5 Social Media Predictions for 2011

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So we come to the end of another year and it’s just a few hours before we join Sydney in the next one. 2010 has been an interesting year for lots of reasons, and it may just have been the ‘Year We Made Contact’ as predicted by uncanny futurologist, Arthur C Clarke.

Many organisations have obviously struggled a bit this year, though there doesn’t appear to have been as significant occurrences such as Woolies disappearance in late 2008 or all of the banks going bust again. Having said this, lots of businesses seem to have been treading water/treacle. Obviously, there has also been much opportunity during the year and this has seemed to be particularly strong in the online world. Whether much of this turns out to be hype driven or sustained remains to be seen, though we suggested a long time ago that recessions drive innovations in marketing and it would appear that this has been the case, particularly in the face of the increased drive to monetise the social media space.

So what are we predicting in the Social Media world for 2011.

1. Acceleration of the race to monetise the social networks, particularly in the b2b sector.

We have blogged a bit about this in 2010. As the fight to capture the eyes of the visitor increases, so will the need for each of the social media channels to monetise this market. Ultimately, if the return on investment turns out not to be there, this will result in one or more of them ceding the battleground and changing focus. A prior example of this could be the myspace, Friends Reunited, bebo, Facebook wars, which the older and wiser of us will remember well. In each case, if an alternative sticky point cannot be found for the site in question, the longer term outlook for that channel is bleak. After all there are only so many eyeball moments available at the moment.

2. Twitter start putting adverts everywhere they can feasibly put them.

This has to be the year that Twitter goes from a free texting service where you can send text messages to thousands of anonymous people you have no idea about, to a medium for generating revenue where you do know something about them – ultimately, as we keep saying, the money will have to come from the marketers and subsequently the consumer. Quite how this will work is open to debate, though obviously it will involve tagging ads to content, rather than demographic profiles, due to the lack of detailed data available to Twitter central. We reckon to facilitate this, there needs to be much more stickiness on the Twitter site itself, as this is where the ads will probably happen, alternatively, they will need to charge people for tweeting. We have also coined a new term for celebrity tweeting, which we are now referring to as “Squawking” for obvious reasons.

3. Social Media Influence will be measurable – disappointment will ensue.

The harsh reality of social media is that there is too much noise to be able to listen to most of it. Lets face it if there are billions of tweets a day, then you would need to be directly connected to twitter by a brain probe to be able to soak it all up. Even then, the brain would soon reach capacity and then it would melt like cheese. What is more likely, is enhancements to the methods of segmenting the ‘squawking’ from the ‘bleating’, ‘moaning’ and poor ‘one liners‘ stolen from Sickipedia or someone else’s tweets.

It seems widely held opinion that Klout might be the ultimate measurement tool, purely because it rewards the biggest promoters/tweeters with the biggest scores. This means it is a self perpetuating and self reinforcing myth. All of this adds up to a likely valuation of billions of dollars during the next IPO bubble, (gosh, we need one don’t we). When the official Twitter analytics tool launches, we may have a much clearer picture. Too clear in most cases, as opacity means ‘unable to bulls*&t your stats‘. In our case, we are not worried as we know for definite that each of our 24k plus followers listens to everything we say on a continuous basis and acts accordingly…

4. More separation between the audiences in your Social Networks – Friends, Customers, Suppliers, Enemies, Competitors etc.

Social networks are a bit of a jumble at the moment. I sat in the theatre only yesterday as the lead character tweeted lots of obscenities from backstage during the performance. The social networks want everything open, but we have already seen how this can lead to a publicity nightmare with several over-amorous celebrity squawkers. Until we are able to properly segment our audiences and the messages we send them, the danger of telling the truth, openly lurks at every corner. At a previous performance, the person I mentioned before, described the audience as ‘dead from the neck up‘ during the half time interval. One can imagine that turning a bit nasty if social media was ubiqiuitous, maybe even resulting in a riot! We think that 2011 will be the year of the social media equivalent of the “oops” – lots of heads will bow, then fall – quickly!

Twitter lists are ok, though we wonder if there might be an enhanced version of this lurking around somewhere – this could also be used to turn down “squawking” and amplifying your mates. Another potential would be to extend the filtering of twitter into other channels such as the use of the ‘#in’ hashtag to include specific tweets in LinkedIn.

5. ‘If you can’t beat them, become them.’

Apparently, this was David Cameron’s strategy for beating Tony Blair in the last British General election – interestingly, this policy was scrapped as soon as Gordon Brown became Prime Minister – not sure why.

We reckon the social networks will start to imitate each other. Facebook tried to replace Twitter by making status updates real time – and lets face it, it works well for talking (punning) your mates to death. As a follow up, LinkedIn did the same. The networks continue to launch parallel features and we suspect this will ultimately lead to Twitter becoming the ‘real time’ update part of all of the other engines, as long as they can get on together and they allow Twitter to pinch some revenue from them.

6. Everyone will be doing ‘Groupon’ style b2b marketing

There are already stacks of these kinds of operation out there and everyone will want a piece of them. Because of this, there needs to be a market leader and there may be room for a couple more players in the space. At least one of these is going to IPO and this will probably be the next mini-bubble. Then it will all fall apart as either businesses realise that the customers aren’t as loyal as they thought and can’t sustain such heavy discounts for long or we are all wrong and we can all buy stuff for 74% less than cost forever…an alternative is that all the people who use this strategy to build customers will go out of business, leaving to a ramping of prices and these organisations will become simple PPC and email marketers.

We do believe however that this is a market with lots of growth left in it and we think it may morph into a new model for local business marketing in the future. Basically the dawn of a new era.

So that summarises a few of our ideas for 2011. Let’s face it we could have written dozens, though by buzz monitoring across a variety of blogs, twitter, websites and so on, we identified that the optimum number of predictions was somewhere between 5 and 11. On this basis, six seemed to be just enough for the typical attention span of our audience.

Whatever happens in 2011, make sure you enjoy the journey. The destination never arrives.

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About the Author:

KnowledgeBank work with Companies to develop their data driven marketing solutions to generate profitable new customer relationships. We also deliver social media training, consultancy and strategy to hundreds of businesses across the UK. If you would like further information about how you can develop your own marketing activity or social media, please contact us on 01772 978 101.