In 2009 we saw exponential growth of social media. According to Nielsen Online, Twitter alone grew 1,382% year-over-year in February, registering a total of just more than 7 million unique visitors in the US for the month. Meanwhile, Facebook continued to outpace MySpace. So what could social media look like in 2010? In 2010, social media will get even more popular, more mobile, and more exclusive — at least, that's my guess. What are the near-term trends we could see as soon as next year? In no particular order:
1. Social media begins to look less social
With groups, lists and niche networks becoming more popular, networks could begin to feel more "exclusive." Not everyone can fit on someone's newly created Twitter list and as networks begin to fill with noise, it's likely that user behavior such as "hiding" the hyperactive updaters that appear in your Facebook news feed may become more common. Perhaps it's not actually less social, but it might seem that way as we all come to terms with getting value out of our networks — while filtering out the clutter.
2. Corporations look to scale
There are relatively few big companies that have scaled social initiatives beyond one-off marketing or communications initiatives. Best Buy's Twelpforce leverages hundreds of employees who provide customer support on Twitter. The employees are managed through a custom built system that keeps track of who participates. This is a sign of things to come over the next year as more companies look to uncover cost savings or serve customers more effectively through leveraging social technology.
3. Social business becomes serious play
Relatively new networks such as Foursquare are touted for the focus on making networked activity local and mobile. However, it also has a game-like quality to it which brings out the competitor in the user. Participants are incentivized and rewarded through higher participation levels. And push technology is there to remind you that your friends are one step away from stealing your coveted "mayorship." As businesses look to incentivize activity within their internal or external networks, they may include carrots that encourage a bit of friendly competition.
4. Your company will have a social media policy (and it might actually be enforced)
If the company you work for doesn't already have a social media policy in place with specific rules of engagement across multiple networks, it just might in the next year. From how to conduct yourself as an employee to what's considered competition, it's likely that you'll see something formalized about how the company views social media and your participation in it.
5. Mobile becomes a social media lifeline
With approximately 70 percent of organizations banning social networks and, simultaneously, sales of smartphones on the rise, it's likely that employees will seek to feed their social media addictions on their mobile devices. What used to be cigarette breaks could turn into "social media breaks" as long as there is a clear signal and IT isn't looking. As a result, we may see more and/or better mobile versions of our favorite social drug of choice.
6. Sharing no longer means e-mail
The New York Times iPhone application recently added sharing functionality which allows a user to easily broadcast an article across networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Many websites already support this functionality, but it's likely that we will see an increase in user behavior as it becomes more mainstream for people to share with networks what they used to do with e-mail lists. And content providers will be all too happy to help them distribute any way they choose.
These are a few emerging trends that come to my mind — I'm interested to hear what you think as well, so please weigh in with your own thoughts. Where do you see social media going next?
David Armano is part of the founding team at Dachis Group, an Austin based consultancy delivering social business design services. He is both an active practitioner and thinker in the worlds of digital marketing, experience design, and the social web. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/armano
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