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.


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...


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?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Social Media Predictions Beyond 2012 [pt. 1]

"The groundhog is like most other prophets; it delivers its prediction and then disappears." ~ Bill Vaughan

It's that time of year again when we have to dig out our crystal balls and do the obligatory blogging of predictions for next year. As a futurist, here's a few top-level guesses based on the technology, trends, and the direction we're naturally drifting, for 2012 and for the future of the social web:

When this baby hits 88 miles per hour... you're gonna see some serious shit.

Brands 'Get' Social ROI

Companies are going to start understanding one of the core elements of social media. Sure, they do 'a little' already, but be prepared for every niche commodity and his dog to see the light of day. They have to or they'll fail, and watching those of us out here making the headway is going to educate them. If they don't get it in 2012 they'll miss the boat.

Social media ROI is not about numbers of followers, it's about engagement, evangelism, and good will. Businesses is going to genuinely start to see the real opportunities of letting B2B and B2C customers behind the curtain and the advantages in sharing what they do.

In the very near future just about everyone will be able to see a place for themselves in the social space. They'll realize that ROI depends upon what you are trying to accomplish with your social media campaign, and that channels are a tool toward accomplishing that. Social CRM will go 'prime-time', and I'm glad we're already here.

Online Shopping

All the digital heavyweights are making a play for your living room. Apple, Netflix (especially in the UK), Hulu, Amazon, Google...

It started with Warner Bros. offering The Dark Knight through its official Facebook page, and now brands are really starting to see the real results driven value in having a custom eStore in their social channel.

Look at Starbucks. They have a captive audience of nearly 27 million people in Facebook. They add one tab, that's a lot of coverage. Who needs to direct people anywhere else? There's less and less need for a destination site when there's the potential for people to click away by clicking on yet another page. Why not do it directly in the social channel? We've built store fronts for clients selling everything from souvenirs, to wine, to concert tickets and it's always boosted sales massively.

In the next year your favorite social sites are going to become some of the major channels of future online shopping, maybe (eventually) even giving Amazon a run for their money. Even better if we can gather recommendations from our friends and get trusted input in our purchases. As reported by Internet Retailer, an online study showed that a massive 68% of consumers with Facebook accounts say a positive referral from a Facebook friend would make them more likely to buy from or visit a retailer. The future of social-shopping is very bright indeed.

Social is an integral part of the marketing mix, and the big companies will be leaning on it more and more to keep their customers in-the-loop. Best Buy, Macy's, Target, and Wal-Mart publicized their Black Friday deals early to their Facebook fans. Amazon and Toys R Us ran contests, giveaways and flash sales to coax consumers into "liking" their Pages. Best Buy created an event page for Black Friday and got nearly 28,000 people to RSVP as "attending." The future is shopping.

Web 3.0

The back-bone of the web is changing all the time. Flash is on it's way out. @​font-face is on it's way in. HTML5 is going to get more widespread and designers will find ways to make it rock our world (for better or worse). User experience will continue to grow as a paramount concern. These are technical certainties, but it all goes far beyond the code we see on the surface.

Web 3.0 will be, for want of better description, a self-aware web. Already, if we 'opt-in', we have an integrated social media experience. We tag pictures, register our thumbs up with e-commerce sites and publish them to Facebook, we have our Twitter feeds publishing on our Linked-In and Facebook profiles , we give a casual +1 to a button on a niche site about the new Avenger Movie and Google might soon be generating us a Spark for Marvel Comics.

Companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon are collecting this (and other) information about each any every one of us: Our likes and dislikes, our interests and preferences. A massive, and some might say scary, amount of data attached to each and every one of us. This, as defined by the Director of the World Wide Web Consortium, Tim Berners-Lee (who coined the phrase), will be called The Semantic Web. This is Web 3.0, where machines will become capable of analyzing all the data on the Web – the content, links, and transactions between people and computers.

Soon, we'll not need to search for information in the way we do now. Instead, data is going to find us based on the collected pool of information about us. 2012 will see the web, no doubt driven by search giant Google, moving more and more in this direction. It's all about the data, and if we embrace it without a skeptical back-lash the right information will be served to the right people at the right time, saving us all a lot of effort and energy. Imagine the applications for this within, and because of, social channels. The semantic nature of social networks is going to allow us almost unimaginable targeting to whatever we see as our perfect demographic.

We are going to have amazing targeting power in the future, and 2012 will move us closer. Just look at Facebook Social ads, and that's only the beginning.

Anyway, that's a few to begin with, more in Part 2. As per the groundhog, I shall now disappear.

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

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Bit of DIY

So this weekend I made the big push to get the first part of the standing desk sorted. I took a good look at what I had and worked with it. No point spending a fortune or rearranging my whole work environment if it's going to cripple my back or not be practical.

A good place to start seemed to be with the existing shelves in my office. I don't have a lot of room, but I can squeeze a running machine in if I want to.

I found a couple of chunks of good solid mahogany in my dads shed (I was going to go down the route of welding extra bits to brackets but it turned into a faf so I ditched that idea and dad suggested wood) and spend a tenner on bolts, a bit of shelving board, some cheap beading, and some screws.

After I attached the beading (with wood glue) I resined the whole thing (plug for my dad's website at UK Epoxy Resins, cheers dad) to seal it (in the certain knowledge that keyboards and desks gather more dead skin than a George A. Romero film). A bit of drilling and it all went together fairly painlessly. I'm not that practical when it comes to DIY, but measure-twice-cut-once served me well as a manta and it wasn't rocket science.

The biggest problem was space. I've lost one long shelf (that was 90% marketing books and Doctor Who stuff) plus desk access etc. My office isn't exacly cavernous and there's the 'European action figure and plastic tat mountain' in there. A lot of juggling and shuffling went on for another day just to find a space for everything, which I eventually did. The cat's not chuffed - but it's not exactly a rent payer - as it's now relegated to the window ledge. I did gain the space under the desk and a few other cubbly holes, which I made the most of with some serious Tetris skills. It's all still a bit jumbled, but it'll do for now so I can crack-on with work.

Anyway, it's done and tomorrow's my first day standing. Will report back on how that goes.