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5 Social Marketing Predictions For 2011

Another year is almost over. The Christmas Number 1 song has been decided (in the UK at least); the web has proved that even after a brutal recession, people still need to shop; and, after a year in which Facebook & Twitter became (if they weren’t already) true phenomenons, we had the interesting experience of watching political leaks going social. Watergate 2.0 if you like.

So what did we learn from the spread of social in 2010? What does any of this mean for the wider web, and world, and what does it herald for 2011? Well, my predictions have often been proved wrong, but where’s the fun in not even trying?

1. Facebook to hit the 1 billion mark

I’ve explained the thinking behind this projection before (basically I’ve mapped the numbers in Excel, and we know Excel never lies), and as time goes on, I think it’s only getting more likely. Holland is now the only developed/Western nation holding out against Facebook dominance and the surge in uptake of smartphones means that this projection now looks like being quite a modest one.

2. Foursquare will remain a (respectably sized) niche

Foursquare has been the buzzword to drop in meetings this year, in a way reminiscent of Twitter or Facebook in years past. However, despite all the hype, and high-profile brand partnerships, its user base is still relatively small: 5 million as of the start of December.

Whilst there is no doubt that location will play a part in the development of the web, it has always struck me that the game mechanic that lies at the heart of Foursquare (and most of its main rivals) will always remain a little to niche, especially when it’s tied to something (publicising location) so many people still feel uncomfortable doing.

3. Groupon will be 2011’s Twitter

What I mean here is that Groupon will be the site that every brand brings up in marketing meetings: you could argue it was 2010’s Twitter, seeing as how it’s the fastest growing company ever, and turned down a Google deal worth $6 billion. But whilst it’s been building a hugely impressive business, it’s not yet the cool kid that brands want to deal with, probably due to the fact that it’s been targeting small businesses. That will change.

And whilst many companies will have an issue with discounting their brands (discount customers tend to be less loyal, and it’s hard to go back when you’ve slashed your price), the sheer size of Groupon’s audience (more visitors in the US than Foursquare gets globally).

4. Offline will become social as connected TV becomes a reality

Again, hardly ground-breaking, but I do feel 2011 will see social TV move from two screens to one. Google TV is live, Apple TV (though hardly social) is finally getting some love from Steve Jobs, whilst Microsoft apparently also has plans in this field.

Interestingly, the Seattle behemoth might well be on to the best bet, due to its existing Xbox platform: moving from a console aimed at hardcore gamers, to one targeting families, and which allows for web based commerce and viewing as well as gaming, might well prove to be the perfect package.

5. Google won’t release a social network

Again, I’m hardly doing a Julian Assange here and releasing state secrets, but from conversations with Google, as well as their public announcements, I think it’s safe to assume that Google’s push into social won’t involve directly taking on Facebook.

Instead, their social layer (taking elements of Buzz & Wave) is likely to allow people to share different content with different groups of friends/colleagues, rather than forcing you to share everything with everyone, an idea that Mark Zuckerberg derided as out of date. Until he changed his mind, that is.

So, with all these predictions, what will 2011 end up looking like? Well, probably a lot like 2010. It’s often hard to remember that those of us who work in digital marketing tend to be more than just a little ahead of the curve.

This Gapingvoid cartoon always highlights this for me: penned in 2007, it suggests that Twitter was already boring by that point, years before most people had already heard of it. Just because something is new, doesn’t mean it will automatically become mainstream, and the tricky bit is spotting which ones will.

What we can be reasonably sure of though, is that 2011 will see a continuing convergence between devices, channels & sectors as TV, mobile & search all become increasingly social. If 2010 was the year when many brands finally asked whether they could afford to try social, 2011 will be the year where we’ll be asking them whether they can afford not to.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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