8 Significant Developments in Social Media You Should Watch

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While I don’t have a crystal ball, here are some developments that I think are worthy of our attention and will affect how we do things in the social mediasphere over the next few years. Many of the things on this list will not be news to the very well-informed social media consultant types who live and breathe this stuff. But for the rest of us, there are seeds of opportunity here that should not be missed.

  1. MySpace: CEO Leaves; MySpace will die. Last year, I was telling my clients “We are cautiously optimistic that MySpace (GigaOM Pro company profile) will make a comeback because their new CEO is a Facebook co-founder.” Scratch that. I think MySpace is about to go the way of Friendster, although it is still a player in the entertainment space. Because Facebook doesn’t allow flexbility and customization, I’m going to miss MySpace. But now I wonder: Who is going to be the next MySpace? Virb? Bebo? (And don’t underestimate LinkedIn.)
  2. Virtual Goods: Insane, but insanely popular. The creation and selling of virtual goods and gifts makes absolutely no sense to people who just use the Internet as a basic communications tool. Try telling someone who isn’t really into Facebook that they could buy a virtual bouquet of flowers for 99 cents and send them to a friend — they’d look at you like you were mad. But with virtual goods as an industry already raking in the billions of dollars worldwide and over a billion in the U.S. alone (source: “Inside Virtual Goods: The US Virtual Goods Market, 2009 – 2010″), how can anyone ignore them? I’m not saying everyone needs to make and use virtual goods, but there is opportunity here for both marketing and revenue. Have you even thought about how you might be able to leverage virtual goods? Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): How the Next Zynga Could Reinvent Social Gaming
  3. Gaming: Not just for kids anymore. I think the very fact that the largest player base of passive online games is women flies in the face of the typical view that games are for kids. According to Nielsen Entertainment in August 2009, of the 117 million active gamers in the U.S., 56 percent play games online and 64 percent of those online gamers are female. And the revenues generated from online games is enormous and growing. Do not underestimate the power of games and gaming — and not just the marketing and revenue opportunities, but also the learning opportunities as well in the form of fun quizzes and polls. Have you used gaming yet in a social media marketing campaign?
  4. Twitter: Still transforming communications. Back in 2008, I wrote about Twitter’s impact on the fundamental ways we communicate and the way new tools and applications are being developed, but it continues to grow and evolve. How has Twitter helped you lately?
  5. Niche networks: A marketer’s secret weapon. Whether you choose Ning.com or KickApps or any of the other “white label” customizable social network-building platforms, the concept of creating a “gated”online community that is narrow in focus is smart and potentially powerful. The concept isn’t really that far removed from hosting an online messaging board in the early days of the web. If you held the keys to the gate of a more private, closed or niche community, you had everything from an instant focus group to a band of passionate buzz agents on your hands — if you knew how to properly leverage the community participation. Fast forward to today and the tools ca now give your members integrated communications, networking, publishing and social tools — brilliant. What niche networks are you participating in or do you run?
  6. Augmented reality. Sounds sci-fi, but it’s really here. I’m having a hard time describing Augmented Reality to people who haven’t seen it (if you haven’t seen it in action, these infographics from GigaOM might help). The reaction isn’t just “what in the world?” but “who cares about that stuff?” AR uses simply boggle the mind, and I plan to explore more of that in this column soon. I do wish we had a better term for it, though (like “data overlay” or “overscreen view”) so it didn’t have such a sci-fi feel to it. What potential uses for AR are getting you fired up? Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Augmented Reality: Lots of Promise, Lots of Hurdles.
  7. Google Buzz: Pay attention, even if you don’t care. (s goog) I am one of the gazillion people who currently do not care about Google Buzz, apart from the fact that just because Google did this it means something in terms of the tools we’ll be using in the coming years. Right now, I feel like Google has the means to just throw tech spaghetti on the virtual walls of our work and lives to see what sticks. Anything it does has major significance and impact, even if it fails. So pay attention as you scratch your head. How is Google Buzz changing the way you communicate, or is it? Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Google Buzz’s True Home Is in the Enterprise
  8. Mobile: Be there. I don’t know about you, but I consider my iPhone (s aapl) to be a mini computer and Wi-Fi device first and phone a distant second. I’m never normally an early early adopter because I’m too busy to keep up most of the time, but I will be one of the first to buy the iPad, because it looks to me like a bigger iPhone, and I rely on my iPhone in ways I have never relied on my computer or my regular cell phone. My entire concept of connectivity and my access to everything has changed so dramatically since I got a smartphone that I know I can never go back to the old ways. What forays into mobile marketing are on your radar for 2010? Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Web Tablet Survey: Apple’s iPad Hits Right Notes

I could also add the concept of location to this list, but I’ll leave that for another column.

What developments in social media are knocking your socks off?

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