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.