My January Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly column takes a look at what’s ahead in social media. What do think we’ll need to adapt to in the coming year?
The social media landscape is a little like Indiana weather: if you don’t like things as they are, stick around for a while—they’re certain to change. Over the years, as we’ve watched MySpace displace Friendster and Facebook displace MySpace, one thing’s become clear: the only constant is change.
If you’re trying to make sense of social media, this can be very frustrating, and it can mislead you into thinking that social media isn’t here to stay. While the tools tomorrow are certain to be different than they are today, concepts will remain the same. And that’s why the most important social media skill is adaptability. You don’t have to know what’s going to change when. You just need to be ready when it does.
How will social media change, then, in 2011? Here are a few thoughts on what to expect:
- Social media will have an even greater influence over communication and marketing in the coming year. In 2010, social media grew to the point where it’s no longer a fringe phenomenon. Currently, 80 percent of all Internet users have at least one social media account, and social media use now accounts for more than a quarter of all activity on the web. Nevertheless, there’s still plenty of room for growth. In 2011, social media will continue to absorb more of our time on the web. As a result, our audiences’ expectations will change, informed by what they’ve come to expect from the social web.
- Your company will shift more and more attention from its website to its social media presence. As audiences expect companies to be more “social” we’ll see a shift in emphasis—and resources—away from traditional websites and toward their social media presence. Organizations will realize that the endgame isn’t capturing web traffic and retaining interest on their site. An equally sound strategy is referring their web traffic to their social media pages to retain the audience’s interest and engage them in conversations. Social media optimization (SMO), then, will become as vital—if not more so—than search engine optimization (SEO).
- Mobile will drive the future of social media. If you’re looking for evidence that we’re spending more and more social media time on our phones, look no further than Twitter. Twitter’s overall growth is largely a result of how easy it is to consume and produce Tweets on a phone. If you’ve ever tried to send a lengthy email on your BlackBerry, you know how much of a struggle it can be. But keying in 140 characters or less is pretty easy. This, along with the immediacy and portability that mobile offers, will continue a trend toward social media access via smartphones and away from laptops and desktops.
- Niche and exclusive, limited membership sites will grow at a faster rate than the megasites. Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have experienced phenomenal growth rates in recent years. As a result, however, these megasites have little room for additional growth spikes. In addition, audiences are beginning to recognize that large, all-encompassing communities are somewhat inadequate when it comes to accommodating their need for more in-depth conversations about their passions, hobbies, industries, and interests. That’s where niche sites come in. Networks that focus on a specific topic for a specific audience, therefore, will start to attract more of our attention when we want something other than a community that strives to be everything to everybody.
- If you’re not already involved in social media, you will be. It’s true that social media isn’t for everyone. But in 2010, we saw clear evidence that’s it’s also not just for the young or for those with a high level of technical skill. Just as overall web use became almost universal over time, social media use will become more common. That means more and more people will expect to find you and your business on social media sites. You can’t do it all, of course, but if you’re avoiding using social media, you’re probably missing some great opportunities.
Those are some of the things I expect when I look at the immediate future of social media. And there’s something else I’d like to see: your questions and column ideas for 2011. What do you want to know about social media? What topics would you like to read about? Please email me at email@example.com and I’ll consider including your comments in a future column. Have a great New Year!