With a new year, there is one thing we can always count on: trends lists. They are everywhere right now, particularly with regard to social media. Everyone seems to have their own ideas about where SM is headed in 09 and since I have never been without an opinion myself, I figured I might as well join the fray. So, here is one more social media forecast for 09.
Smaller is Better. This is going to be the greatest change we will see across the board in social media. You’ve all heard my cafeteria analogy before: social media is like the high school cafeteria where everyone gathers together according to shared interests. Well, the lunch room that is Web 2.0 is too big. People are going to seek out smaller and smaller places to meet, connect and share online. We’ll see more niche social networks, more active groups within the larger existing networks, more wikis and specialized and compartmentalized forums around targeted topics.
Relevant is the Watchword. As such, smaller audiences will also be sought out. The demand for millions of site visitors is going to trend off toward more relevant connections. Instead of going after 10 million views from all walks of life, the aim will be for 100,000 significant and useful connections. In other words, the quality of the return will take precedence over the quantity.
Better Customer Insights. As more people begin to truly grasp how to use social media tools for consumer research, marketers will gain a more complete and accurate profile of their target audiences and will therefore be able to deliver more relevant results. I will be holding a seminar on this topic very soon, so more to come with that announcement. But, suffice it to say, communications professionals will no longer rely on the skewed results of focus groups to truly identify the who, what, where and why behind their target audiences. Instead, they will turn to the conversations happening within SM channels.
Mobile Will Go Global. We’re going to see more mobile-driven campaigns, especially as nearly every phone manufacturer releases its own version of the iPhone complete with new cross-promotional apps. My advice is to start forming alliances now with mobile providers to bundle your brand’s apps in the latest device launches.
Live Will Thrive. I’ve heard many industry leaders make this claim recently, so this one is not so much my prediction as it seems to be the general thinking all around: more live content. The success of Twitter has demonstrated that our desire for instant gratification is insatiable and I agree with my colleagues that we are going to see more apps developed to deliver live interactions online. I also predict an increase in social gaming as more multi-player gaming apps are introduced online.
Increased Transparency. We’ve all seen what happens when brands attempt to infiltrate social media or overtly market to audiences. I think most brands have learned their lesson and we are going to see more transparency in corporate blogging and social media marketing as more execs grasp the dogma of Web 2.0. (I will also be holding a workshop discussing the changing dogma of social media, so more to come on this as well!)
Crisis Impact. Anyone who has ever dealt with a product recall or other brand crisis knows the faster you can connect with your customers, the better the end result. And, certainly we’ve all seen reporting on crises change with iReport, Twitter, YouTube, etc. In 09, we’re going to see more marketers incorporate social media tools in their crisis communications planning to ensure the right message gets out to the right people in the right way.
Brand-Sponsored Series. As television viewing continues to decline, brands are going to put more money and (hopefully) creativity into sponsored web series where brands are integrated into the plot. What began with BMW Films in 2001 has morphed into a popular and profitable YouTube phenomenon. The most well known of these right now is probably the HBO Labs / Facebook series Hooking Up. It’s a silly college romp in which characters meet, flirt, fight, hook up and break up through … you guessed it … Facebook. (Instead of casting trained actors, they opted for some of YouTube’s most famous faces, including my personal favorite “sxephil” aka Phil DeFranco.) The Hooking Up site includes all the right community functions like forums, vlogs, bonus vids channel tie-ins, merchandise and, of course, Facebook apps.
The bottom line is 2009 is going to be the year of SM campaigns. We’re going to see greater adoption of the principles of SM and more money flowing toward budgets. And, as more money is applied to SM thinking, we’ll see an explosion of new tools and tactics – some will change the way we communicate; others will miss the mark entirely. So, stay sharp out there, folks and remember it’s the “social” part that matters most.