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8 Social Media Predictions for 2010

1. Boring business names.
“twitter merges with plurk to form plitter, which is purchased by facebook (which breaks it) and renamed plitterface, at which point google creates an Open Source API app that adds digg to your plitterface, creating piglitterface.” – Overheard in Second Life

This may seem trivial, but company names and product names will start to get more serious and traditional as the more staid elements of the economy (government, financial sector, etc) look for social media partners/providers. Also, hopefully the term “social media” and its variants will go away.

2. Austerity measures.
Tight budgets will drive the adoption of low-cost Web 2.0 and cloud solutions. This has already started, but will the trickle will become not a flood, but simply the new world order in 2010. Even the slow-to-adapt government and conglomerate organizations will move this way. 2010 will be the year of small contracts, as all size organizations have a lot to do and not enough full-time employees to do it. Small and very agile expert teams will rapidly deploy to complete a project, then move on to another one. This will boost the smaller Enterprise Web 2.0 players as companies look to get away from the big-ticket, enterprise-class offerings from major vendors like Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, and others. Google may be a winner here, as once enterprises make the decision to move to platforms for wikis, enterprise mashups, cloud services, etc., they will still want one-stop shop of pre-integrated solutions from entrenched software providers (see Reputation Economy).

3. Data processing centers:
Data analytics is becoming an increasingly important part of Web businesses, and all manner of organizations are adopting tools to take the unstructured information in blogs and wikis and mine it. Tagging, aggregation, and analysis software are going to be the big stories in 2010, and possibly the big revenue earners (after shopping and vices). The services that can combine data analytics and crowdsourcing will be the big game-changers, as they will tie everyone into the datastream.

4. Mainframe computing.
OK, it’s called cloud computing now, but it’s still basically dumb-ish terminals hanging off a data repository somewhere. Only now that repository’s far away, and probably owned by someone else. The cloud computing story, as compelling as it is today for many situations, will only get larger in 2010. While the risks become more apparent, the cloud computing industry as a whole will grow as organizations seek to cut costs, manage growth/shrinkage, and shorten time to market.

5. Mobile platforms and devices.
The spread of Android beyond phones to computing appliances, major advances in the iPhone platform, the iPhone app store, the prevalence of the Blackberry and its new open application strategy, the constant data stream of Twitter, and the growth of the netbook will drive business applications that continue to untether the workforce, enable virtual organization while connecting workers together using new collaboration and communication technologies, many of which will be using 2.0 approaches. If the desktop didn’t completely die in 2009, it will become almost completely outmoded in 2010 as the average “smart phone” becomes capable of helping users with a larger percentage of their daily computing and communication tasks. The biggest holdup will not be technology, it will be in the ability of organizations to adopt mobile technologies and understand how to leverage them in their business.

6. “2.0” is de facto.
All things 2.0 are mainstream. People will have Facebook and Twitter as their homepage, and have them on all day. The internet will be synonymous with social media. It may even become part of government. The world of individuals will be so steeped in social media that it will become most people’s understanding of the internet – if you aren’t on Twitter / Facebook / YouTube, you aren’t on the Internet. People will assume and expect Google and Wikipedia at their disposal at all times. Organizations that avoid 2.0, either internally or externally, will be committing institutional suicide. Meanwhile, most big corporations still won’t figure out the best way to use 2.0 (because it doesn’t favor big corporations).

Internal use of 2.0 will continue growth in large enterprises while the struggle continues with market-facing 2.0 products. We saw widespread internal penetration of social networking and Enterprise 2.0 in organizations globally in 2008, but the weak story continues to be the successful creation of online 2.0 products for the broader marketplace. Virtually all of the major online success stories have come from Internet startups; very few if any traditional organizations have been able to create fast growth, widely used Web 2.0 products like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. That’s not to say that there aren’t many compelling attempts, but none of them have reached the same engagement level with the marketplace. This will almost certainly continue in 2009 as organizations continue to find ways to grapple with the best methods for leveraging the world’s largest single marketplace in their businesses. (ZDNet, predictions for 2009)

7. Economics 2.0.
The massive changes in the business landscape create new 2.0 business opportunities. While the financial sector has been hit hard, many aspects of it were already online, if in a very 1.0 way. Trading applications were certainly one of the first major online success stories and so were online mortgage applications. Real estate, however, never had a large presence online for a number of reasons related to control of the industry by brokers and other organizations. It is likely that these industries and others will finally be put online in a fully 2.0 fashion by a new generation of players. These companies that will use the latest new technologies and business models to move into the massive gaps left over by the implosion of the finance and mortgage industries. What could this actually mean? It likely means things like user-generated mutual funds, online investment vehicles with 100% transparency, as well as real estate markets going fully online with self-service listings. The end of a business cycle such as we’ve seen leaves the landscape open for innovative new players with good ideas that otherwise wouldn’t have a runway to succeed. I believe we can expect a number of them online in 2010 since the Web remains the quickest and easiest way to create and grow a new business.

8. Reputation Management, Social Capital, and Identity.
“Many a man’s character would not know his reputation if they met on the street” – Goethe

Search Engine Reputation Management tactics are often employed by companies and increasingly by individuals who seek to proactively shield their brands or reputations from damaging content brought to light through search engine queries. Some use these same tactics re-actively, in attempts to minimize damage inflicted by inflammatory (or “flame”) websites (and weblogs) launched by consumers and, as some believe, competitors. Given the increasing popularity and development of search engines, these tactics have become more important than ever. Consumer generated media (like blogs) has amplified the public’s voice, making points of view – good or bad – easily expressed. Search Engine Reputation Management strategies include Search engine optimization (SEO) and Online Content Management. Because search engines are dynamic and in constant states of change and revision, it is essential that results are constantly monitored.

Social media will continue to strengthen “bridging” social capital, connecting communities that wouldn’t otherwise be connected and enhancing both. A service like Angieslist may appear for individuals and online communities, but in 2010 I expect mostly consolidation of individual and corporate online identities and increasing awareness of the critical importance of reputation in the 2.0 world.