We begin our predictions for 2012 with – more social unrest.
The reason is simple, there is as much to be upset about as in 2011 (and perhaps even more), and digital tech will be even more pervasive. A correlated trend will be attempts by governments and copyrights holders to limit how and who can publish information.
Digital identity and the return of status
The more important the internet becomes to ordinary people in their daily lives, the more pressure will be put on people to use identifiable online identities. Expect more comment apps, forums and other authorisation systems to use Facebook, Twitter or Google sign-ins to combat anti-social and undesirable behaviour.
Status gets status
The web as originally conceived was supposed to be peer to peer and egalitarian. No wonder there's been a backlash against influence measuring systems like Klout of late. Unfortunately they won't go away. We'll see the social stratifying of online users and the importance of status gathering pace in the coming year.
Clash of the Gatekeepers
There's a huge battle going on for the entry point to digital content. Google has been pushing for its Chrome Browser to become an operating system for several years; for apps and more to run inside it. It's been a hard slog, and take up is good, if not stellar. Apple is turning the desktop into a native app environment, similar to the one we have learned to love on mobile. This has lead people like Forresters to say that the web is indeed dead. Hedging their bets, Google has launched services like Google Currents, that allow publishers to easily get onto Tablets and Smartphones via a Google interface. Similarly Facebook's new Open Graph Social News apps will allow publishers another way into users' worlds. The Guardian already claims that it has been a huge success for them.
Better UX and usability
The former trend will be driven to a great extent by a simpler and more intuitive user experience. Services like Jux is just one example. The question however, is if this better experience will come at a loss of freedom to access the weird and wonderful information that the open web provided.
Journalists and creatives in vogue
The past year saw many companies dip their toes into social and content marketing. They found it surprisingly hard. We predict a trend this year where companies, instead of hiring marketing grads, will look for journalist students and film makers. Luckily for companies these will be in abundance as more traditional media outlets close.
Predictions for platforms
Last year we predicted that Facebook could reach as many as 800 million users, which they did. This year we predict they will slow down and even slightly decline in developed markets, but Brazil and India and the growth of smartphones could see them reach 950 million by year end.
Last year we guessed that Twitter could reach 400 million registered users. In September Twitter claimed it had 380,000 million. We think we guessed that about right. What about 2012 then? With Twitter continuing to simplify its techie UX, we think it can reach 600 million registered accounts quite easily, but what really matters is active user count. This year it was 100 million. We think by the end 2012 it will have 200 million active users.
Last year, we thought that Foursquare, with a few clever tweaks, could reach 50 million registered users by the end of this year. We were wrong. The last time they reported numbers (this past summer), they only had 14 million, that's only 4 million up from the beginning of the year. Nobody knows what number they ended the year with, but we'd be surprised if it was 18 million. That's just not good enough. We think Foursquare will get bought for its infrastructure – for example: Instagram's locations run on top of it.
Instagram came from nowhere and ended the year on 14 million users. We're going to stick our necks out and say that with the launch of the long awaited Android version and continued stellar growth of smartphones and tablets it could accelerate to as much as 80 million registered users by the end of 2012.
And what about Google Plus? Stats for the service is hard to come by, but if Google releases good enough API's and leverage existing services like YouTube well, they can grow their registrations dramatically. They could even exceed 100 million registrations by year end.
Its ads Jim but not as we know it
When brands realise social media is difficult to do well, many of them will turn to more familiar ground – ads. But not display of banner ads, they will buy ads on social platforms. Expect a lot more advertising on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter this year.
Creative of the Year: Intel Museum of Me
We've featured so many brilliant creative projects this year, but the Intel Museum of Me was on a level of its own. Its social integration is so complete, that they manage to cross the gap from intellectual amazement to raw emotional bliss. This is truly inspiring.
On that note, this is us for the year. Have yourselves a lovely holiday, and we look forward to bringing you the best of social in 2012! Thanks for reading!
Posted by Gerrie Smits