Today is a day of transition for me. The last two years I have been a marketing strategist by day, mom by night. I am looking forward to a year of playing with my ever-more grown up toddler and getting to know the new little daughter coming into our lives next month.
While I will no longer be trekking into the office every day, I doubt I’d be capable of leaving the world of social media marketing behind me for this year. It’s just too interesting, and too deeply embedded in my daily life. I’ll continue my trend-watching and experimentation using my New Westminster community blog Tenth to the Fraser as the testing ground.
I think there are some really interesting things on the horizon for marketing, social media and community-building online. Here’s some of what I’ll be watching for:
Social networks become part of the infrastructure of the Web
As Facebook continues to mature, I think it will become part of the infrastructure of the web. Like Google, Facebook has the potential to become so ubiquitous it’s almost invisible online. Unless, of course, they screw things up. I don’t see any social network – Twitter included – that is a serious threat to Facebook, but given the speed of change online, it’s possible one could emerge.
I look forward to seeing how Twitter matures as well. Due to the nature of the service, I don’t think it will be a Facebook-slayer. I think Twitter would do well to keep focusing on what it does differently (immediacy, location-awareness, discovery & word-of-mouth). Facebook is private and owns our social graph. Twitter is public, and owns breaking news and gossip.
A broader definition of ‘brand’
Many people still seem to think of ‘their’ brand as something they can control through repetition of a fixed set of images, key words and slogans. I think we’ll see more proof over the coming year that ‘brand’ is not a fixed thing, and it’s only partly influenced by how the company positions itself. As peer-to-peer consumer influence increases, the impact of popular perception on brands will also increase. I would like to see the definition of brand evolve to encompass not only the face you show to the world, but also the answer to the question, “What kind of company are you?” as expressed through your relationship with your customers.
Accelerating mobile innovation
People have been predicting for years that mobile technology is just about to come into its own. With the launch of the iPhone, I think we’re finally there. Over the next year, I think we’ll see continued innovation related to iPhone and smartphone technology, but also I think a greater awareness and usage of advanced features in ‘ordinary’ phones. I think we’ll see some experimentation with using mobile devices as payment gateways (Starbucks is already testing a feature in its new iPhone app that will allow customers to use their iPhone like a Starbucks Card in certain regions).
Deeper research into online ‘influence’
There’s sometimes an assumption that influence is equivalent to traffic or followers, but there has been some fascinating research starting to emerge that challenges this. There is certainly a level of influence achieved in controlling a media platform that reaches millions of followers (whether a blog, Twitter, or another channel), but attention is not necessarily the same as influence. On Facebook, researchers uncovered a competing model that demonstrates the power of many smaller ‘nodes’ of influence, rather than a few key mega-stars driving page and application growth. I’m hoping further research will explore whether this is the case throughout the Web, or if it’s something unique to the Facebook platform.
The term ‘social media’ becomes passe
Just as the prefix ‘e’ was added to everything during the first dot-com boom, ‘social’ and ‘social media’ are too widely used (and abused). I hope and expect that at some point we get over the novelty that people like to talk to each other online as well as in person, and start taking ‘social’ features for granted as simply good practice on the Web.