Every year we see the same “Biggest Trends for XXXX Year” for marketing, technology, and especially social media. In 2011, I interviewed 52 social media thought leaders to see what they thought was “NEXT”. So, as 2012 has closed, let’s see how accurate they were.
Social Media Predictions for 2012
I went back through all 52 Talking With Tom interviews and categorized the like minded ones. So here is what those social media experts had to say.
Stepping Back From Social Media
This was the opinion espoused by four of my interviewees (DJ Waldow, Jason Keath, Julien Smith and Liz Strauss). DJ felt 2012 would see folks pulling back on their social activity due to being overwhelmed. Jason on the other hand felt that it would be companies vs individuals that would scale back their emphasis on social. He thought the shiny object syndrome would wear off and companies would begin to really evaluate social from the standpoint of how well it drove trackable business growth vs just feeling they had to be there. Liz’s comments tracked along with Jason’s opinion that like consumers, brands too would focus less on growing a large network and instead focus on creating a loyal one. And Julien actually may have predicted the launch of Google+ as he talked about how we all need networks to create deep circles of strong ties (vs the weak ties that platforms like Twitter and Facebook generate) where we’ll build real relationships.
Integration with Traditional Marketing Efforts
Both Scott Monty and Brian Clark echoed this sentiment. Scott was speaking more directly to what Ford would do in 2012, where Brian focused more on integration from a Transmedia perspective. Personally, I really loved Brian’s comment and vision for 2012 though I think it was a little ahead of its time as businesses and their ad agencies still don’t seem to really grasp the breadcrumb strategy required to execute Transmedia properly.
Matt Ridings spun the integration predication internally focusing on how companies would finally begin to integrate social across all business silos. Interestingly, Matt and another interviewee Amber Naslund teamed up in 2012 to launch SideraWorks, which focuses on helping companies do just that!
And Sean McGinnis felt that 2012 would be the year that companies focused on integrating social + search, primarily driven by Google+, which interesting, was absolutely the case during the latter half of 2012.
Offline is the New Online
Both Tom Webster and David Murray felt that we’d see more emphasis on crossing over from online to offline worlds. Tom from a research perspective and David from an engagement perspective. In David’s opinion, 2012 would be the year folks would come out from behind the keyboard and reconnect face-to-face to build networks and community.
2012 Is The Year of Mobile
Steve Garfield, Chris Brogan, CC Chapman, Tim Hayden, Sean Bartlett, Shelly Kramer, and Mike Merrill were all banging the mobile drum. All discussed how the mobile phone would become more central to consumer’s lives in terms of content consumption, activity planning and in general replacing the laptop/desktop as the primary computer in their lives.
Internal Social Networks
Joe Chernov was the only thought leader to mention internal social media platforms. While there wasn’t a lot of consumer or business side activity in that space in 2012, we did see Microsoft purchase Yammer, which is definitely a sign that Joe wasn’t off base, but like Brian, maybe a bit ahead of the curve.
David Spinks focused on the need to develop technology and platforms that gives brands an efficient and effective way to accurately target and engage true influencers. If you revist his interview, you’ll see he’s talking about going beyond the simple Klout and Kred model to create something more akin to an influencer talent agency (in my opinion). Mack Collier picked up on the influencer theme but from more of a Community perspective. In Mack’s opinion, 2012 would be the year community managers would begin to monetize access to their communities… not via ads but the actual access itself…which given Mack’s book, Think Like a Rockstar, makes perfect sense.
Social Media Monetization & Analytics
Peter Shankman, Greg Cangialosi, Jason Falls, Jen Wojcik, Christopher Barger, Richard Binhammer, Tamsen McMahon, Jay Baer, and Grey Garner all focused on 2012 being the year businesses focused on linking revenue goals to social efforts. A sister predication to this was that companies would focus on social analytics and insights to drive key business planning decisions.
The Living Room
Michael Stelzner had an interesting prediction that didn’t fully come true — that the living room would become your social hub possibly through interactive TVs, touch screens and such. While that isn’t 100% the case in 2012, the growth of tablets and the whole second screen phenomenon certainly was alive and well in 2012. Heck, look at any reality tv competition show and you’ll see a social component and often hashtags as bugs on the screen.
Content Marketing Optimization
Lee Odden, Chris Baggott, Paula Berg, Christopher Penn, Ann Handley, and Joe Pulizzi all focused on the role content would play in marketer’s 2012 plans. Lee, Chris, Paula and Christopher really came at it from an optimization point of view while Ann and Joe felt the focus shine on how the content was created. Both Ann and Joe felt that brands would begin to behave more as producers or journalists and less as advertisers.
Video & Video Optimization
Sheila Scarborough was the lone voice promoting video and specifically optimization of video for search. Kind of surprising considering Steve Garfield was interviewed but none-the-less accurate. Creating video, especially using low cost tools like the iPhone was a highlight of many a social media or industry conference in 2012.
Real Time Marketing
David Meerman Scott felt like 2012 and early 2013 would be all about marketers figuring out how to get their message out in real-time. In fact, you may recall Hubspot’s infamous attempt to be real-time with their Newsjacking Sandy post, which David took issue with (in real-time).
Improving Customer Service & Relationships With Social Media
Phil Gerbyshak, Amber Naslund, Frank Eliason, Jeff Slobotski, and Steve Woodruff all felt that in 2012 companies would be focused on using social to improve customer service and/or the overall customer relationship. Steve even went so far as to say all of this new technology will actually take us back to the past where relationships were based on a handshake (albeit a digital one these days).
Brett Petersel, Aaron Strout, and Justin Levy all felt location based apps like Foursquare and Gowalla would rule the day in 2012. Brett even went so far as to predict Gowalla winning the war. Instead they were bought by Facebook…which may or may not have been a win. Also weighing in with location as the next big thing was Lawrence Coburn who felt we’d start to see a shift from manual to automatic check-ins.
Forget About What’s Next — Focus on What’s Now
And the curmudgeon of the group had to be Scott Stratten who cautioned all of us to stop focusing on what’s next without first becoming proficient in the technologies that are readily available and highly adopted by consumers today.
How Accurate Were Our 2011 Social Media Experts?
So, how accurate were these experts? Let’s try and quantify whether they got it right, wrong or if the jury is still out.
- Consumers & Brands will step back from social media — after reviewing data from Compete and Quantcast for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest for FY 2012, I’d have to say our experts were wrong. Both Twitter and Facebook had a tough first half of the year but in terms of raw traffic and time-on-site, both seemed to rebound in the second half of the year. Overall, all of the major platforms held steady traffic throughout 2012. On the flip side, I do think we saw (anecdotal evidence here) a pull-back by social media’s early adopters. 2012 had a lot of those experts restarting their social profiles, cleaning house you might say, or just spending less time on all of the networks in favor of putting more effort into one or two where they felt they could develop stronger ties.
- Integration With Traditional Marketing Efforts — Scott’s prediction was a bit of a self fulfilling prophesy. Sean’s prediction that social+search would take off was accurate as I think. While I think companies really are trying to figure out Transmedia and how to integrate social into their DNA, I can’t really point to a lot of case studies (from 2012) where this was successful. So, I think overall, this is still wishful thinking.
- Offline is the New Online — based on my own client interactions and discussions with a number of other social media practitioners and consultants, I’d say this one was dead on. Companies have figured out that all sales ultimately happen offline and are acting accordingly.
- 2012 is the Year of Mobile — here are experts where absolutely dead on. Yet, companies still are far behind on becoming mobile friendly. The only place we may see a bit of change in reality vs prediction will be which mobile platform becomes the true replacement for the computer. Our experts were speaking in terms of phones but tablets really took off in 2012 and with Apple entering the 7″ tablet market with the iPad mini, it would be interesting to hear if Steve, Chris, CC, Tim, Sean, Shelly or Mike felt that tablets and not phones would rule the mobile day. If you talk to those folks on Twitter or Facebook, maybe ask them to chime in on this post.
- Internal Social Networks — I held great hope for this one in 2012 and even tended to agree with Joe that finally, in 2012, companies would discover the power of these private internal networks. Alas, other than Microsoft buying Yammer I didn’t see much activity in this space.
- Finding Influence — there sure was a lot of talk about influence in 2012. But we still don’t have a good measurement tool that is universally accepted much less a platform to make it easy for brands to determine influence and then connect with influencers. Mack certainly saw some traction with his “pay for access to community” thoughts in the form of #BlogChat sponsorships, but IMO no one has really pushed that envelope yet.
- Social Media Monetization & Analytics — 2012 may have been the year of mobile but I’d say content marketing certainly came into it’s own as well. With YouTube hiring content creators to make YouTube only series, successful conferences like Joe’s Content Marketing World pulling huge crowds, and brands spending more time thinking about tying analytical back-ends like Hubspot to their front end content, or just getting up to speed on Google Analytics, social (at the brand level) is becoming less about engagement and more about revenue generation.
- The Living Room — not quite yet (on the Apple TV) but yes, with tablets and TV merging, social is certainly penetrating the main room of the house.
- Video & Video Optimization — video was certainly hot from a content creation standpoint but most folks are still lacking on the optimization side of the house.
- Real Time Marketing — seems like we saw a few fails and fewer successes on this front in 2012. I still think the rapid response capability just isn’t baked into most companies. Look to smaller companies to lead this charge (IMO).
- Improving Customer Service & Relationships — According to a September 2012 article on Mashable, 82% of companies planned to use social media for customer service. If in fact this number is true, then yes — it would seem our experts nailed this one.
- Location…Location…Location — this is one where I think our experts were just flat wrong and a bit caught up in the shiny object syndrome. While a recent Pew Internet Report states that 74% of smartphone users access location based information from their phone, only 10% of those users are using Foursquare (Gowalla isn’t around anymore). So while Foursquare’s traffic is way up, it’s still a pretty small amount of the population.
- Focus on Now — well Scott kind of cheated, but his point is well made and quite accurate. As I look around and continue to see brands pointing QR Codes to non-mobile optimized sites or do research that shows 44% of destination markets in the US don’t have mobile websites, I’m reminded that we early adopters are way ahead of the curve.
So there you have it… a mixed bag at best. But that’s ok. The point here is that it’s important to look to experts and early adopters for signals but remember, none of these folks ever walked down from a mountain in a long flowing robe carrying stone tablets. It’s just an opinion, a well informed one, but always do the work rather than blindly following experts.
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