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The Trend Forecast: 2011

It’s February, and that means that most (if not all) social media experts have already released their predictions for the social media landscape of 2011. Social media is an interesting field in that the rapidly changing dynamic is truly what defines it; without the quick turnover and fast-paced edits we’ve grown accustomed to, social media would become stagnant.

True to form, 2011 is expected to feature some big changes and some powerful emerging trends. Since almost everyone in the blogosphere has released their version of 2011’s Emerging Trends, we thought we’d make it easy and act as a filter, picking the best ones and summing them up.

Expansion: This is a given, but the companies that pioneered corporate use of social media are bound to integrate social media further into their business plans. It’s not exactly breaking news, but expect to see large companies like Starbucks taking social media to the forefront of their business plans, especially in terms of global marketing.

Location-Based Services: Foursquare’s major appeal in 2010 was based on its ability to produce interactions with people and places on the go. In 2011, Facebook is positioned to take location-based services one step further, with advanced data and planning that will make the application not only fun, but business-savvy. Expect Facebook to surpass other social networks, including Foursquare, when it comes to location-based services.

Social Media Overload: Social media experts, who use their networks for work-related activity and on a constant, daily basis, are already used to the overload that comes with owning and using multiple profiles. 2011 may bring this phenomenon onto “regular” social media users, who will feel overwhelmed by the availability of so many networks. To tweet or to Facebook or to maintain your gchat contacts or build a Foursquare profile? Incidentally, this excess should bring about a positive change: More platforms like Hootsuite will be developed, in order to provide users with an integrated and simplified social graph. 2011 will be the year of social media organization.

Google Returns to the Top: Okay, so Google wasn’t really able to succeed in creating their own network- take a look at Buzz, for example . Google’s skill lays in indexing, and already, Google’s algorithm has become smarter about Twitter data than…Twitter itself. Search for old tweets in Google just by typing in a few words, and you’ll be able to locate old gems. Ultimately, Google should be able to take advantage of the social web by indexing any and all social data they can get their hands on.

The Informed Consumer: Mobile devices and social networks are joining together to make the consumer more powerful than ever. With access to discounts, coupons and targeted offers at all hours of the day, consumers can make more informed decisions. The ability to compare and contrast different brands even at the point of purchase, whether during online shopping or even at the cashier in the store, will force retailers to step it up. Expect to see more instant mobile coupons, online group discounts, and flash sales.

Integration: In 2011, technologies like mobile, geo-location, RFID, tablets, and Internet-enabled appliances will allow for sharper communication and a merging of experiences. Already, GoogleTV and Samsung are bringing internet apps to television. Department stores are experimenting with the virtual shopping experience; recently, Macy’s launched a dressing room experience that lets shoppers find clothes on an iPad and then try them on virtually. The shopper can even ask for feedback from their friends and family in real-time and check out the view using an augmented-reality mirror. By texting, e-mailing, and using other social networks, the consumer will be able to experience what mimics, and even surpasses, an in-store shopping experience. TMI meets virtual shopping- what could go wrong?

Ultimately, 2011’s success will be determined by just how far these emerging trends are developed, and just how these developments flourish. It comes down to usability, which is what social media is based on anyway. It will be an exciting year in the world of social media, for sure.

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The World of Social Media

With 2011 fast approaching, it is time for a social media recap of 2010, global-style. This was the year that Facebook took over the globe, and we end the year with almost 600 million users around the world. While Facebook might be the most popular social network, however, it certainly isn’t the only one with worldwide appeal.

Italian blogger Vincenzo Cosenza has, for the second time, published a visual map that portrays the most popular social networks around the world. The map is based on the most recent traffic data (December 2010) as measured by Alexa & Google Trends for Websites.

According to Cosenza, since June of this year, Facebook has “stolen” important nations from previously strong competitors, so much so that 115 out of 132 countries analyzed name Facebook as their market leader. Notably, Hungary, Poland, and even Mongolia have switched over from local strongholds to the global site.

We’re also seeing a rise of interest in Twitter and not surprisingly, in LinkedIn. While Facebook spans generations, however, Twitter has previously been identified as a “younger” social networking tool. Its growth against MySpace in Australia, Germany, Italy and Canada, then, doesn’t do much to prove that Twitter has gained the all-ages following it needs to compete with Facebook in global market domination.

Twitter’s appeal is undeniable: The visibility of its most frequent users, celebrities, excites “normal” users. Then, even for non-celebrity tweeters, a sense of voyeurism continues to remain with the site. The site is more energetic and fast-paced than MySpace, and while “tweets” can give away crucial information about participants, the site isn’t as sleazy as Myspace was in its heyday.

LinkedIn’s rise was inevitable. Why wouldn’t other countries jump to embrace a site that provides free networking in a career-oriented atmosphere? LinkedIn gives employers the benefit of screening employees before they even request an interview and in this way, it tightens up the hiring process. It also gives employees the chance to present themselves in a professional manner online, and countries like Australia, Canada, and the UK have embraced this.

Ultimately, while Facebook, Twitter and MySpace continue to dominate most of the world’s social networking market, there is tremendous room for growth in the new media sector.

New Media expert Brian Solis breaks down social web involvement by country, and the results prove that each country has a unique dynamic within their social networks.

17.6 million Americans blog, compared to the Netherlands 1.3 million and China’s 89.7 million. Are these numbers surprising to you?
World Map of Social Networks

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ROE the new ROI

Social media has become part of our life. Today, pretty much everyone is using some form of it. Every local store, cafe, club and event has a Facebook page. Every brand has a Twitter account and every white paper ever written has been turned into a SlideShare presentation, for some self-proclaimed thought leader in a Linkedin group to share.

In this completely connected, totally viral, absolutely transparent, geo-targeted, digital world we live and work in… you have to be social. But how do you justify the time and expense it takes to maintain that presence?

Now that social media has passed the point of “why do I need it” to “what do I do with it” the quest to determine the ROI of social media has become more complex.

Since you are asking people to put numeric quantities around human interactions and conversations, which are difficult to quantify, trying to determine the exact return on your investment is not easy and in the long run, may not a good idea. To really understand the impact of social media and social technology on an event, promotion, brand awareness or even product sales, people need to measure the “ROE” … return on engagement.

At Medial Needle, we have been finding valuable “returns” manifesting themselves in ways not always anticipated at the onset as a result of our marketing efforts. More and more, we’ve come to see these unexpected fruits and proverbial rewards only appear because social media was strategically integrated into a marketing agenda.

For example, Media Needle recently executed a food campaign outreach program. While servicing a very small, archaic and insular cooking listserv, we uncovered a hive of influential webmasters; each with robust email lists and social media profiles. So what at first appeared initially to be a seemingly insignificant target community mushroomed into one of the campaigns top case studies. Clearly social media bears the markings of what we once more readily called “viral marketing”. Another campaign had us establish a quality dialog with a key target community. Despite a lull in activity on the client’s end, we maintained the relationship. Six months later, the two partnered successfully for a robust promotion. Anticipating these in conventional ROI terms, especially at the onset of the campaigns would have been impossible.

Thinking about social media in terms of a simple bottom line number puts the whole thing on an old school path of problems and risks, missing great opportunities. Essentially, you have to stop relying solely on the numbers. With social media the trick is to focus on what your numbers end up leading to. ROI is an effect of quality ROE.

If your goal is to participate in the conversation, to enhance your relationship with your audience and become a trusted member of the community that surrounds your brand; then your ROE has been set into motion. Once you’ve paved this foundation, the more conventional ROI models of sales, registrations, new followers and fans etc. will begin to kick-in, proving the benefits of a well-engaged social media agenda versus a dry and uninspired one.

Finally, ROE like everything else social media related, has a variety of definitions. Here are two good ones: We wish to cite Jason Falls’ here http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com/2008/10/28/what-is-the-roi-for-social-media/

Sarah Evans’ different but complimentary tome here: http://prsarahevans.com/2009/05/15-ways-to-measure-return-on-engagement-roe-of-social-media/ as a valuable point of reference.

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Ten Social Media And Mobile Trends For 2010

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1.Business Becomes Social

With widespread adoption of social media for marketing, advertising and customer engagement, 2010 will be “the year social media goes corporate.” This means all types of agencies (advertising, digital and PR) will continue to look for ways to help clients participate in social media. But the real trend is the increasing number of Small Business owners who are using social media to attract and retain customers.

2.More Places To Share Video

Video is exploding across all communication platforms and will continue to play an important role in social media. As more and more blogs include links to video content and as mobile devices expand the use of video, we will see even more video content in all aspects of digital, mobile and social media.

3.Mobile Becomes The Viewing Choice For Social Media.

With approximately 70 percent of organizations banning social networks and, sales of smartphones on the rise, more and more people are turning to their mobile phone to connect with social media. As a result, we will see more mobile versions of social media sites.

4.Smartphones Make Websites Smarter

With more consumers using smartphones, websites will start to recognize when a user is viewing content on a phone and be able to deliver more specific, personalized, local content to mobile users.

5.Status Updates Fill Jobs

In 2010 more and more jobs will be posted through social networks. With the increased use of social networks, companies are realizing that announcing a job on an employee’s social networking site is easier and more cost effective than paying $400 for a 30 day job posting and getting 95% bad candidates or paying a recruiter 30-35%.

6.News Feeds Influence Investors

An increasing number of retail and institutional investors are using financial blogs and social networks to communicate and drive investment ideas. Although companies have been slow to adopt, 2010 will be the year that companies understand the opportunity and importance of embracing these channels and engaging with their investors and stakeholders.

7. Customers Speak Up On Fan Pages

Social media is being used to improve customer service. In 2010 more companies will start leveraging social media platforms to gauge the

customer mood, gain insights about specific groups, test products and improve customer relationships. Sites like Facebook will be used to run tailored marketing campaigns to change consumers attitudes, address problems and give customers a chance to share true feeling on a fan page.

8. Social Networks Spend More Time On The Phone

Mobile social networks and communities continue to grow at a staggering rate. Social networking and consumer generated media are no longer limited to a wired computer. Separate reports from M:Metrics and ABI Research show a surge of social media activity via mobile handsets. According to mobile research firm M:Metrics, mobile social networking is projected to grow to over 800 million users worldwide by 2012.

9. Everyone plays Together

More and more platforms are becoming complimentary of each other (ie. Twitter open API model) increasing integration of social media platforms.

As more companies adopt some type of integration with major social platforms, niche social platforms will need to work on mobile, Facebook and Twitter to gain major traction. In particular, the market is just begging for an app where a user can manage all social platforms in one place, for both aggregating and disseminating content.

10. Social Networks Work For The Government

Many government agencies are already using Twitter and Facebook for crisis communications. However more and more federal, state and local government agencies will start using to social media. G-Commerce will evolve. New applications will be developed to directly deliver services and benefits to citizens via smartphones.

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