Well at least the headline was catchy but you get my drift; any digital or social prediction for the year ahead needs to be prefaced by the financial realities that our world will be facing.
Bricks and mortar establishments will continue to struggle in shaky economic times and these trends will impact on employment and consumer purchasing patterns. Money will be tight and a lack of resources will make it difficult for many companies to fully assess and capitalise on digital and social opportunities.
Election year in the USA will see political compromise to garner support from the electorate, which may result in the Stop Online Piracy Act becoming law. If it does, it will have a dramatic effect on any form of content creation.
Authoritarian governments will have the ability to monitor all electronic communications in the near future as it becomes increasingly cheaper to do so; “every phone conversation, electronic message, social media interaction, the movements of nearly every person and vehicle, and video from every street corner” says a report from the The Brookings Institution.
“Plummeting digital storage costs will soon make it possible for authoritarian regimes to not only monitor known dissidents, but to also store the complete set of digital data associated with everyone within their borders. These enormous databases of captured information will create what amounts to a surveillance time machine, enabling state security services to retroactively eavesdrop on people in the months and years before they were designated as surveillance targets. This will fundamentally change the dynamics of dissent, insurgency and revolution. ”
2012 will be a year of continuing financial uncertainty which will affect business confidence and reinvestment. Paradoxically these conditions also present opportunistic for those willing to take a calculated gamble and we will see more mergers and the ongoing growth in eCommerce.
These platforms will show strong growth and provide opportunities for micro-economies to circumvent the challenges of the global macro economy. Examples include Quirky, which takes submitted product ideas, filters through community engagement and produces them, letting the idea creator ‘cash in’ at the end of the manufacturing and sales process. Kickstarter which is a funding platform focused on a broad spectrum of creative projects is such another example.
Sites that promote ‘design to product’ will increase. Examples such as Zazzle and RedBubble allow the creative amongst us to upload a digital file while they take care of all manufacture, shipping and customer service.
Google’s Chrome browser will continue its rise and surpass IE as the #1 ranked browser
The design and interaction lessons learnt in online gaming will become increasingly mainstream appearing as social apps in your mobile device and browser.
Converting digital influence into business value will remain a challenge but platforms such as Klout and the new kid on the block, Kred, will be there to provide some guidance. However, the focus for the year ahead will be less on the measurement and more on how to achieve greater online influence with a variety of techniques and tools.
Taste Graphs (things a consumer is actually interested in) rather than a person’s social connections will provide better insight for marketers engaged in social commerce. This will give rise to the use of ‘tastemakers’ – experts who are recommended to a consumer.
Twitter’s growth and revenue will continue rapidly in 2012. This will mean more Twitter ‘Promoted’ ads appearing with some experts predicating an 80%+ revenue growth as a result. The proviso is that Twitter doesn’t fall prey to an acquisition takeover and that Google+ does not perform better than expectations.
Social Burnout – Facebook growth is slowing and people are already starting to question their own social existence and activity. It could be a question of too much of a good thing when it comes to social and digital activity in 2012. Users will be re-evaluating their social lives with issues of privacy being top of mind.
Quantifying the true value a business creates for online clients will remain one of the biggest challenges for companies in 2012.
Trans-media campaigns such as the Jello Pudding / Twitter / billboard will increase in 2012 further expanding the definition of the term “social”.
Social sharing capitalises on the fact that social networks have ‘turned people into bragging machines’ (as David Armano has so eloquently expressed it). The integration of social sharing opportunities on corporate and brand web sites will gather pace in 2012 as more businesses seek personal endorsements of their products and services across personal networks. Adding sharing options to content ensures better status in search results and a greater number of page views.
Social TV will take off in 2012 predicts the Harvard Business Review. Socially integrated shows such as the X-Factor, where people voted using Twitter, point the way to what will be happening more frequently. The TV’s themselves are more likely to be of the 3D variety particularly if you are in Asia, although those in the USA still prefer the cheaper, lower spec’ed models.
70% of video is consumed on Internet connected devices so revenue models for television advertising will change.
Tablets and Ultrabooks
Android vendors are continuing to challenge the dominance of iPads and Apple’s premium pricing for its products. 2012 will see an increase in tablet computer sales but more likely a dramatic rise in sale of Ultrabooks which are powerful laptops with the advantage of being thinner and lighter than their competition.
And while we are on the subject of Android, I predict that the sale ofAndroid mobile devices will surpass Apple’s iPhone in the coming year. Web sites will be optimised for Tablet and Ultrabook use as mobile commerce will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 39% through to 2016 (Forrester Research).
Big Data will be Big Business for Small BusinessAugmented Reality
This adds a virtual experience to the real experience of our world and we are about to see exponential growth for Mobile Augmented Reality (MAR) according to Mashable’s Lance Ulanoff. Visiongain predicts that the the advent of MAR will have a profound and lasting impact on the way that people use their mobile devices. It will push the telecoms industry towards ubiquitous computing and a technologically converged paradigm.
At the moment much data is still contained in silos. Storing data in the Cloud and using systems such as Bime will put the necessary tools at the fingertips of SME’s (Small to Medium Enterprises). They will be able to get a clear and consistent query model across all of their data.
Marketing departments will be employing analytics experts who can monitor real-time data from web sites, social media and industry-leading news feeds but simply monitoring will not be sufficient. They will be expected to provide accurate data on visitation to web & social media sites, what content people are engaging with and how quickly they get to the product, service or messaging that the company is pitching. Human language interpretation of unstructured conversations will help this process.
“Companies will need to centralize Business Intelligence to feed every aspect of the business – marketing, product, innovation and customer service. Only then will BI help companies transform themselves into true social businesses.” Brian Sollis.
Publish or be Damned
Businesses will increasingly bypass traditional media outlets and go directly to their target audiences themselves by creating branded niche media properties. They will not only publish their own content but also disseminate it themselves predicts Sandra Fathi of AffectStrategies.
Freemium at a Premium
One hopes that in the year ahead other companies will see the value in building business, by offering a free option of their product or service, albeit with less functionality than the paid version. Mailchimp is an example of this digital strategy. People who like the product and embed it in their daily use are more likely to upgrade to the paid version with all the bells and whistles.
This will increasingly be on the Cloud using platforms such as Schedulicity. Founder believes that the traditional pen and paper appointment book is dead in the water. “Over the next two to five years, the physical appointment book will be gone altogether and replaced with online counterparts”.
Some companies are already using scheduling options to great effect and dispensing with more traditonal methods. Emerson Salon for example is sourcing up to 75% of its business from Facebook, Twitter and its blog.
Text messaging is growing quicker than most have predicted and is highly prevalent in 19 of the 21 countries surveyed by Pew Research, with a majority of mobile phone owners regularly sending text messages. Many use their mobiles to record personal videos and this growth trend will continue.
Deal or No Deal
Deal and coupon sites mushroomed in 2010/2011. However, as business realise they cannot manage their offers and cover all the coupon bases, we will see a rationalisation of these platforms with the likely outcome being that the major players such as Groupon will gobble up the smaller fry. Deals by mobile which don’t require a pre-purchase are likely to grow at the expense of those that do.
Faced with financial challenges and the impact of social business, companies will need to restructure and refocus.Those that don’t will whither on the vine.
“Companies of all sizes will need to transform their business and existing infrastructure, and reverse engineer the impact of business objectives and metrics. Businesses will have to embrace all of the disruptive elements, such as mobile and social technology, in a new, cohesive organization that is focused outward and inward.” Brian Sollis
Bernie Borges believes that 2012 will be the year that more organisations embrace the convergence of employee personal branding and corporate branding through content marketing strategies.
While the Internet itself remains robust, the World Wide Web will suffer further as consumers and general users move on to dedicated platforms that deliver their personal preferences better. This trend will accelerate, although the company web site will remain the bedrock brand statement and the place on which many depend; as the definitive source of company information.
2012 Social Marketing & New Media Predictions (Awareness)