The 10 Trends Shaping Social Media In 2012

  • Author: Niall
  • Niall Harbison,

Every once in a while, when I'm on a long plane journey and have no access to internet or other distractions, I like to take a step back and write a post about the industry that I cover every day of the week. Given the amount of new features, press releases and updates by the various players, it can be hard to observe the underlying trends within the industry, which is why I wanted to write this post.

In 2012, we're seeing social media move at an unprecedented pace with disruption happening across multiple industries as social weaves itself into the fabric of everything we do on a daily basis. It's both an exciting and scary time for the industry with data flowing around the world in real-time at an astonishing rate. It's a time of huge disruption so here are the ten biggest trends in social media right now.

Facebook's Shift To Mobile

Two months ago, Facebook filed documents around their public offering and it stated that mobile presented the biggest opportunity and threat to their business. What has been remarkable to see is the speed and astounding execution it has shown in addressing the problem.

To some extent, Facebook very nearly got caught with its pants down as users fled the desktop and embraced mobile, but their acquisition of Instagram, rolling out lots of new apps, features and hiring the right people shows how seriously it's taking things. The rest of the year will see this pattern continue as Facebook make quick iterations to their mobile offering with new ad products, local services and new ways for users to engage across all the mobile devices.

With close to 500 million people using Facebook on their mobile and places like India and Africa coming to the platform in their droves, this trend is only going to continue. Facebook hasn't fully figured out mobile just yet, but watching it for the rest of the year will be interesting.

Exponential Increase In Data

Data is everywhere and it's increasing at an incredible rate. Everything from the apps on your phone, the searches you carry out on Google and the photos you like on Facebook is getting logged in to vast new databases. The companies that are going to win will be the companies that use data in the best way.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram have huge amounts of data flowing into them and that is why they're winning at the moment. Data will continue to grow in importance especially since we're all becoming more comfortable sharing it.

The Web Being Re-Organized Around People

The first 20 odd years of the internet was all about links. You found stuff on Google and you navigated through billions of links that brought you from one place to another. That is all changing as people start to control the flow of information. We now follow live streams of news, feeds of photos, videos and read user generated content from all over the world.

The most important thing on the internet right now are people. We ultimately know much more about what our friends and family than any computer ever could and by tapping into that huge wealth of human knowledge, the internet is going to be a much better place.

Enterprise Embracing Social

Big B2B companies were very slow to embrace social media, instead leaving it to the edgier, and more consumer focused brands. That has all been changing over the past 6-12 months as large enterprise businesses realize that they simply can't ignore social media any longer and that it's not going to be going away.

We've seen in recent months just how active Salesforce has been in the space by snapping up a number of companies as well as integrating their existing products with social tools. Microsoft showed this week that it wants to get in on the fun with their acquisition of Yammer. Enterprise customers are using social media right across their business for everything from customer service to HR, and that is a trend that we are only going to see increase.

Google Will Continue To Fail

It is nearly a year to the day since they launched Google+ and the stark reality is that it just isn't working. Google has once again shown that no matter how many resources, or how much money it throws at the problem, it simply can't crack it. Facebook and Twitter are way over the hill and that is three efforts (Buzz, Wave and Google+) now that Google has come up short.

Chances are Google it won't abandon its social network over the next six months because doing so would be a PR disaster, but it is for all extents and purposes dead. This is not going to eat into Google's revenues in the short-term, but it will over time and it will have to go back to the drawing board once again in an attempt to crack social. Expect more failure.

New Services Experiencing Explosive Growth

The way the web is set up means that new services, apps and sites can grow explosively in no time at all. The two best examples are Instagram,  getting to 50 million users within 18 months, and Spotify's explosive growth - leveraged off Facebook and their new ticker. If a new service or app is good enough, it can explode and become mainstream within a couple of months.

What this means is that something released now could be a huge new service that we all be using by the end of the year. This presents a wonderful opportunity for entrepreneurs and developers to create massive companies overnight that change our browsing habits.

A Move Away From The Facebook 'Like' Arm Race

For the past couple of years, people have been obsessed with getting Facebook likes and have used them as the primary way to measure the ROI of their campaigns. This mentality has changed in the first half of this year as businesses start to focus on engagement and ask themselves what a Facebook like actually means.

We've even seen Facebook itself offering advertising options that help target your existing likes, which makes a mockery of the very concept. Brands are starting to look at other more innovative ways to engage with their likes and add real value rather than just chasing the numbers at all costs.

Mobile / Local Advertising Emerging

The last couple of years has seen a massive explosion in mobile usage. The big networks like Facebook and LinkedIn are all reporting a huge surge in mobile users, and of course, Twitter was set up as a mobile play first and foremost. Services like Foursquare, Groupon and Google have been trying to muscle in on the local advertising market, but traction has been slow enough to date.

The second half of this year will see that all change though as consumers start to come to grips with using their mobiles to find better deals and brands start to see the huge potential of mobile advertising solutions. You can expect to see lots of innovative startups enter this space given the size of the market.

Disruption Of New Industries

We are all very aware of just how much social media has been transforming industries like traditional media and the music business, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. We are starting to see the same sort of disruption in all sectors from hotels to taxis. However, what we will see is social starting to spread out further and disrupt industries that nobody would have thought possible like healthcare.

It is one of the scariest times to be in business as a host of social technologies swoop in without warning and wipe out everything in their path. For consumers, this all means progress as the products and services we all use will improve drastically.

Curation

With so much data starting to flow through our personal and professional networks on a daily basis, the need for caution has never been bigger. Trying to stay on top of so much real-time content is frustrating and nearly impossible. The curation will come from people, through algorithms provided by the social networks and through a whole host of new start ups dedicated to the problem.

Many of us tried to keep up with all the latest information, but that is no longer physically possible, which is why curation will win out. The best example of this is Techmeme which aggregates and curates the best tech content from all over the world. Rather than sifting through RSS readers, Twitter feeds and news sites, this sort of caution is only going to explode in popularity as the regular public seek a more efficient solution.