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Social Networking in 2012

Last week I went over the predictions I made for 2011 to review what I got right and what I got wrong.  In yet another triumph of hope over experience, this week I’ll boldly give you my predictions on what’s to come in social networking in 2012.

Migration to Mobile:  Everyone and their uncle will be offering tablets next year: Apple will update the iPad (and maybe even offer a 7” version to compete with the Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet and dozens other similar models).  Google will likely jump into the tablet market (you didn’t think they bought the mobile division of Motorola just to make phones, did you?) and Amazon is likely to expand the Kindle line to include a 10” color tablet to compete more directly with the Apple iPad(s).  Certainly the “killer apps” for these tablets will include social networking: Twitter, Facebook, Groupon, etc.  In 2012, consumer social networks will find that their traffic from mobile devices, both tablets and phones, will surpass their traffic from all other devices.

Facebook: Facebook will go public in 2012, probably in the late-Winter, early-Spring timeframe.  That’s a given considering their investment history.  What isn’t a given is what they’ll be doing with all the money they’ll presumably rake in with their IPO.  My prediction: they’ll use a lot of that money to solidify Facebook as a platform, and likely acquire (or build) functionality to compete with some of their current partners (like Zynga).  Offering games and movies through Facebook is a lucrative prospect, and probably one Facebook would like to own outright.  And the most likely end game for this strategy: a Facebook App Store, coming to your computer in 2012. Perhaps even a Facebook phone and tablet.

Google +:  The fastest growing social network of all time will finally get some traction in 2012 as people defect from Facebook and Twitter.  Not necessarily because Google + will have the superior platform, but because advertisers will be increasingly driving traffic to Google + to integrate with the analytics they already collect.  The ability of Google to sell targeted advertising based on what they know about the consumer from searches and from their social network interactions will be too valuable to knowledgeable marketing organizations to pass up.  By actively driving traffic to Google +, they’ll be making their own marketing efforts that much more effective.

Apple:  In addition to new iPads and new iPhones next year, Apple will jump into the television business.  Not with Apple TV, but with actual television sets. Leveraging Apple’s Siri interface, you’ll be able to speak to your TV and it will learn what you like to watch and serve it up to you when you want to watch it.  And what we’ll likely learn from it is that we’ll have thousands of things we can watch at any given time, but there still won’t be anything interesting on.

The election: There will be a big election in the United States in November. All politicians running for office will have a *huge* presence in social networking, all hoping to capture your attention and get your vote (or more accurately, convince you that the other guy is awful and that you would have to be a complete moron to vote for him/her—and the funny thing is, most of the time they will be right about that).  The cacophony of voices that are fed up with the political system will also take to the social netways in the US as they did last year in the so-called “Arab Spring” (boy, I wish I had predicted *that* in last years’ blog).  Whether that makes any difference or not in the United States remains to be seen.  My prediction: look for a summer of unrest unlike anything you’ve seen since the civil rights movements in the 1960’s…all enabled, fed and amplified by social networks.

The decline and death of “social” as a prefix: I’ll have to change the title of the predictions blog next year to something else, because the hype cycle around all the terms prefixed with the word “social” has run its course.  Terms like “social networking,” “social media,” “social gaming,” “social buying,” and so on are now officially redundant and will be replaced by other terms in 2012.  Organizations will stop thinking about “social” as a special aspect of their business strategy and realize that, just like the internet and telephony, the collaborative elements collectively referred to as “social” are just another aspect of doing business in a connected world.  And they’ll begin to realize that having a Facebook page or a Twitter account (or even an internal or external private-label “social network”) is in and of itself of limited value.  What they’ll come to realize is that they need to leverage their human networks in ways that are unique to their organizations in order to maximize the value created. Just what we’ll eventually come to call this evolution of “social” is anyone’s guess at this point.

And my final prediction for 2012: By late next year we’ll all be so sick of hearing about the Mayan calendar and the end of the world in December that we’ll all secretly be hoping that it actually happens sooner just to get people to shut up about it.  And what do I think of the Mayan Calendar end-of-the-world hype?  Y2k was a much more realistic doomsday scenario, and we all know how that turned out.  I guess you’ll have to tune in this time next year to find out if I was right.

Have a safe and happy holidays and I’ll see all of you in a couple of weeks.

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