I'm on a plane and when I get up here at 30,000 feet with no internet connection, I tend to become reflective about the industry I work in and start to think about bigger trends out there and what is coming down the line. As we enter the holiday season, I wanted to cast an eye forward to 2012 and share some of my thoughts about what is coming down the line in terms of innovation and trends in social media.
As Mark Zuckerberg says, the pipes have been laid over the last five years for social by connecting everyone, and the next couple of years will see everybody building amazing things on top of all those social layers. It's an exciting time to be in the business and here is what I see happening in 2012.
Social TV Convergence
A number of factors are coming together at great speed in our living rooms that are going to change the way we watch TV. In short, the internet and traditional television will collide with great force in 2012 and it will shape the way we all consumer media.
Apple sound as if they are gearing up to launch a television set and when they launch a new product, they usually reinvent and define an entire industry.
Most of us now all have two screens when consuming media (TV + laptop, tablet + Phone etc) and the lines between those devices will become even more blurred in 2012. The smart content producers will allow you to watch what you want when you want, to share those experiences and become involved in engaging and producing the content with you and your social graph.
Social Becomes Default
While businesses have grappled with how to get involved with social media over the last few years, most are starting to get on board. 2012 will become the year where social media is accepted as something that is here to stay and will become a default business function. If you are building a new product, you simply won't be able to ignore social media and the distribution channels and opportunities that it opens for you.
Companies will look to build their own social media teams in-house and the majority of executives will start to see it as its own discipline that simply can't be ignored. It won't just be in traditional areas like marketing or customer service that social media will dominate either, you can expect it to move across businesses to departments like sales and recruitment
Social Commerce Finally Takes Off
For all the hype about social commerce and for all the brands and businesses dipping their toes in the water, social commerce is taking its time to take off but you know that it is coming and 2012 will be the year for it. Every one of us buys goods and services in the real world based on the suggestions of friends and people we know and although that is happening on an ad hoc basis online, there is still huge room for growth.
Plenty of businesses have developed their own bespoke shops for Facebook but most have been about being the "first company selling X on Facebook" and more of a publicity stunt rather than driving any huge volume of sales. Given the size of the communities that brands have online now, the pressure will build up to turn many of those people into sales so expect some interesting social commerce solutions to take off in 2012.
The smart brands have been at this for the last couple of years but it will really speed up in 2012 as businesses seek to create meaningful content to engage consumers across their social profiles and their own properties.
The masters of branded content are Red Bull but you don't have to be a large international brand to get involved in 2012. Branded content comes in many forms but video, audio, graphics, blogs and games will come to the fore as brands offer the consumer something more meaningful than competitions and promotions.
Huge Social Search Improvements
For all the progress in social media, one area that has really lagged behind is social search. Twitter search is broken, Facebook search is horrendous and Google were not really at the races until recently. With the huge amounts of information being shared socially, it is imperative that the big guys crack social search next year and I fully expect them to do this.
Google are putting a social layer across all their search results with the +1 button and Google+. Also, Twitter acquired a search start-up and after dealing with a year of scaling, they simply have to improve the way in which their users can access the real-time data on offer. Facebook are the big unknown as despite their domination and hundreds of millions of users, their search experience has been lacking for some time so expect a big move in 2012.
Acceleration Of Print To Tablet Swap
This Christmas will be a watershed moment for the tablet industry. Apple kick started the fuss about tablets a couple of years ago but they have until now been a luxury item priced at about $500. With the launch of a new range of cheaper tablets including the $200 Amazon Fire tablets are about to hit the mainstream and seriously disrupt the print industry.
Print media sales have been in decline for some time and you can expect this to accelerate in 2012 as tablets come to most households. The smart traditional publications are already making the transition, but many will get left behind as printed media will quickly become obsolete as time passes.
Facebook Continues To Shine
If you thought the last couple of years were big for Facebook, then you haven't seen anything yet. This year will see the biggest social network in the world become a public company as well as passing one billion users.
Increasingly, Facebook will force its way onto smart phones and evolve into a platform that touches every single point of your daily life as opposed to just being a website that you simply log in to. Facebook is weaving its way into the fabric of the web, and by the end of next year, you can expect it to be the default social operating system that powers the web.