Futurecast: Where is Social Media Headed in 2013?

Happy New Year everyone!

Embarking into this new year has us all wondering what the future holds. But we aren’t ones who rely to crystal balls to tell us our fate. We use cold, hard data; raw facts; and objective truths.

That’s why we turned to our own internal social media experts. We sat down and discussed what we expect to see in 2013. Our conversation focused on three key themes: existing and emerging platforms, changes to user behavior and preference, and entertainment and events.

Our conversation was bountiful and we had a lot to say, making us thankful that we never took that crystal ball out of the attic when excavating our holiday decorations.

Existing and Emerging Platforms

Applying Moore’s Law to social media, we expect a continued rise in the growth of niche networks accompanied by more success targeting specific audiences. Investors will continue to pump money into people and platforms, hoping to get a Zuckerberg to build them their own Facebook. The “social media bubble” will undoubtedly continue to expand.

Facebook isn’t going anywhere, but expect the increased presence of brands and ads to drive some changes to user behavior. People will start to shift their social networking time to more interest based browsing, as well as to personal, one to one messaging with friends. Facebook has already made strides to capture this market, as well as address the rapidly growing mobile sector, through copycatting and acquisition.

LinkedIn will continue to work to host more content on their platform, so expect to see new features that encourage sharing different types of media. This should help them increase the amount of time that people are spending on the site.

One significant issue that LinkedIn will need to work on is the amount of fake profiles that exist on the network. The lack of active moderation and the lengthy reporting process serve as barriers to eliminating SPAM. If they want to continue to maintain their lead in the “professional” social networking category, they will need to address these issues.

Changes to Expectations and Preferences

Companies are already beginning to understand that social media is about advertising and awareness, and as they grow more comfortable with that, they’ll be more open to innovative uses of existing platforms.

Expect to see a lot of creative projects by big brands in 2013. Platforms are competing with each other, so expect to see a lot of showboating led by internal teams at different platforms who are working directly with big brands.

Because the platforms are trying to keep up with changing user preferences, brands that pay attention to trends and innovations on platforms will be in a good position to understand user behavior.

For instance, the focus on optimizing ads for mobile, something that Twitter has historically excelled at. Mobile will continue to be a driver, not a follower of technological origination.

Mobile is exposing a vast number of new opportunities in mapping the physical world to the emerging digital lives of mobile users and will continue to trigger shifts in user behavior (e.g. showrooming). 2012 marked a point where great user interfaces are becoming the expectation across consumer and business applications. 2013 will mark the transition into a direction of integrated user experiences.

Even ‘indoor GPS’ comes to mobile devices.

Entertainment and Events

There is a huge play for entertainment and events, since, at its core, social media is entertainment.

And no one can explain how to take advantage of all this then our very own charismatic president, Josh Jordan:

“If social media went on a road trip it would start in Miami by grabbing some rays and getting a nice tan from helping the cruise ship companies gain better insights into their guests and improve their on-ship experiences and bookings.

It would then head to New Orleans for the Super Bowl to hang out with all the athletes and hob knob with celebrities in TV commercials. Next would be a stop off in the mid-west to help a few nonprofits do more direct fundraising through apps and maybe give a few farmers a new and fun way to go direct to consumer versus through traditional channels.

You’d have to throw in a stopover in Denver to hang out with the resort and college crowds to come up with some brand new, feel good ideas as the social start-up business starts to spread like traditional tech from West to East to Denver, Boulder, and similar locales. It’s not the most direct route, but another round of social goodness at SXSW and a few extra days in Austin would do social media some good to recharge the old batteries by picking up some tips from the talking heads, business leaders, and fun makers of the industry.

Next, a west coast swing from SoCal to NoCal hitting all the hot spots – seeing the FB stock price finally starting to gain steam, watching the LA crowd continue to fund their own private social networks, the TV crowd swoon over integrated, in-show fan content and social-reality programming, a nice day in Cuppertino to check out the mobile scene and product dev leaders, a lunch in San Fran to see how the “other half” start-ups live and listen to them push their socialware (clothes, glasses, shoes, devices).

Finally, an intervention in Redmond after another year of ideas that are almost really cool coming to the Surface. Thankfully all of this will be delivered via Postagram’s, FB video, pay-for-play Pinterest posts, and whatever Google decides is important.”

On a lighter, more positive note, he does finish with this insight:

“I’m also really hopefully that social is just social – whether it’s online or offline. It’s social engagement that creates relationships”.

What do you think 2013 has in store for social media? Let us know in a comment.

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