It's been a great year in 2010 for social media where the industry has really burst in to the mainstream and been embraced by brands and business but I wanted to look at some of the main things that need to happen in 2011 for the progress to continue. The main social networks are covered here as well as looking at some of the bigger industry trends and all in all I'd have to say social media as an industry is in great health and if anything I'd say it's at the very start of it's growth and 2011 should really go on and re-enforce that and see some exciting things happening.
Twitter can still claim that they are in their growth phase but with a recent round of funding valuing them at close to 4 billion they need to start thinking about monetization very soon. They've had a spectacular year of growth and Twitter continues to be one of the most useful tools around that many of us simply could not live without for a number of seasons but they are a business at the end of the day and they simply can't keep burning through cash at the rate they are if they are to succeed long term. They've tried a couple of things over the last year with limited success but they need to find that automated self serve ad platform like Google and Facebook have in place that generates them billions in revenue over the coming years. They have the users and enough smart people working there to do it so my guess is that by the end of 2011 they'll start to get there.
Social media still suffers from a noise issue. It's like a constant fog horn blaring out and the big problem is that you miss most of the good stuff. There have been some improvements in relevancy filters but to a large extend your networks are all set up manually and unless you take the time to personally curate them you are not going to be getting the best information. If somebody can crack the noise issue and make sure you only get the information and content that is relevant to you while filtering out the useless noise. We are already seeing the first private networks emerging with Path that focuses on less not more and I'd like to see more of this in 2011 as people focus on the quality of the information rather than the quantity.
Better Customer Service
Some of the brands engaging on customer service via Twitter already are doing a fantastic job and it is affecting their reputation in a very positive way but having said that the vast majority of brands and businesses are not there engaging in quality customer service yet. It's not good enough to say any more that they are thinking about embracing Twitter or looking towards it because it needs to happen immediately. The new consumer wants their information delivered at high speed and expects it to be so. The days of updating a website as the first point of contact are gone and people expect the immediacy of Twitter.
Facebook Credits Become Widespread
Up until now Facebook credits have been used exclusively for virtual goods but I think that will change in 2011 as they become more widespread and used on a wider range of products. We've seen so many brands and businesses trying to get in to Facebook commerce by building their own stores but I think the biggest solution is Facebook credits. People need to have a one click solution within Facebook that they really trust and can make purchases through. The most likely time for a Facebook IPO is 2012 and if they can introduce a more widespread credits system that gets embraced by their user base while taking their percentage then they move in to the Google range of potential earnings and open up an even bigger cash cow of a business.
Continued Progress From Youtube
Youtube has gone about it's business a lot quieter that the other social networks this year but I think their evolution has been seriously impressive. Not only have they seen stunning growth with stats like 36 hours of video uploaded to the site every minute but they've also massively improved the quality of video they stream and added a huge amount of impressive new features. Youtube have been quite aggressive in the way they've been monetizing the content throughout the last year with a whole slew of new ad formats and they have still to crack the golden goose that will make them massively profitable but if there is one area that they are heading towards it is moving in to your living room. In 2011 Youtube needs to get better content either through partnering or producing their own. Youtube also needs to find ways on to your television and they have tried to do that through Google TV and Leanback and it is only through that combination of better content and being in your living room that they will find the bigger advertising money and become far more profitable. 2010 has been a great year for them in terms of progress and 2011 needs to be the same so as they evolve out of a simple video sharing site
Google Needs To Wake Up
Google needs to wake up and see that the whole social world is engulfing them from every angle and that their core product of search is under some serious threat from the likes of Facebook. We know that Google are working on their new social product (Google me, Google +1 or whatever they are going to call it) and that it will launch in spring but that is seriously delayed and their previous attempts with Buzz and Wave have been so poor that one wonders if they really understand social at all. I don't think they do. What is important though is that people are starting to get better more relevant search results from Twitter and Facebook's like button is starting to change search and the way people find products and will only improve. 2011 will see this trend accelerate and if I was sitting in the Google board room I'd actually be quite worried. Personally if I was them I'd be using the huge cash reserves they have to take out Twitter no matter what the cost.
Location Based Services Need To Hit Mainstream
It's been a great year for location based services like Foursquare and Facebook Places. Marketers all over the world have been getting themselves very excited about the possibilities that it offers them and local businesses have been using them to target consumers. The main stream adoption is still not there though and that will have to happen in 2011. LBS seem to have been embraced far quicker in the USA but for people to start offering better deals there needs to be widespread adoption around the world. Facebook places should change a lot of that and their self service deal platform is impressive but they majority of the world is not yet aware that they can check in to physical locations.
Another Break Out ServiceTwitter is 4 years old at this stage and Facebook is coming up on 7 years since launch. Foursquare was one service that many were trumpeting as the next big service and other like Linkedin and Youtube have been around for the same sort of time spam as Facebook. 2011 will be the break out year for the next big service and the chances are that it could be something that has been launched already and that the early adopters are all using already. There are any amount of services out there but one I am most excited about is Instagram the photo sharing site. It essentially only lets you share fancy photos with your friends but it has already amassed 1 million followers and has some basic social features built in that could easily be expanded upon. 2011 will see massive growth for them and they'll either become massively mainstream or get bought out by a much bigger rival. That is of course only one small start up to watch and the entire social media space should have lots of traction for start ups and hopefully provide another huge success story.