Back to the Future: Reviewing Social Media Trends

The end of one year and beginning of the next always bring a slew of prediction and trend posts, so I had to jump in. I particularly enjoy looking at previous  “predictions” and see what actually happened. I’m revisiting my 2010 post 8 Significant Developments in Social Media You Should Watch and providing additional thoughts for 2011.

Here’s what I predicted for 2010 and the outcome as of the end of the year:

1. Myspace will die. Like a bad rash, MySpace (s nws) is hard to eliminate. The site has been rebranded as “My___” — dumb branding that’s in the same league with The Gap’s (s gps) short-lived new logo. Myspace is still being (ab)used by bands and musicians, comedians, C-list actors, “models” and other celebrity wannabes, as well as by people who didn’t get the memo that Myspace is dead. I wouldn’t be surprised if Myspace limped quietly through 2011 and finally expired. In order to survive, Myspace needs to create something truly new, engaging, user-friendly, and groundbreaking, but I don’t think it will happen. Facebook has taken over the space like the 800-pound gorilla it is.

2. Virtual goods: insanely popular. Huge. Bigger now than a year ago. You’re making a mistake if you think virtual goods are nothing more than “playing games.” A 2009 report from Inside Network put revenue from the purchase of virtual goods in online games at $1 billion. Their prediction is that the U.S. virtual goods market will reach $2.1 billion in 2011. Even if you don’t understand why people adopt and purchase virtual goods, those numbers are nothing to sneeze at.

3. Gaming: Not just for kids. This trend is still heading up, up, up. You’re missing the boat if you think casual and social game-playing is a passing fad. According to a study by market researcher the NPD Group, 56.8 million U.S. consumers have reported playing a game on a social network. That’s 20 percent of the U.S. population. In their report “The Future of Social Gaming 2011,” Inside Network predicts the social gaming market will reach $1.25 billion.

4. Twitter: Transforming communications. Yes, still doing it. At the same time, Facebook is transforming the way we view privacy, and what, how, and how much personal information we share.

5. Niche networks: Good for marketing. I’m still convinced that niche networks are valuable for smaller, more concentrated and highly targeted numbers. Get beyond the giddiness of having hundreds or thousands of “likers” on your Facebook Page, and you can create real value for your company, customers, vendors or targeted consumers by using niche networks. Industry-specific social networks are good for professional networking and information exchange, while open, relevantly-themed social networks are helpful for marketing, branding, and customer interactions. Despite Ning no longer offering free networks, I find that many niche, topic-specific custom networks are still being built on the Ning platform. But running your own niche network is a beast to build and manage without resources. That’s why Facebook Pages are the low-hanging fruit of niche, branded communities.

6. Augmented reality: Really here. Yes, it is here, but still on the fringe. I think 2011 will see mobile devices more capable of supporting AR, programmers developing useful AR applications, and marketers testing the space. AR will become more widespread, and really great and useful applications will proliferate. The next step will be to get consumers on board.

7. Google Buzz: Hmmm. I thought Google Buzz (s goog) would be big and important because Google is big. Google Buzz is still out there, but I don’t see much buzz about it, and I barely use or notice it myself. Do you have any interesting use cases for Google Buzz?

8. Mobile. Be there. That’s what I’m still saying. I’ve outlined a few things to consider about mobile in a recent post. And don’t just think about devices, apps, and networks, but also communications and commerce.

5 More Trends to Watch in 2011

Before throwing out some ideas for this year, I want to first say that the trends above (other than Google Buzz) aren’t over yet. Each continues to evolve over time with greater adoption, better applications, and solid case studies. So, in 2011, the above trends will solidify into the mainstream of our technology landscape (some more than others).

Here are some more trends to watch for this year, in no particular order:

1. Location, location, location. This should have been on my 2010 list, but it was still early. Within months after my trends post, location exploded and I professed my love for Whrrl, Foursquare and the like, and I was recently blown away by Glyph Glympse: tip of iceberg stuff. I constantly use AroundMe and have started to use Foodspotting when I travel. And have you seen Path?

2. Semantic technologies. Hard for the layperson to grasp, but the applications will continue to improve and impress. Imperfect but interesting: Qwiki, iGlue, Wolfram Alpha, Evri.

3. Crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, crowdproducing. You ain’t seen nothing yet in terms of what crowds can do. Real time traffic from Waze, crowdfunding through Kickstarter and Profounder, and many more examples not yet built will be transforming business, creativity, production, process.

4. QR Codes. I’m still wrapping my head around them, but they are worth watching, learning more about, and using.

5. iPad (and other tablets). I’ll be honest: I don’t love my iPad (s aapl). But really, it isn’t a lack of love for the device, which is sleek and uber-portable. The applications don’t do it justice. You can’t just port what was on the computer to the iPhone and then to the iPad. You have to think different. In 2011, some companies will do just that.

6. Apps commerce and communities. When was the last time you bought software in a box? That activity will continue to decrease. I’m pretty sure the Apple App Store will have plenty of competition cropping up in the next year, including the Chrome Web Store (s goog), Google Apps Marketplace, and all the mobile device-specific stores, as well as apps communities like Developers will have more and more outlets for different versions of the apps they’re producing. Marketers will get into the game as well.

Way into the future? I know 2011 isn’t the year, but soon, touch screens will be the norm. My own four-year-old daughter touches every screen she sees, because she has no concept that not every screen operates like an iPod, iPhone or iPad. Soon she won’t have to look at me after touching the television screen to say “Mommy, it’s not working.”

What trends are you watching in 2011?

Image by user clix

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