From the emergence of location based applications like Foursquare to the rapid growth of Facebook to over 500 million users, no one can argue that social technologies exploded into mainstream staples this year. Looking back at the year in review, we saw many advances in the way we experience and interact with the web. While I don’t have a crystal ball, I do have some ideas of what the future of social media will look like. And, I predict that 2011 will continue the evolution of social technologies and become a hub for the entire web. Here are a few highlights of what I think 2011 will bring for us in social media:

1. Social Media is taken seriously through Analytics: The large companies that pioneered social media in 2010 will begin to overhaul their global marketing strategies to include social media in everything aspect of their business. Companies like Ford, Starbucks, and Red Bull have been pioneers in social media use. But more than integrating social media into business, we will start to see some tangible results to their social media efforts using a combination of online and offline metrics. Long gone are the days of measuring your success on social media via friend count. Successful marketers will realize that the best way to leverage social media in the business world is by creating communities that invite people to engage with your brand. It doesn’t matter if you have 1,000 or 10,000 fans- as long as they are engaged and passionate about your brand, your social media campaign will be a success. Just remember that you can’t measure the weight of a social media effort without offline measurements. At the end of the day, social media is simply providing a channel for traditional PR. It’s all about building and maintaining your public brand image.

2. The “death” of location based services: Unless retailers can figure out how to connect sales with check-ins, or provide a large incentive to users for continuing to check-in. Users are over it. The excitement over “checking-in” everywhere you go is wearing off and concerns about privacy are scaring people about sharing that type of info with the public. Unless retailers are offering a great incentive for checking in, or can figure out a way to connect the dots between check-ins and sales, I don’t see widespread use of this technology continuing to grow in 2011. The founder of Foursquare, Dennis Crowley, certainly disagrees with me. He recently stated that the company is set for huge growth in the next 5 years and doesn’t think the fact the company is not making any money is not a cause for concern. Interesting thought Dennis- last time I checked, companies that are not profitable are usually not around for very long. But hey, I could be wrong! Regardless, I think that location based marketing will slow down a bit in 2011, giving marketers time to connect the dots between “checking-in” and sales, and allowing us to hash out the debate about privacy. This will position it to grow significantly and become a major player in the marketing game of 2012.

3. Google gets in the game….FINALLY! In 2011, we will finally see Google’s version of social media integration. There have been a lot of rumors around “Google Me” which would essentially be Google’s version of Facebook. However, I think Google is smart in realizing that people will be very reluctant to just pick up and move to a new technology. People love Facebook; 500 Million will tell you that (and that doesn’t even include China where Facebook is banned). Users have spent countless hours updating status, postings photos, and filling in their information. Plus, users love to play games on Facebook (Bejeweled Blitz anyone?). Regardless, Google can do two things better than Facebook can: Search and Analytics. Right now, the partnership with Facebook and Bing is not having a huge impact, and the search engine within Facebook is horrible. Facebook provides “insights” to help administrators analyze and interpret the traffic on their pages, but this information is very high level. We all know that any analytics program that Google launched for a social technology would be far superior to that of Facebook’s. I would speculate that Google is working on a way to analyze and provide data on social media site use across all platforms, either by introducing their own social media management system or creating a new social network that incorporates all of them. It seems logical that they would include some level of analytical data for marketers and admins of their pages, potentially integrating Google Analytics into their service. Plus, with the introduction of their Chrome OS, I can see a natural tie in to encourage users to utilize their own platform instead of Facebook. My 2011 wish: Facebook and Google start to play nice and join forces to make “Facebook Powered by Google” the new center of the web. (A girl can dream, right?)

4. Twitter is taken seriously: How can you NOT love twitter? It’s like saying you don’t love a cocktail party- and who doesn’t love a good cocktail party!?! (Ok, I get it; some people don’t like to be social and would avoid a cocktail party like the plague, but most of us enjoy them) Whether you love it or hate, the reality is that Twitter is changing the way we receive news and information, 140 characters at a time. From the marketing perspective, Twitter is a great platform to connect, respond, and engage with followers of a brand. Twitter has the power to spread news faster than ever before and traditional mainstream media is paying attention. Ann Curry’s tweet about getting Doctors without Borders planes to land in Haiti was ranked number one in Twitter’s list of most influential tweets of 2010. Plus, in a “Royal First”, The Clarence House (private office of Prince Charles) created a Twitter account simply to announce the engagement of Prince William to Catherine Middleton. Twitter is also very entertaining. Tweets from celebrities like Conan O’Brien or Stephen Colbert always provide a good laugh or funny thought for the day. Plus, Twitter doesn’t have a fancy algorithm to try and show you the info it thinks you want to see; it just shows you everything all the time. You miss something in your stream, oh well; you’ll get it again somewhere else, catch it the next time they post it, or visit their page to check in with the latest Tweets. Most importantly though, from the user perspective, it’s just plain fun! It’s a wealth of information that you would never know existed without it. It allows you to connect and have real-time conversations with your Tweeps (Twitter friends) about current events, trends, and ideas. I get the privacy concerns people have: “my Tweets are public; I don’t want everyone to know what I’m doing all the time”! Well, here’s an idea for you: DON’T TWEET ABOUT IT! The great part about user generated content is the ability to control what you share with others. Although I don’t see Twitter growing in the same way as Facebook, I think it will increasingly serve as a way to connect and engage with users to help build your brand in 2011.

Well, there you have it. My thoughts on what social media will look like in 2011. I’m sure some of you will have some comments or disagreements with these ideas. Feel free to sound off below- I’m always open to new perspectives! I’m excited to see what this year brings for the ever changing world that is Social Media.

From all of us at Mindscape, we wish you a safe and happy holiday season.

~Christina Torri, Social Media Coordinator