2010 Predictions: Will social media reach ubiquity?

A sampling of social media predictions and forward-looking ideas from thought leaders, entrepreneurs and in-the-trenches workers.
Written by Jennifer Leggio, Contributor

The year 2009 has been a pivotal one in social media. We've seen the explosion of a previously misunderstood social network as well as the rampant adoption of social media by major brands. We've seen these companies take big chances, some ending in success and others ending with harsh lessons learned. It seems that almost everyone's brother, sister, mother and grandfather are now on Facebook, and that social media itself is a bubble baby no more. At the same time, it's important to note that both business users and consumers have barely scratched the surface of opportunity that the tools and strategies around social media can provide.

In order to achieve continued success many things have to happen. Cracks in the echo chamber, widespread communication of proven successes, best practices for return on investment (ROI) are just a few. And as companies embark on their 2010 planning, they are hoping for a glimpse of what is to come.

Rather than create a wish list, I followed Peter Kim's model and turned to my network to find out what it believes social media will become in 2010. I asked about 40 people to participate and 31 responded with at least a few words on what might happen next year.

The predictions are meant to be thought-provokers more than gospel, and come from a mix of thought leaders, entrepreneurs, and folks who get their hands dirty every day dealing with social media for their companies. Predictions range from general social media to enterprise 2.0, government 2.0, security, public relations and even location-aware social networks. But the over-arching theme of most of the predictions say that 2010 is the year that social media will just be, rather than serving as a shiny new toy.

Without further ado, here are the 2010 social media predictions.

Next: David Armano, Karen Auby, Andrea Baker, Nenshad Bardoliwalla -->

David Armano, Dachis Group - @armano

1. Scale

In 2010 companies that are drinking the Kool-Aid (meaning they believe in social media and already have several initiatives underway) will seek to scale initiatives properly either by hiring, training, bringing in consultancies or all of the above. In 2010 we will begin to see social media initiatives move beyond the handful of evangelists within an organization and begin to see larger, more focused efforts that extend beyond generating buzz and managing reputation.

2. Integration Data is held by Facebook, Twitter and other social networks as they integrate into mainstream Web properties. In addition, many organizations store customer data in separate business functions. This fragmentation of data will eventually need to be rectified. In 2010, integration of data from all sources including social (Social CRM) will begin to escalate in importance.

3. Policy Corporations that do not have a robust and adaptable social policy that covers internal and external usage of networks will either implement or revise them. Social business guidelines will become more thorough, formalized and potentially enforced.

Karen Auby, Plantronics - @karenauby, @plantronics

In 2010, I think social media tools like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and others will continue to segment users based on how "social" they're willing to be and what their goals are. I know many people who are struggling with the separation of "church and state", that is how to have an online persona that represents them as individuals but also projects and protects their professionalism. Facebook's "friend lists" are an example of an evolution in social media that should raise users' comfort level with being true to themselves without betraying professional goals. New technologies will continue to be developed and will attract and segment users who have varied goals, like professional networking, versus information sharing versus socializing and playing games.

Andrea Baker, Navstar Inc. - @immunity

In thinking about the recent panic over getting H1N1 flu shots and the shortage of supply, I believe we will be taking data and mashups to the next level. Imagine the vaccine manufacturers located on a map and the amount of projected vaccines being created by the lab. Next, we identify the shipping locations the manufacturer distributes in the local areas. Finally from there we go another layer to find out where and when the vaccines will be administered based on estimated shipping and arrival dates. True Government transparency from start to finish regarding an issue that is already at a pandemic level.

It is thinking and execution like this that will help the US Federal Government assuage its citizens in their fears of not obtaining the vaccines in a timely manner or even wasting time in long lines only to know there are 73 doses available at a location, when Joe Citizen is number 120 in line.

  • Currently in 2009, there are only three states that supply data into Data.gov. In 2010, all 50 states should have at least one data set contributed.
  • The recent Executive Order on reducing GHG will see more action by Government Agencies. We will see more GreenIT initiatives within the Federal Government to accomplish missions using less energy and paper waste.
  • There will be more teleworking initiatives as Enterprise 2.0 adoption grows to be more of a common practice. Allowing Federal employees to be flexible where they report to work by working in the cloud.

Nenshad Bardoliwalla, co-author, "Driven To Perform" - @nenshad

In 2009, a tremendous amount of noise in the marketplace surrounding social media has reached a fever pitch and this threatens to drown out its potential effect to be transformative in the enterprise. Those projects and vendors that customers were willing to experiment with in 2009 will need to tie their efforts to concrete performance improvements in order to remain viable as social media's sheen of being the new kid on the block wears off.

Next: Chris Brogan, Damon Cortesi, Jeffrey Dachis, Caroline Dangson -->

Chris Brogan, New Marketing Labs - @chrisbrogan

I see velvet rope social networks, where some kind of gating to keep out the commons will occur. See Sermo. See Black Box Republic. I see a thousand specific Twitters popping up for places internally and externally, each using OAuth to validate who we are.

Damon Cortesi, Alchemy Security - @dacort

Location-aware social networks will be the next evolution as people allow technology to assist their real-life social interactions. At the same time, their privacy will be compromised due to the lack of basic security awareness by both the people using the technology and the service providers. If privacy is not a thing of the past already, it will be within the next year.

Jeffrey Dachis, Dachis Group - @jeffdachis

As businesses begin to realize the power of becoming more socially calibrated dynamic organizations, cross function/ cross platform social business metrics and analytics will begin to take shape and drive meaningful discussion around creating real value.

Caroline Dangson, IDC - @carolinedangson

IDC expects a surge in enterprise spend for social platforms in late 2010. IDC forecasts that the U.S. online community software market, which includes vendors such as IBM Lotus Connections, Jive Software, and Lithium, will experience a growth rate of 63% in 2010 to $679 million.

The economic reality today is that interest in social platforms remains much higher than actual adoption. IDC survey data shows more than 50% of worldwide workers are leveraging the free, public social media sites like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook for business today. IDC believes the primary reason workers are using the consumer social media platforms is because their organization is not providing these types of tools itself. IDC believes this will change in 2010 for many reasons including:

  1. Businesses are looking for ways to secure social media activities in the workplace and this means providing these tools for employees to use. Businesses will realize it will be cheaper to purchase this software in the cloud versus trying to build it themselves.
  2. Traditional enterprise software providers such as Microsoft with Sharepoint 2010 will enter this market.
  3. More standard ways of measuring social business value will emerge to make a stronger case for social solutions.

Next: Paula Drum, Bert DuMars, Tom Eston, Susan Etlinger -->

Paula Drum, Gettington.com - @pauladrum

The good news is that consumers will continue to wield their power and word-of-mouth worthy brands will benefit exponentially. Social media has created a world of word-of-mouth on steroids. Companies like Dell and Ford have really turned themselves around by using social media to add personality to their brands. The bad news is that as the space becomes cluttered with traditional marketing messages, consumers will begin to tune out these social platforms. To avoid this, companies new to social media need to steer clear of the following:

  • Think of social media as a relationship, not a marketing campaign
  • Avoid relying on gimmicks to ride the social media wave- like using irrelevant trending topics such as #iranelection to spew promotional messages
  • Don’t hide paid relationships or your identity– for example paying for positive reviews or blogging about your company or service under a false name. What makes social media successful is authenticity.

Bert DuMars, Newell Rubbermaid - @bwdumars

With so much information and communication unencumbered by time, geography or borders, how we filter and organize the massive amounts of content and social interactions will be key to improving the social web ecosystem and making it more usable and useful in 2010. Whichever company(s), community(s) or person(s) who crack this puzzle will be the big winners in the next generation of the social web ecosystem.

The new, empowered customer requires that businesses be much more adaptive to their needs, wants and desires. The role of marketing is going to have to change from the current management mentality to an advocate or business ownership model that is more agile and responsive to the social web ecosystem. Social network or social media marketing can no longer be an experiment or silo in the marketing organization. Social web marketing must be fully integrated into the strategies and tactics of a variety of organizations within the business from marketing to customer contact to information technology for it to be truly successful.

Tom Eston, SocialMediaSecurity.com - @agent0x0, @socialmediasec

1. Personal information you share on social networks will be easier to find while privacy settings and privacy policies will grow more complex. One example is that Facebook will probably open up status updates to be searchable outside of Facebook to compete with Twitter. We have already seen Bing and Google ink deals with Twitter and search. This trend will continue with other popular social networks. While social networks like Facebook are making changes to application and privacy settings (Canadian Privacy ruling earlier this year), the settings presented to users will become more complex and make privacy policies more confusing to the average social network user.

2. Attacks using third-party applications will increase and become more sophisticated. For example, attackers will be focused more on exploiting popular Facebook games and applications because they are not coded by Facebook and Facebook does not do proper validation of the code. Many of these attacks will leverage trust relationships between friends and the applications they have installed.

3. Major increase in infrastructure attacks against social networks or the users of social networks. For example, we will see more attacks like the incident of Twitter, Facebook and LiveJournal being DDoS'ed earlier this year. Social networks will also see an increase in attacks against the administrators and owners of these sites. Weak passwords, use of publicly available information (even posted on their own social network), and social engineering will all be used in these attacks.

Susan Etlinger, Horn Group - @setlinger

In 2010, businesses will face two huge challenges: 1) how to make customer engagement scale; and 2) how to integrate social media effectively into transactional systems and processes. We'll also see a greater emphasis on the organizational impact. And one day, not too long from now, the term "social media" will sound completely archaic -- a remnant of a time before all media was social.

Next: Sarah Evans, Jason Falls, Laura Fitton, Rachel Happe -->

Sarah Evans, Sevans Strategy - @prsarahevans

1. More location based networks, features and apps. For social networks, there was Brightkite and now Foursquare, but locations will become integrated in more social networks. If you're an iPhone user, many Twitter apps have a "nearby" mode which allows you to locate people in your area. For businesses, this means more targeting capabilities and interaction with the people you want to reach. There's also more opportunity with Google Maps for networking.
2. A fun social networking tool/electronic business card, the Poken. I think this is the next gadget to take off in the United States. While it's been a big hit in other countries, with the evolution of the Poken Pulse and other business-related tools, this could be the next big thing. I have hundreds of business cards I need to enter into my calendar and not everyone has an iPhone so I can "bump" my information. The Poken is an easy way to share and upload contact information.
Jason Falls, Social Media Explorer - @jasonfalls

The biggest thing I see on the horizon is the settling of Twitter. What I mean by that is the Twitter community, inclusive of brands and marketers, will evolve into using the tool for the need it most commonly and appropriately serves. Twitter is a conversation place. That doesn't mean marketing doesn't belong or isn't accepted, but that conversational marketing (practiced by few and even fewer well) will be the prevailing success tactic for brands there. The one-way channels, with a few exceptions, will continue to be shunned and stagnate because users go there for conversations, not coupons.

As a result, I think Twitter will see more consistent use from a core base of people and less hype. I don't see user numbers or activity going down anytime soon, but changing to prove the platform to be more of a communications utility as opposed to the shiny new marketing object.
Laura Fitton, OneForty - @pistachio

As the founder of oneforty I'm extremely biased on this -- then again there are good reasons why we built oneforty. We're going to see several new generations of specialized tools that channel Twitter and the real-time Web that package it and make it much easier to use productively. Better filtering, more control over the experience and more convenience as the real-time Web becomes more mainstream. I also expect more location and mobile-specific applications and services to feed the continued excellence of local business at harnessing value from these technologies.

Rachel Happe, The Community Roundtable - @rhappe

I'm seeing 2010 as the year of getting down to business. Companies are in the trough of disillusionment at the moment and some of them realize it's because the software is not enough and that they need to implement cultural change or business process change to make it effective and some companies are re-evaluating their initiatives completely. I think 2010 will separate out those companies who are really serious about changing their approach and those that simply use social media tools as another way to extend the way they currently operate.

Next: Doug Haslam, Nicole Jordan, Sandy Kemsley, Charlene Li -->

Doug Haslam, SHIFT Communications - @dough

I think we will see more social media usage in regulated industries. From the increasing recognition of government agencies (FTC, SEC, FDA) to the recognition of increasing participation by existing stalwarts such as Paul Levy of the Beth Israel-Deaconess Hospital in Boston, and greater interest from banks, my general feeling is that a greater comfort level with social media in these usually intractable industries is growing.

Also, I can't make a prediction without mentioning Twitter. Since early 2007, I have waited for Twitter to blow away with the next trend, but it has proved too stupid to die. What it has not achieved is the next-door appeal that Facebook has. Your neighbors are coming but, I hope, not lugging the fail whale with them.

Nicole Jordan, Rubicon Project - @nicolejordan

There needs to be a fundamental shift in the way social media services are integrated to serve clients of public relations agencies. There will be a lot of action in this area. New departments formed. Wouldn’t be surprised if we see an increase in acquisitions of specialty agencies with that “social media/new media/community” flavor.

PR people are going to be forced to become versed in the practice as well, or start integrating it into the team structure – or lose more business. When you keep social media segmented out from the program development baking process, and then not consistently engaged thereafter, it’s a recipe that will fall – well, flat. It’s not something you can pop in and out of if you’re a brand – especially a big well-known one. I’m hoping there will also be a shake-out of the posers. The ones who come in a promote a social media strategy but don’t know how to think strategically, or know how to retain momentum by utilizing other elements of the marketing and communications mix.

The other thing that’s going to happen is massive education on the client side. They’re impatient and want to see justifiable ROI on social media add-on programs, immediately. But developing an engaged internet presence takes time, just like building a business – one person at a time. I’m hoping that 2010 will bring a step-back approach when evaluating social media. It’s part of larger marketing/communications effort. The effectiveness should be evaluated on the overall orchestrated outcome – not as a stand alone. That’s the old school way of doing things. Although, unfortunately that’s where most people are living.

Sandy Kemsley, Independent Analyst & Systems Architect - @skemsley

Since I work in the more enterprise-y space of business process management, that colors my viewpoint somewhat, but I'm seeing much more of a focus on social networking in the context of enterprise business applications. In BPM, that manifests in two ways: collaboration during process modeling using some sort of social shared whiteboard metaphor; and collaboration during process execution, where a process participant can break out of a structured process and create an ad hoc bit of a process with the collaborators of their choice. BPM vendors are already showing products with these capabilities, although acceptance within the customer base has been a bit sluggish to date.

Charlene Li, Altimeter Group - @charleneli

Social media in 2010 will cease being the shiny new object and instead, become part of the everyday lexicon of business. The technology will begin to fade into the background so that people can focus on the relationships that are created because of the technologies, not the technologies themselves.

Next: Oliver Marks, Adele McAlear, Shireen Mitchell, Christine Perkett -->

Oliver Marks, Oliver Marks & Associates - @olivermarks

I think the term 'social media' - which is as vague as 'multimedia' was ten years ago - will fade away to be replaced by much more focused vertical use cases. There is confusion around what the word 'social' means, particularly since concepts around the business value of enabling 'social' collaboration technologies between employees and partners of companies, and the 'word of mouth marketing' usage of similar technologies to influence consumers are such different use patterns by different types of people with completely different intents.

The all-things-to-all-people-who-care usage of the word 'social' in endless online debating will be replaced by a new maturity focused on specific value propositions. I suspect marketing people will continue to use the word social around the Clue Train consumer conversation while enterprise collaboration usage will differentiate by not using it except in very specific ways...

Adele McAlear, McAlear Marketing - @adelemcalear

The integration of social media into the growing swell of data online will continue in 2010, boosted by Twitter and Facebook's deals with Google and Bing. The power of the RT, when done in sufficient quantities, will begin to affect search engine rankings, proving that Trending Topics really do have influence. Meanwhile, Facebook users will start to discover their status updates as part of search results and demand an easy opt-out, per update, in order to be more selective about what they want the world to see.

Shireen Mitchell, Author, Speaker & Trainer - @digitalsista

Knowing that all predictions will be 90% wrong I would still venture to say in 2010 social media will not be what all of us early adopters have thought of it. The "everybody" (Clay Shirky's "Here Comes Everybody") is still on it's way, none of the current social media apps have reached their capacity. I have traveled the country and found large groups of people that have yet to use social media to its potential. When they arrive the current models of social media will be forced to shift or become obsolete. We are moving back to "open social network" models, i.e. Twitter or FriendFeed over "closed social network" models like Facebook, Ning or iPhone apps. Google's algorithms, number of following measures, closed lists will become obsolete metrics when everybody truly arrives. I am looking forward to the innovation in social media when they arrive.

Christine Perkett, PerkettPR - @missusp, @perkettpr

I think the buzz factor of social media will go from ”We need a presence” to “What’s truly engaging?” It’s reached a “duh” factor in that most everyone – including businesses – know that they need a presence on social networks but how they’ll make that presence really, truly valuable for others is the focus. The noise now is deafening and really getting people to engage with you or your brand is the key challenge for businesses. Talking to customers or running a contest are – while important on some level – a bit passé – creative engagement is going to separate the wheat from the chaff in 2010.

Next: Lucretia Pruitt, Robert Scoble, Peter Shankman, Brian Sibley -->

Lucretia Pruitt, GeekMommy - @geekmommy

2010 will see the shift in social media from singular content providers to collaborative content creation using tools like Microsoft's Wave and Pelago's Whrrl -- tools that allow integration of multiple perspectives into one story. Social gaming will continue to increase in popularity and become a primary focus for those trying to figure out how to market to the digital natives.

Robert Scoble, RackSpace - @scobleizer

We're going to see an explosion of things that use location. FourSquare points the way there with a game that you check in where you are. It then shows you useful things to do nearby. As more people come into it and more cities get turned on in the application, we'll see rapid adoption. A lot of people are now saying that it's lame, but they haven't tried it. Cool businesses that are hip are already doing Foursquare promotions now, but that will boom in 2010. As for Foursquare vs. Gowalla, Foursquare just has a better feel to it even though Gowalla is in more cities. There is something addictive about the game play. Because the 'cool kids' are on it, it feeds on itself. That's part of the reason that Twitter won when Pownce couldn't. Pownce had better technology but it couldn't get the cool kids to use it, and they aren't on Gowalla. People are going to use the system all of their friends are on.

Peter Shankman, Help A Reporter Out - @skydiver

Social media will hit ubiquity. We no longer say "I'm going to the Google Search Engine to find that answer," we simply Google it. Thankfully, we'll stop "social networking," and just accept it as part of our lives. We won't think twice about updating our status as a concept, but rather, as a means to an end. We'll update to let people know where we are and where we'll be. And the best part is, we won't have to. 2010 will be the start of the time where our devices do it for us. FourSquare will auto-update our location via GPS, which will tell Twitter, who will add the #fb tag and notify Facebook. The best part? As we see these things start to happen, we'll start to accept the concept that hey - maybe we really DO only need one social network ,which will bring us to 2011 - the year of the consolidation. "I for one, welcome our new Robot Overlords" - paraphrasing Kent Brockman, The Simpsons.

Brian Sibley, Sibley PR - @bsibley

In 2010, companies will have learned from mistakes made by Domino's Pizza and others in 2009. We'll see more large companies building communities in good times, so that they will be able to effectively communicate (both in terms of speed and interactivity) in times of crisis. Domino's experience taught us that when it comes to social media, you can't just switch it on, like you can a traditional marketing tool. You have to invest the time to build a strong following in order to be able to use it as an arrow in your crisis communications quiver when the time comes.

Next: Brian Solis , IdaRose Sylvester, Zena Weist -->

Brian Solis, FutureWorks - @briansolis

2010 will be the year that we save us from ourselves in social media...we will stop drinking from the proverbial fire hose and we will lean on filtering and curation to productively guide our experiences and production and consumption behavior and interaction within each network. 2010 will also be the year that leaders and pioneers stop referring to social media as a distinct category of media as they/we usher in an era of new collective and machine intelligence that improves collaboration and interaction - freeing us to focus on the engagement that engenders long term relationships.

IdaRose Sylvester, SiliconValleyLink - @idarose

2010 is the year of the AhHa for social media. Social media services will become mainstream for the average consumer, as people discover the benefits of communicating and discovery on social media platforms, and begin to worry less about privacy and online voice. By the end of the year, social media will be accepted by so many that it will, longer a discussion topic in of itself, but will be seamlessly integrated into every day communications, much like the cell phone did 5 years ago. The wild card for 2010 is enterprise adoption of social media. While most companies will remain cautious about employees using social media on the job, some will start to understand the benefits as they see successful collaboration among employees, and with partners.

Zena Weist, Digital Practitioner & Integrated Media Strategist - @zenaweist

I think that companies are just now starting to embrace social media strategies as an integral part of their integrated marketing and communications plan. I believe that people are beginning to understand that social media is a shift media. What I mean by the term "shift" is how very fluid and flexible the social environment is. Each social media tool makes it extremely easy for the user to flow or "shift" back and forth from audience to author; from broadcaster to conversationalist; from teacher to student; and from giver to receiver. With social media, the community lifts each other up through this very fluid form of communicating, sharing and re-purposing the content. In 2010, we will continue to see the trend of moving away from crowd sourcing toward community sourcing with social media tools.

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