Social media predictions for 2012

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By Alexandra Reid

It’s still the summer and the New Year seems a long way off, but while we’ve all been enjoying these nice manageable months, strenuous September has crept up and now lurks around the corner. This may be your best time to start thinking ahead about how to realign your social media strategy to stay competitive in the coming year.

It’s prep time, and for us social media professionals, that means looking at research and trends to predict where the social media engine will go and ensure we all stay on board. To make the most accurate predictions, I have taken into account projections made in the past as well as the most recent information I can find on the subject, adding my own interpretations based, in some cases, on my own experiences.

Social media privacy demands will increase

Back in 2010, Ad Age published an informative piece called “What social media will look like in 2012.” I read it then and have read it again, this time with a more acute perspective that developed with the knowledge I have gained in the 16 months since its publishing. One of the author’s predictions was that privacy expectations will (have to) change. “There will be a cultural shift, whereby people will begin to find it increasingly more acceptable to expose more and more of their personal details on different forms of social media.”

While I agree that people will be more comfortable sharing likes, dislikes, opinions, photos and videos as social media becomes ever more prevalent in our personal and professional lives, I think that people will become more adverse to sharing other forms of personal information such as phone numbers, email, and home and work addresses. There has been uproar from Facebook users and critics alike about Facebook selling private information, for example. There have also been numerous articles published about the issue of social media privacy, and how users can better protect their social media data. I think that in 2012, social media users will demand that platforms provide more privacy restriction settings and information about how their data is being used, and will make more informed decisions about what social platforms they engage with based on this knowledge.

Social Search will become more important

Another prediction from the Ad Age article is that Google Social Search will change the way we interact with search engines by pushing relevant content from our personal networks to the front of search results, making search more personalized.

In this regard, I think the author was spot on. We’ve seen the rise of the Google Plus social network along with its Google Plus One button, which basically slaps a “like” button onto the entirety of web search. Search results are now more social on the biggest search engine in the world, as “Plus Ones” are shared with Google networks as well as the entire web. Next year, I expect Google Plus will play an ever more important role in helping us identify the most current trends and that other engines will develop a similar approach to social search.

Silos will break down to allow integrated, enterprise-wide social media engagement

In my interview with Dave Fleet at Social Media Breakfast, we discussed that businesses will need to move away from the traditional silo structure to form a more integrated approach to social media. Dave explained that social media will become an increasingly shared responsibility across multiple departments that will collaborate to provide the best social experience for their communities. Sometimes there will be a leader who will orchestrate social media activities. In other cases there could be a social media governing council that is able to work across the many silos of larger enterprises, including customer service, marketing and communications, human resources and IT support, to name a few. Whatever you want to call it, there will be an “organizational transformation,” as social media thought leader Brian Solis puts it, to support social media activities across enterprises.

The role of the social media professional will change

As businesses work to rid themselves of decades of anti-social behaviour and undergo an organizational transformation where silos are pulled down to allow social communication across the enterprise, they have and will continue to seek the advice and guidance of social media professionals. It was in the last few years that we saw the rise in importance of the community manager and social media strategist, as well as social media agencies and social media services from marketing firms. Our services will continue to be required in 2012, but how we offer those services will change.

As we offer more and more information for free through blogs, webcasts and other social forums, we are teaching businesses how to take over the social media reins while increasing their expectations of external help. I have been teaching our clients and other businesses through this blog for some time now how to carry out the social media operations which I am paid to do. As more individuals within organizations are authorized to take on social media, many will no longer require handholding through the basic social media processes, such as setting up accounts and engaging with their communities.

However, even though many will understand how to operate social media, they may not have the internal resources to keep it up for the long term. In these cases, they may outsource the work required to manage, monitor and measure their surging, integrated social media accounts. Those without internal marketing departments may also require communications specialists to write professional content. Those with internal marketing departments may seek out professionals with more complex expertise on how to inject social architecture and business principles across the enterprise.

Businesses will require greater social media expertise and will seek out the agencies or external professionals they can trust to take on the heavy lifting. While the one trick social media pony is still alive and kicking today, it will surely die in this more demanding, integrated social media world to come.

What do you think?

Photo: Painter Magazine

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