Eye on the Industry: Which Trends Lie Ahead for 2011?

The following is a post from Kristen Poillon, TIG Global Marketing Manager.

Blink, and you may just miss the latest social media trend.  But, despite the brevity of their entrances and exits, the power of online social networking sites should not be underestimated. We all watched as Twitter emerged as the unofficial darling of the social media world in 2010, experiencing unthinkable growth, and as this year rapidly careens to a close, we are left to wonder what trends we should keep an eye on, and invest our time and resources in, for 2011.

A recent article from The Next Web provides just such insight, taking a look at the latest influencers that are boiling under the surface in the social media realm. Here are a few of their predictions for the ‘ones to watch’ in the upcoming year, and I have to agree that these are on the right track:

Group Buying
This really has been the huge power house of online commerce in the last year. Services like Groupon have come on the scene in a big way (even Microsoft entered the market) and the idea behind it really is so simple that it makes you think “Why didn’t I think of that”. Like all kick ass ideas, this one is incredibly simple and instantly understandable, and there is something in it for everybody. The idea is nothing new, but giving it legs through things like apps and the ability to share deals with friends makes the whole sector spread faster. Expect this to continue in a big way over the next couple of years with copy cat services and the big players rolling in to more territories and rolling out better and more extensive deals.

Question and Answer Sites
These sites are hardly new and have been around for years, but a new range of social features and bigger audiences have seen existing sites and some innovative start-ups make this an interesting space once again. The big boys like Facebook are rolling this out as we speak to their huge user base and will be making it front and center on profiles as they look to tap in to the collective knowledge of the site. Another innovative start up that is making some serious noise within the tech community is Quora, which should break out in to the main stream this coming year. Collective knowledge is incredibly powerful and social media is making that knowledge easier to spread.

I was going to call this section ‘location,’ but I really do think the opportunities in this sector extend far beyond people checking in to bars for free coffee. There is no doubt that services like Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places will continue to grow and be adopted by a larger audience, but I don’t even think the most exciting technologies have even been invented in this space yet. The best is yet to come. The really exciting thing to consider is what can be achieved with mobile advertising and with all the big players including Google and Apple trying to crack this market the real innovation has yet to come. People all over the world are walking around with mini computers in their hands, and you can basically let your imagination run wild with the endless possibilities that offers to the social media industry.

Facebook Credits
Facebook has been dipping their toes in to the credits system of micro payments over the last 6 months by giving users free credits to help them get used to the system as well as doing a massive deal with Zynga to add the credits to their games. I strongly believe Facebook Credits will become one of the defining moments in Facebook’s history and be the cash cow that drives them forward towards IPO. With Facebook taking a cut of the credits and brands and businesses scrambling to use them, there really will only be one winner in all of this. Expect Facebook Credits to be ubiquitous across the web within 2 years as people use the trusted platform to buy all sorts of things.

Branded Content
Brands and businesses are starting to realize that one of the main ways of engaging their customers and offering value is to create content that enriches the user’s social media experience rather than just blasting messages out at them. With users starting to get more and more aware of ads and adding their own filters, the smart brands will create bespoke content that engages users in a meaningful way and offers value. Building that content in to Facebook and other social sites while all hooking back to their own website will be crucial, with video playing a more and more important role in the branded content play.

Twitter Monetizing
They sure are taking their time on this one, but they are very much at the stage Facebook was 18 months ago when they just went on a land grab of users and made sure their service was as stable as possible. Twitter has started rolling out some monetization features like promoted tweets, but they haven’t really come in with the hard sell just yet. I’d expect Twitter to keep focusing on growth for the best part of the next year before switching on the revenue in a major way just like Facebook is at the moment.

While there is always room for new players (and social media does have a way of reeling in the unexpected at a break-neck pace), these suggestions serve as a very comprehensive guide for businesses to consider when detailing a marketing plan for the upcoming year. In order to fully benefit from social media networking, it behooves businesses to get involved in strategizing sooner than later, as this will enable them to and ride the trends through their peaks, reap the greatest benefits and keep a fresh, cutting-edge brand image. By establishing a presence now, you stand to get ahead of the game and emerge as a trend setter, instead of landing on the proverbial bandwagon once the market has been saturated and the novelty has worn slightly thin.

Are you currently using any of these tactics?  If so, how have they helped or hurt your business?  Do you see any other trends emerging in the current year, or have ideas for utilizing these social outlets?  Sound off in the comments section!

Interested in ramping up your social media strategy?  TIG Global offers a full suite of interactive marketing and design tools to get your brand or destination noticed.  Click here to learn more, send us an email, or give us a call at 301-841-4700.

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