Just when you thought you had Twitter down, a basic understanding of LinkedIn and you finally know how to upload a video to YouTube, I present my take on social trends that are on the horizon next year. From plug-ins to location-based marketing initiatives to the move to higher bandwidth, there's change afoot in the world of social media.
I've compiled these 10 trends from my own observations, the opinions of my fan base online and other experts. Consider this a starting point for what to incorporate in your own social-media strategies in the New Year.
1. Location-Based Marketing: Location services will grow in popularity as people get more comfortable checking in to a business. This will be the result of enhanced safety features -- such as privacy options that block your location from public view -- and more enticing brand offers.
It's time to acquaint yourself with sites and applications such as Foursquare, Facebook Places and Gowalla. These sites will help you better target prospects' likes and interests, pique interest and influence purchase decisions by offering discounts, promotions or giveaways when they “check in” to your business.
2. Video Platforms: YouTube might be one of the largest user-generated video-sharing sites on the Internet today, but other platforms will begin to surface that are more business-focused, easier to market videos on and not as crowded. Sites like Viddler, Vimeo and Dailymotion will gain momentum with a stronger focus on live streaming on sites such as interactive broadcast platform Ustream, or streaming straight from blogs.
3. Text Campaigns: As the mobile arena grows, small businesses will continue to move marketing campaigns to mobile phones.
MessageBuzz and Enowit offer tiered levels of service and free demo accounts that allow you to test a mobile-marketing campaign. Start by incorporating a mobile widget onto your site to help collect mobile numbers through an automated system and create campaigns specific to area codes or regions.
4. For Cause Tweet-a-thons: A Tweet-a-thon is a fundraising campaign on Twitter for which users encourage their followers to tweet about and donate to a particular charitable cause over a specific period of time. These initiatives will gain in popularity as savvy entrepreneurs capitalize on the relationship-building advantages of social media and the good publicity that comes with giving back.
I recommend you choose a cause for 2011 and keep your campaign simple. An excellent book with how-to information and ideas on how to tweet successfully is Unmarketing: Stop Marketing, Start Engaging by Scott Stratten, president of the marketing firm Unmarketing.
5. The Move to Higher Bandwidth (4G): Say goodbye to 3G. The use of higher bandwidth will not only be a necessity but a demand from busy consumers.
Widely becoming recognized with carriers such as Sprint and soon to be Verizon, 4G speed allows marketers to get the message out faster with quicker download times. Jump on this bandwidth wagon early and incorporate it into your 2011 marketing plan.
6. Wordpress-Based Websites: Open source publishing application Wordpress will become the platform of choice. Why? It makes it easier for websites to implement search-engine optimization at little to no cost with plug-ins, which add specific capabilities to software applications.
To stay competitive, I recommend that you consider moving your website to a Wordpress platform. These sites are user-friendly and do not require knowledge of HTML code.
7. Plug-ins: The use of plug-ins will proliferate, with thousands of new options surfacing monthly.
An increasingly popular plug-in is Scribe which monitors and scores your keywords and updates to your site automatically to increase results with your search-engine optimization.
8. Review Sites: Websites dedicated to customer reviews will dominate the social media landscape. Consumers want to be heard, and more importantly they want answers. Sites such as Groubal.com, will achieve this by consolidating common user-submitted complaints and presenting those petitions to businesses, demanding answers for their wrongdoings. Consumers are even creating blogs specifically about teaching people how to complain effectively.
This is another reason to monitor conversations about your products and services online. Moving into 2011, make sure you have a plan for how to respond to positive and negative reviews. Remember to respond immediately. Reviews will start to spread like wildfire with these sites.
9. Monitoring Conversations: Show your customers you're listening and responding. Make it a New Year's resolution to set up online monitors for your company.
You can choose social-media dashboards or keyword-alert services. There are paid dashboards such as Radian6 and ObjectiveMarketer as well as free service sites Hootsuite and Tweetdeck. These dashboards not only allow you to monitor but participate in live conversations.
If you haven’t set up Google monitors yet, they're free. Go to www.google.com/alerts.
10. Presentation Platforms: As teleseminars become overused and tired, interactive web seminar platforms will step in to fill that market need.
New presentation platforms such as SlideRocket.com and Prezi.com are incorporating easy-to-build presentation tools with social media, live feeds and video. People online want to see the presenter, not just listen over a bridge line.
Choose your presentation platform for 2011 and make sure that it not only streams well but also allows for immediate interaction and cutting-edge presentation tools.