Social media strategists are dusting off their crystal balls to make their predictions for 2010. Recently, I took mine out at the FrogPond in an attempt to see the future and, lo and behold, my crystal ball had miraculously transformed into a Magic 8 Ball. I shook it and asked if some of my predictions for 2010 would come true, but the plastic thingy read, "Cannot predict now." At first, I thought it was busted, but then I realized my 8 ball was quite savvy. Technology changes so quickly in this space, it just couldn't keep up.
Despite this, I pushed on and below you will find my top 5 social media implications for brands. Remember, these are the ones that were more likely to get a reading from the 8 ball of "It is decidedly so" than "My sources say no."
1. Social media marketing will finally transition from "nice to have" to "must have": Brands that haven't embraced the medium will understand that social media marketing is not about slapping a brand page on Facebook and hoping for the best. Efforts will start with a sound strategy, a commitment to participate, and a willingness to listen and respond. This may seem obvious, but there are brands that still aren't fully engaged. As more brands like Ford and Pepsi hire heads of social media to lead the charge, 2010 will be the year that brands realize that social media is no longer a novelty; it's serious business.
2. Location-based social networking is here to stay: More consumers will use smartphone applications to tell their friends where they are and who they are with (i.e., Four Square & Loopt). 2010 will be the year for brands to figure out how to market to them. Local bars/restaurants have been the main advertisers. However, opportunities shouldn't be limited to food. For example, luxury retailers could target consumers checking in at upscale restaurants and invite them to sample sales or give discounts.
3. Experimental social media budgets are key: How can you predict what's going to be the Twitter topic of 2010? You can't. But that doesn't mean you don't have the opportunity to be a pioneer. Creating an emerging media budget will give your brand the flexibility to participate in communities and embrace technological platforms before your competitors do.
4. The division between the virtual world and the physical world will continue to blur: Digital technology enables consumers to understand the world around them as well as others. These advancements are accelerated by smartphone usage. You'll see more companies using simulations and augmented reality to provide users branded text overlays and 3-D virtual demos on their phone viewfinder.
5. Crowd sourcing will turn social media into a direct sales channel: Social media is typically thought of as a vehicle for branding and relationship marketing, but there are direct sales opportunities. For example, Best Buy celebrated opening day for the movie New Moon by asking its Facebook fans what their favorite vampire-themed films and books were. They put 50 of those items on sale on BestBuy.com. Many fans thanked Best Buy for listening to them and readily purchased the products.
The most important thing for brands to remember is that we should spend less of our efforts trying to predict "what's next for 2010" and focus on adapting quickly to changes in consumer behavior and technology. The one certainty is that social marketing strategies will have to evolve with whatever comes our way next year.
Sienna Farris is director of social media at StrawberryFrog. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org