Six Social Media Trends for 2011

David Armano

Here is an excerpt from an article written by David Armano for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Review’s Daily Alerts, please click here.

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It was a banner year for social media growth and adoption. We witnessed Facebook overtake Googl in most weekly site traffic, while some surveys reported nearly 95% of companies using LinkedIn to help in recruiting efforts. In my outlook for last year, I cited that mobile would become a lifeline to those looking for their social media fixes, and indeed the use of social media through mobile devices increased in the triple digits.

I also outlined how “social media would look less social” or more accurately exclusive, and indeed, we’ve seen the re-launch of Facebook groups, which focus on niche interactivity, and more recently, the emergence of Path, billed as “the social network for intimate friends” which limits your network to only 50 people. The past year also saw some brands go full throttle on Foursquare’s game-like geo-location platform, attempting to reward mayors and creating custom badges for the network’s power users.

In other areas, such as social media policy, I was less accurate. Conversations around the topic did begin to take place, But a global survey indicated that only 29 percent of companies even have a social media policy. That’s not as high as I expected.

So what could we see happening in 2011? I’ll take a stab at six trends again. In no particular order:

[Actually, here are four of the six.]

It’s The Integration Economy, Stupid. From Ford, to Dell, to Starbucks (client), to Jet Blue, and a host of other companies who have pioneered early uses of social media for business, 2011 will be the year these companies take a serious look at integrating social media, not only regionally but globally. Don’t be surprised if the same companies that piloted programs such as Ford’s “Fiesta Movement” and Starbuck’s Foursquare programs also become the first companies to take on the huge challenge of integrating social media into all facets of business from global marketing to crisis management and beyond.

Tablet & Mobile Wars Create Ubiquitous Social Computing. As competition heats up in the form of cheaper, smarter phones and an assortment of tablets that may hit the market (a $35 Tablet in India?), technology consumers will come one step closer to being connected 24/7, and in more powerful ways than previously possible. Social networking will be on the go, out of the house, and out of the office. More competition, variety, power, and affordability in devices will fuel the increase of ubiquitous social computing.

Facebook Interrupts Location-Based Networking. If 2010 belonged to Foursquare and its playful, competitive and sometimes addicting ecosystem of badges, mayorships and specials, it’s likely that Facebook will rain on Foursquare’s parade in 2011. With tons of data and the architecture behind Facebook’s response to Foursquare about to be rolled out globally, Facebook is well positioned to actually make location based services useful to business.

Average Participants Experience Social Media Schizophrenia. While social media schizophrenia (the overload of multiple social profiles) is nothing new to tech mavens, it will become something that more and more “average” users experience as they tweet, Facebook, G-mail, chat, Skype, BBM, SMS, and Tumble their way across the social web. While many mavens have adopted ways to manage and cope, average users may find themselves at the beginning of the curve in need of a 12-step social identity program. This may lead to increased demand from typical participants to have a more integrated and simplified social graph and an opportunity for platforms and companies alike to meet this demand.

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David Armano is a Senior Vice President at Edelman Digital, the interactive arm of global communications firm Edelman. He is an active practitioner and thinker in the worlds of digital marketing, experience design, and the social web. You can follow him on Twitter.


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