The end of 2008 is upon us, and that means pundits of all stripes are busy trying to boil it all down. I’ve been reading the lists of social media predictions from the likes of Charlene Li and those compiled by Peter Kim (nothing from Jeremiah Owyang yet).
I’m dubious about Li’s contention that defriending will become the hot new trend, driven by a desire for quality over quantity. There’s a lot of debate about whether social media has hit it’s “tipping point,” (and I’m not even sure there’s a consensus around what a “tipping point” means with respect to social media), but I think it’s still very much on the uptick. I think there will be a surprising surge of new Facebook and Twitter users in 2009. Maybe people like Li and me will start to “filter” our experience of social media – by defriending people, etc. – but my mom and my nieces are just jumping on the train.
I like her prediction that Facebook will debut a SocialRank algorithm (although they might have trouble with these guys if they don’t rethink the name). I would be interested in her thoughts about how they might monetize it. Facebook will need to make money at some point, if not next year. I know Li is big on the idea of a web where most of your searches are influenced by (if not fully powered by) your network, and it’s easy to imagine retailers, advertisers, etc. wanting to draw on this power to increase clicks and conversions. In any case, a Facebook SocialRank seems like a natural follow-on to Facebook Connect.
Facebook could also make this kind of data available to marketers trying to identify influencers or measure buzz around their brands and products. Marketers are starving for this, and Facebook has been playing hard to get. Which brings me to a prediction of my own…
I think social media measurement tools will become more commoditized. I think we’ll start to see more free tools (like FeedVis) for teasing themes out of the noise, plus more tools for measuring sentiment, buzz, etc.. There are lots of specialized tools for analyzing Twitter, and a few thin utilities for looking at search volume, but I think these will multiply like crazy in 2009. I would personally love to see a data visualization service like Swivel or ManyEyes add support for live data feeds (not just static data that you upload). Finally, I think we’ll start to see more social media measurement capabilities within Google Analytics, which will threaten all the paid services that have been springing up lately.
Finally, I was surprised to see how many predictions were about how companies will leverage social media in 2009 and not really about how people will use social media. That’s Li and Kim speaking to their audience I suppose, but I would like to have heard more from these bright folks about how social media itself will evolve.
I, for one, think social media will become much more portable next year, with new iPhone apps proliferating and with Android hitting its stride. But mobile devices will not simply make social media more portable, it will add dimension to social services in the form of location-awareness and enhanced presence. As Facebook starts to play nicer with its technology – allowing services to interact from outside, through channels like Facebook Connect – I can’t wait to see what mobility will add to the experience.
I’ll have to think about that some more for a future post.