5 social media questions for 2012.

In a field like social media, expanding, extending and exploding in so many different directions and pieces, it’s hard to make rock-solid predictions as 2012 prepares to become mayor of the calendar. In lieu of trying to be Nostradamus or a Mayan prophet, let’s instead look at where we’ve been and ask 5 questions about social media for the year to come.

1. Will geosocial converge or diverge? We saw plenty of shakeups in location-based or geosocial media in 2011. Facebook Places fizzled, but Zuck and Co. subsequently bought Gowalla. Promising platform Whrrl was purchased by Groupon, who celebrated by shutting it down. Foursquare made some tweaks, but mostly I still see people just checking into their workplaces. SCVNGR’s Jeffrey Kirchick and I tend to believe that what’s next in geosocial media goes beyond merely checking in and into the realm of checking out: By which I mean geosocial-driven purchases, more reviews-based activities (like Yelp) and location-based dating apps. Yes, dating. Whether new platforms and communities will drive these innovations or existing players will lead into these more practical areas is a big question.

2. Will Google+ meet the hype? Is G+ the best thing since sliced bread or is it already stale? Depends whom you ask. My opinion is that their invitation-only beta release unnecessarily segregated users; I was in early but by the time many friends joined, my interest had waned. Similar rollouts didn’t exactly put over Google Buzz or Wave (RIP). Now my streams grow ever quieter while most people adding me are scary-looking strangers with unpronounceable last names. Despite all that, Google+ presents a user-friendly product with great connectivity and avenues for quality content. So it may yet make a big move this year and live up to the hype many have (baselessly, if we’re being honest) heaped upon it.

3. Will Facebook innovate or atrophy? Facebook may be expanding and ubiquitous, but did it really accomplish much in 2011? It gave us a ticker many folks hated, a timeline no one really asked for, the ability to flood friends’ streams with new promotional partners and an took Places to purgatory. User reactions to the developments tended to range from upset to annoyed to nonplussed. I didn’t hear anyone (outside of their flacks and claques) rave about what Facebook accomplished this year. Does this leave them vulnerable to user erosion or will they provide reasons to retain primacy?

4. Will social entertainment platforms go mainstream? People posted what they were watching via GetGlue, wannabe DJs jumped on the Turntable.fm bandwagon and Facebook friends’ musical selections bombarded us through Spotify. Nice starts by all, but none moved that far beyond technophiles and fans. The immense untapped potential of iTunes Ping remains an unknown. (Have you ever heard people actually discuss Ping? Me neither.) But users love/crave entertainment, share musical tips with friends and tweet while watching Glee, Modern Family and awards shows, so huge demand for social entertainment platforms exist in the market for a company, or competitors, to plug into.

5. What don’t we see coming? Since at least the time of H.G. Wells, society has held a fascination with fantasizing over future technology. I’m currently enjoying the fascinating and entertaining Max Headroom complete series DVD set. While the dystopian 1987 cyberpunk series shows a future where megacorporations and media companies control the government (sounds familiar), a striking gap between the rich and poor (check) and the potential for surveillance everywhere (ditto), it omits two key developments — the emergence of smartphones (everyone calls old-fashioned phones or uses video chats at terminals) and the rise of social media. And even as we gaze forward from the precipice of 2012, all the experts, gurus and ninjas of the world will miss at least one big, viral and influential development that will impact social media. What will it be? Stay tuned.

So that’s my take. What questions and trends do you think will drive social media developments in 2012?

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “5 social media questions for 2012.

  1. Some good food for thought. I think you’re right on with Google+. I’m going to try and pay a little more attention to it come January, but so far I’m just not into it. The one promising feature, the Hangout, is pretty cool — but I’m a little turned off by it since a recent attempt to hold a meeting via Hangout resulted in at least three staffers from G+ joining our conversation with interjections about how we could be better utilizing the features of the Hangout.

    As for Facebook, I’m interested (but not necessarily in a good way) to see how the roll-out of sponsored stories and ads in the Newsfeed is going to go.

    And you know you love the constant updates on what music I’m listening to. :)

  2. John Lucas

    I’ve had an interesting month, having experienced detailed presentations from both Facebook in Palo Alto and G+ at home in Madison. I truly *want* to like G+, but their answer to “why should we spend time with you?” was workman-like, dull and uninspiring. (SEO! +1 integration!) By comparison, the pitch from the world’s largest social network was both inspiring (that Timeline video again– gets me every time), compelling (“social by design,”) and emotional (social is about people). Oh yeah, they have an anthropologist on staff, covering all the angles. In my mind, Facebook is about people and G+ exists for and b/c of technology. That’s not a long-term success strategy. I think Mountain View loses to Palo Alto (or Menlo Park) on this one in a rout. #justsayin

  3. Tim Nekritz

    ALAINA: re: G+ Hangout, that’s ridiculous. Social media, and its providers, should be a fairly invisible process, to the point that we see the content and don’t notice the medium or those providing it. Also, that sounds downright rude and intrusive. On the bright side, hooray for sharing music recommendations!

    JOHN: Very interesting analysis! Juxtapositions are magnificent things. Doing things for people will always be better than doing things for technology’s sake. Having a staff anthropologist = awesome.

  4. I think Facebook’s timeline will be a huge hit once people get over the “we hate change” hurdle. It will tie in nicely with the whole lifelogging trend that seems to be picking up speed.

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