvious way, but will grow slowly. Facebook will still rule the playground, but be prepared for supersaturation and further security related back-lashes. Tumblr will grow in popularity. Traditional blogging will get less prevalent, but increase in quality and retain it's SEO value.

On the whole we'll still have to monitor audiences closely, but be sure they will change and the channels will keep moving the goal posts. The only thing we can do is be vigilant, maintain strong standards, and be true to our friends, fans, and followers by listening.

So there we have it, combined with the post earlier this week that's my top-level guesses for 2012 and beyond.

Oh, also, just to put your mind at ease, I very much doubt the world will end and I'm prepared to go on record saying that. If I'm wrong, who'll be around to hassle me on Twitter about it?

I'd love to know what you think, and if you see any top-level patterns forming you'd like to add?

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