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Where is social media headed for 2012?

Six weeks later, the glitter from the New Year’s parties has settled and we are officially into 2012. So, what direction is social media going to take this year? With the buzz generated from Facebook’s recent announcement of an IPO that is set to come in May, one popular prediction of the social networking site’s continued dominance is already on trend. In no specific order, here is a compilation of some of the other top social media trends that are expected to come this year:

10. Businesses using social media to communicate rather than advertise

A trend that was certainly around in 2011 is picking up steam this year. More and more businesses are getting used to the idea that social media can be used to communicate with their customers, and not just be used as a form of advertising. The emphasis is on “real time thinking” with many companies creating social media to understand and respond to customer’s needs (like a complaint line) instantly.

9. TV heading online

Companies are looking for more viewer-integrated advertising tactics. Since TV is still a money-maker (think: the Super Bowl) and social media is the way of the future, TV networks are combining the two. Case in point, the Super Bowl was live-streamed online for the first time this year and one of its most prominent commercials for Doritos centered around a contest with several user-created ads vying for a coveted slice of Super Bowl commercial airtime.

8. CEO’s adopting social media

With companies determined to figure out how social media adds true value to their companies in 2012, more and more CEO’s are adopting social media as a way to establish their brands and the people behind them to the public, and as a way of becoming more familiar with their target markets.

7. Brand engagement in lower GDP countries

Social media branding is currently being adopted the fastest in China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Brazil, and for good reason. While many consumers in these countries may not be able to afford the luxury or mid-market brands they see in stores, they can definitely aspire to one day own that pair of Adidas sneakers or bottle of Givenchy cologne. Companies in these countries are using social media branding to give consumers the feeling that their brands are within reach.

6. Social gaming for kids

While most social media networks have a minimum age requirement which leave kids out of the picture, social gaming has become increasingly popular with the child and pre-teen crowd. The tech-savvy kids want quick loading games that offer a large amount of virtual goods that they can buy and sell with friends. Farmville, one of Facebook’s most popular games and biggest money-makers, comes to mind.

5. Quality over quantity

When it comes to social media, companies are going to focus in 2012. Instead of spreading themselves too thin and following the “be everywhere” approach, they are looking to “be where it matters” instead. People have gotten used to social media advertising, so companies need to brainstorm new innovative ways to engage and advertise on select channels that appeal to their specific market.

4. Video video video. And photo.

There will be a greater emphasis on video and photo integration into blogs, Tweets and posts. So there is an evident need for video content analysis and image recognition software for better brand insights Tablets have changed the game when it comes to blogging, as the text must integrate visuals to appeal to the tablet user. Popular photo apps such as Instagram have also revived the trend for photo galleries, which many users feel are a better way to learn more about companies online.

3. Social learning

Businesses of all sizes are incorporating social learning into their online presence. The emphasis is on sharing and discovering between the company and the user, and can include how-to videos, photo galleries and instant-feedback through social media channels.

2. Social searching

Search engines like Google and Bing are currently playing with their algorithms to make searching more social in 2012. This means generating search results that are specific to the user, based on things like their location and social media connections.

1. Social Commerce

Most consumers have gotten pretty comfortable with shopping online through well-known e-retailers like Amazon and Ebay. As shopping is traditionally a social activity, the predicted trend is for social media companies to integrate e-commerce into their websites. Consumers can get instant feedback on their shopping selections through the opinions of their friends and family on their social networks.

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