Please don't mind the format; I am more focused on posting the ideas; there is also no particular order in this post yet.
The need for ongoing social dialog will change Organizations structure and operation:
Organizations will come to terms with the fact that “shoot and forget” is not valid anymore; every time a message (offer, campaign product, service, etc.) is submitted to a consumer/customer/target audience they need to assume a public consumer response will follow, and a public response to that response will be necessary.. This implies social dialog will be established and there are very few organizations ready (in skills, structure, processes/methods) to engage in dialog with their consumers; these will open many opportunities to help these organizations get ready for this new reality. The ongoing social dialog reality will make organizations re-evaluate their internal structures or at least their internal communications and escalation procedures; regardless of the size of the organization the consumer perceives it as a coherent entity and expects to be able to engage with it about anything through any of the available communication channels; silo organizations will struggle to satisfy this need and their consumers will become frustrated and, whenever possible, move on to other providers for their needs.
The Consumer as a Product:
Organizations will turn to Social Media to better understand their consumers/customer/target audience needs (simply listening at large, in private spaces, in public spaces hosted by the company or others); listening and empathy will become key marketing skills (shouldn’t that have always be the case?). “The Consumer” as a product will become more and more important; what this means is that having the attention, ability to communicate with and quickly present products and services to an specific consumer audience will become as (if not more) important than the capacity to create the products to satisfy the needs for that audience.
Social Media Relationship as a key agency service:
Helping organizations to identify the individuals and organizations (Blogs, communities, groups, forums, etc.) that are key to the validation, adoption and propagation of their messages (offer, campaign product, service, etc.) as well as the right way to engage with them (language, value to offer, way to approach, how to establish and maintain a relationship, how to sunset a relationship) and execution on that engagement will become a key service agencies will offer their clients; larger organizations/companies will have their own internal department in charge of these activities.
Intimacy and update services will become critical:
Through 2008 many consumers amassed and amazing number of online relationships; some simply a reflection of their already existing set of relations and some completely new. Services and products that can help them keep updated, be visible (or not), and selectively communicate with selected (and likely overlapping) circles among these online relationships (regardless of the social network where they may exist) will become important.
Think about these circles:
Who do you want to update with your latest status right now? (i.e. “I have published my thesis here” versus “I have smashed the Halo record!”) Who do you want to hear status / comments / messages from (or not) right now? (i.e. you are resting in the weekend versus you are attending a panel discussion) Who do you want to be visible to/reachable by from right now? (i.e. you are free on a Friday evening versus you are heading to an important meeting?) Etc.
Note: the circles denote artificial groupings; individuals among my online relationships will likely belong to more than one of these circles.
The Social Media Platform “Commodization” begins.
Social Network “Platforms” will begin their slow but certain migration toward the “commodity” status; and there will be more emphasis on the “Why”, “Whom” and “How” than in the “Where”. Organizations (and the agencies that help them) will become more focused on figuring out if they need to have a conversation with their consumers, on how that conversation should work and who should participate on that conversation.. and less emphasis on where (Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, etc.) that conversation is happening.
Note: By no means predicting the demise of any of the SN mentioned above in 2009 (quite the contrary for some of them); but this is a shift in thinking that is coming: We will hear “What should be my Facebook strategy” less and less and more people will begin to focus more on who do they want to have a relationship with and with what objective, and then later on where will this happen.
Mobile Social Networking as primary versus secondary access.
The trend has clearly began (see Facebook’s mobile growth in 2008); but the combination of increased capabilities (iPhone, BlackBerry, etc.) and Platform Push (iPhone, Blackberry) it will consolidate in 2009. The key occurrence is that 2009 will see Social Networking applications and services created first and foremost for mobile devices become mainstream; these services and applications will take advantage of the unique and distinct capabilities of the mobile device and the availability/convergence of data about the individual (schedule, availability, contacts, location, direction, pace, status, time, etc.) to offer unique services and features. There will certainly be online/pc versions of the same applications and services that complement what can be done with mobile with the unique capabilities of the pc device (better for editing, composing, etc.) but these will be offer as complement of the mobile experience.
Convergence of texting, comments, micro blogging, status update platforms:
Platforms and services that allow the user (as creator or consumer) to de-focus from the difference between the texting, comments, micro blogging, status update, etc. activities and instead simply pay attention to the creation or consumption of those will come in place; these snippets of UGC will be easily associated with other objects (Blog posts, Movies, Newspaper Articles, etc.) and easy to consumer through subscriptions/association with the objects or topical areas (i.e. comments on sports about x team; or about individuals in x circle).
Facebook steps up, expands out and in.
Facebook will go above and beyond in 2009; transitioning from the social network platform to begin providing (beyond their current set of apps) more and better ways for brands/companies to engage and interact with its users; while at the same time keeping the control at the individual level (Facebook could, in fact, become the pragmatic instantiation of the VRM concepts). It will do this through aggressive expansion of Facebook connect (virtually bridging and bringing into Facebook the functionality & capabilities that today exist in other sites/services) as well as increasing its core set of services and capabilities (i.e. offering a serious social shopping module and rating & reviews as part of its core capabilities).
The battle for the Social Graph is openly declared
The Social Graph (i.e. the instantiation of Facebook is the Newsfeed) will be the next battle ground; Facebook, Microsoft and likely Google will compete in this space as the most patent opportunity to attract brand/organization money to social networks. Clearly Facebook has something of a head start with its fast growing user base and Facebook Connect; however Microsoft could pull out some interesting tricks if they care able to capitalize on their active hotmail user base (230 million) and Google could really bring forward interesting opportunities through data crunching and algorithms.
The economic crisis will push Social Network Platforms to open the data coffers.
As we all know the pressure to bring forward benchmark data to demonstrate Social media marketing approaches can deliver ROI, as well as the pressure to carefully measure Social Media efforts to prove (or disprove) ROI is increasing. In the past the major Social Networks (i.e. Facebook, Youtube) have not necessarily been the best providers of this data (or partners in capturing it) as the cheer activity numbers (and the economic abundance) seemed to work together to dismiss the need for it, not any more. In 2009 these Social Platform Companies will increase their efforts to open the data coffers and partner with others to capture and offer the data that proves and enables Social Media efforts ROI.
Mobile Livecasting fuels a new type of Social Interaction:
Though not limited to Social I believe this will have broad implications: The increased speed of the mobile networks, coupled with the diminishing cost of storage and the fact that even the most humble phones today have a decent camera will result on the advent of “livecasting” capabilities / products / services; users will have the possibility to document their every single step and share/publish as broad or exclusive as they desire with their social network.
Influencers will become easier to identify; the focus will shift to engagement & activation
With the increased availability of data called out above it will be easier to identify influencers across specific circles (and across different set of ‘influencer type’ criteria) (i.e. who do you seek advice from for computers? What about music? Who propagates messages faster? Further? Deeper?) Social Network tools will offer better capabilities and metrics to identify these influencers; the questions will become more about: how do you engage these influencers? How do you activate them? We will need to keep in mind these are (in general) individuals that will only do what they believe in, and thus they have to be convinced (or properly informed) about the benefits of a product/service before they influence others with it; and will be both about what you say and how you say it...
Social Media will mean more than friends
Though “Friends” (Fans, etc.) has been one of the forms of Social relationships most pursued in Social Media efforts in the past 2009 will see the branch out into other types of Social Relationships/Interactions; there are many cases where I many not want to establish a relationship with others that care about the same that I do, but I may want to know that they care about it, why and what other things they care about and why …(i.e. in the case of illness afflictions, tough personal situations, etc.) (not to be confused with anonymous participations). Social Bookmarking/Tagging potential will become better understood and different ways to navigate data will become available that will facilitate social influence beyond direct/close relationships (such as friendship)
(there may be more to come, but not today)
What do you think?