2012 Social Media Predictions

1.Where does the future of social networking lie? Google+, or Facebook?

Google+ is no longer new but compared to Facebook it’s still in its infancy. The initial joining rates amazed everyone when Google+ first launched, but it still doesn’t seem to have impacted Facebook in any meaningful way. However, Google is not giving up without a fight. Circles are a fantastic concept. They are at the very core of Google+, and address one of the biggest problems with Facebook: allowing you to control who sees what. Not everyone wants to see pictures of you and your friends, so new features such as Volume Control essentially let you turn the volume up or down on your various streams to customise what you get to see. This makes it easy to modify your stream; if your family and friends are getting too noisy, you can just turn them down. Such great new features keep rolling off the Google+ production line, making it better all the time. So where does the future of social networking lie? Google+ or Facebook?

2.  Has Twitter scuppered its future?

It’s been a great year for Twitter, it having grown to over 160 million monthly unique users worldwide along with producing a bumper collection of end of year updates that radically altered our Twitter experience. Homepages were suddenly changed, Tweet Deck is new and brands now have a home. However, Twitter amazed and outraged developers by warning them that it will severely curtail their ability to build apps that use its output.

Many feel that Facebook is revolutionising the web by allowing third-party app development while Twitter only allows you to read, write, watch and share content – everything you could already do with online content ten years ago. However, now there’s more of it and more of us. Twitter is therefore in danger of just becoming another social search engine unless 2012 is the year it allows the development of third-party party apps.

3. Quora – the next big thing or just for geeks?

Quora has been called social media’s version of Yahoo Answers. Launched in 2009, it is growing in popularity with entrepreneurs, journalists and others who want to share their expertise while marketing themselves. Users have their own profile pages, which they can also link with Facebook, that include all the questions they have answered. As with Twitter, Quora members can follow other members and vice versa.

The key to success with Quora is to answer questions in which you have expertise and to illustrate your knowledge rather than outright promoting your business. It is important, of course, to mention your business name and experience in your profile.  However, Quora growth has not been as strong as predicted, so have the masses had a look at it, decided they didn’t want it and left it to the more techie audience?

Weibo (Sina Microblogging) has experienced the highest growth rate at 181 per cent, while Tumblr has seen a 172 per cent increase. European-based Badoo also posted strong gains of 64 per cent. If these fast-growing sites are any indication, microblogging could emerge as a pivotal force shaping the future of social networking behaviour.

4. 2012 is the year of the Mobile (again!)

Playing games on our mobile phones is nothing new, but for the first time this year’s GDU agenda included a dedicated Smartphone Summit. The summit was designed to explore the future of gaming on platforms such as the iPhone and iPad, Android OS phones and tablets as well as BlackBerry devices. Classic massively multiplayer online games can be very resource intensive, so it’s unlikely that they could work on a handheld device. Despite this, the mobile gaming market is exploding with games like Pocket Legends, World of Magic and Empire Online proving that gaming on a three inch screen is completely possible.

5. The future is mobile again (part 2!)

With extremely fast mobile growth in markets such as India and China, the global mobile phone penetration is expected to be around 4.5 billion people in 2012. As such, it’s not surprising that Facebook is planning to jump into mobile advertising by the end of March 2012 in an attempt to create a fresh revenue stream ahead of a possible initial public offering.

Of its 800 million users, 350 million of them access Facebook through a mobile device, while in the US and Asia users are estimated to notch up 25 daily visits to Facebook by 2012. Facebook’s main advantage over its competitors is that it can gather so much information about a person’s life that it can target customers much more directly than Google.

Among smartphone users in the US the use of social networking is even more pronounced, with nearly 40 per cent of smartphone users reportedly accessing a social networking site every day. 22 per cent of total smartphone users also reported using location-based check-in services such as Foursquare and Facebook Places, this compared to only ten per cent of all mobile users in the US.

The prevalence of these behaviours on smartphones can be attributed to the influence of smartphone apps, as social networks have invested in the development of mobile apps to provide a better user experience and extend the reach of their brands. A greater percentage of US smartphone owners reported using apps to access social networking sites compared to browsers (40 per cent vs. 37 per cent).

The growth in mobile social networking use can be attributed largely to the growth in popularity of smartphones. Smartphones are also becoming more popular as a medium for accessing social networks, with three in five American smartphone users accessing social media sites.