The 5 Social Media Trends to Watch in 2012

The Social Media Monthly's January issue cover

=== This article originally appeared in the January issue of The Social Media Monthly, the first print magazine focused on social media, and we are publishing it here in 2 parts (Part 1:  The 5 Biggest Stories in Social Media from 2011) with permission from Bob Fine.  Until March 1, you can support the Social Media Monthly on Kickstarter and get a discounted subscription and other fun rewards. ===

Social media now accounts for 22% of all the time that we spend online. So how did we spend that time in 2011?  And how will that change in the next year?  Here are the top trends to watch in 2012.

1.    Social + Local + Mobile

SoLoMo may be the latest $10 acronym, but there’s no question that the ability to reach and influence consumers at the point of purchase offers tantalizing benefits—to you and your competitors.  The potential reach is massive:  77% of the world’s population is a mobile subscriber; many of them are mobile-only users, and increasingly they’re using their devices for banking, travel, shopping, and local info, in addition to getting news, playing games, social media, maps and music.  Connect that to a slew of new shopping and m-commerce apps, the ability to link mobile apps to loyalty programs, coupons and more, and we will see an explosion of innovation and growth in this area.

2.    The Rise of the BrandGeek: Marketers Learn to Spell API

Yes, the role of marketers is changing—and has been for a while. But now businesses have an enormous opportunity to connect digital conversations with real-world business value, and marketers are at the vanguard. Whether it’s crowd-sourcing your next ad campaign, thinking of your next car model as a user interface, or building a custom application into your next restaurant opening, marketers will be driving a level of innovation that is more commonly associated with the tech industry. 

3.    Will Privacy Issues Put the Brakes on the Social Web?

Privacy concerns have been part of the conversation around social media since the beginning, but expect to see these conversations get louder as the more platforms begin to share personal data about their users with other third-party applications. Facebook now tracks its users across the web via its Open Graph platform; companies like Klout have come under fire for automatically creating user profiles for users that have never opted in to the site.  If users feel that they are being taken advantage of in ways that are creepy and unethical, they’ll start sharing less information to protect themselves and their families. Marketers and tech companies need to step carefully, or they risk slowing or reversing the rate of adoption.

4.    Social Music:  The Music Industry Gets Disrupted (Again).

What’s the first piece of content you shared with your friends?  If you’re my age, odds are it was a playlist, recorded from the radio or your record player onto a cassette, and then copied, one at a time, for your best friends. Nothing is more natural than sharing music with your friends, and the record industry has lost its fight against digital downloads to the iPod.  While social media has always played a big role in connecting music, bands and live performances with bands, we’re now in a new era of social-centric music sharing apps that is moving the industry from a pay-per-tune model to a subscription model, and from digital music to social music.  The Spotify-Facebook integration is one big step, Google Music launched with integrated social sharing, and a plethora of mobile apps designed to let users share and discover music are launching or attracting significant funding.  Expect to see a huge wave of innovation—and industry shake-ups—driven by social music.

5.    The Shine Is Off. So Does It ROI?

Facebook opened its platform to all users 13 and older in 2006; Twitter launched in July of that year.  The social and realtime web is now 5 years old and touches hundreds of millions of consumers every day—yet many business executives and marketers still struggle to understand how it adds measurable value to the bottom line.  In the next year, social media professionals need to shift from being ambassadors and evangelists, to earning a seat at the table as a serious business tool.  Social media is going to play an integral role in every company’s marketing, customer service, research and product development strategy.  In the coming year, the industry as a whole will need to grow up, become more professional, and move beyond the focus on what can be measured (followers, Klout scores, etc.) to connect social media to the things that must be measured: customer wins, revenue and profits.

Read Part 1 of the article: The 5 Biggest Stories in Social Media from 2011.

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  • JeffreyJKingman

    The 5 Social Media Trends to Watch in 2012 via @tonia_ries @danperezfilms @paulbarron

  • Great post Tonia!

    I am writing to request that you please not use my brand — BRAND GEEK — generically as you have in No. 2 to describe social media marketing professionals. BRAND GEEK is a federally registered trademark for a branding law blog and also is used on apparel and (as of tomorrow) will be used on on-line videos. Just as you would not want others to use The Realtime Report generically, I hope you’ll understand and heed my request. If you have any questions, feel free to ping me at Thanks so much!

    Keep up the good work!

    • @BrandGeek Hi Lara – I’m not an expert on trademark, but my understanding is that having a trademark protects you against others using the same mark to sell or market a product or service. I used the term brandgeek once, in an article, to refer to marketers who need to be as tech-savvy as the average geek. Is that really something that would violate or undermine your trademark?

      Either way, there’s no issue here since it’s not something I intend to use on an ongoing basis. Thanks for stopping by & good luck with your business!

      • @tonia_ries Hi again, Tina.Thanks for responding to my comment so quickly and for your graciousness.

        You’re right . Having a trademark protects you against others using the same (or a similar) mark to sell or market (identical or related) product or services. You’re right again that your use of BRAND GEEK is not something that violates my trademark rights. Rather, it weakens them. Common descriptive use of Brand Geek would in fact undermine them.

        When folks use other’s brands generically (as a thing rather than as a brand) it weakens the brand significance in the mark. Over the long run that can result in genericide (we attorneys love jargon!). Did you know asprin, elevator and cellophane all once were brands? Crazy! In any event, while my brand may not yet be well known, I intend for it to be, and part of that is making sure it stays a brand by asking folks nicely not to use it otherwise.

        I was nervous about making my request publicly, but I couldn’t find an e-mail address for you. This certainly could have gone differently, so thank you for the thoughtful dialogue.

  • crazydjbazarro

    @azboogie hey stranger!!