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December 14, 2009
Six Social Media Predictions for 2010

Here are my social media predictions for 2010.

1. The Social Media Career Landscape Will Continue to Evolve

Given that many visitors to Talent Zoo are here either to find a new job/career, or keep up-to-date on the latest trends, I thought I would share my thoughts on how social media is affecting the job market and the search for jobs and talent. In 2009 we saw a couple of interesting surveys by respected organizations indicating that recruiters are increasingly using or planning to use social media to find and investigate talent. They search social network profiles on Facebook, Twitter, etc.; read blog content; and generally look at every available piece of candidate information found online. (Social media search is a great way for companies to find information on candidates that they could not legally request directly from the candidate, but which is out on the Web for the taking.)

This represents the collision of the free-wheeling world of social media (Facebook pokes and pictures of Spring break for example) and the more traditional realm of corporate HR, where hiring managers have specifically said they don’t like candidates with too much sex, drugs and rock and roll in their profiles. (They also don’t like emoticons, abbreviations, LOLs, and all of the informality of Web 2.0) This means candidates who want to win in an already tough market will have to clean up their online acts to make the cut, particularly at larger corporations.

This is also going to present some legal and ethical quandaries. One company required candidates to post video “applications” for a social media job. While this sounds like a great idea, it has the potential for abuse in areas like age and racial discrimination. Employers are not allowed to ask about age, race, marital status, etc., but a video discloses most of these characteristics. I haven’t heard of any legislation or pending litigation in this area, but it will come.

Another trend to watch is the increased emphasis on social media skills, like the ability to post to Twitter or upload a video to YouTube, in a wide range of marketing, public relations, advertising and communications jobs. Many companies are finding they don’t need social media specialists, and are relying on generalists to perform social media tasks.

2. An Enterprise Social Business Platform Will Emerge
Large software providers like IBM, SAP and Oracle will launch, or announce, the first enterprise-grade social networking and Web 2.0 collaboration platforms that will gain broad momentum and recognition in the marketplace.

Certainly all of these companies are active in the Web 2.0 space. Oracle has Beehive, Microsoft has added social capabilities to SharePoint, SocialText is in the enterprise, as is IBM’s Lotus Connections, but no company has really figured this out. Many enterprises are launching blogs on TypePad or WordPress and building social networks and communities on third-party software or developing it from the ground up using Ruby-on-Rails.

The approach here needs to change. What’s called for is not a single application, but a social platform, a technology foundation with all of the social features and capabilities users demand in the outside world, but designed for the enterprise – like the ability to install the platform behind the firewall for enterprise-grade security; and integration with existing enterprise databases, applications and directories. Large companies aren’t ready to stop using Salesforce or Siebel, so any company that’s going to win in this space will need to play nice with these and other current enterprise software leaders.

3. Social Search Will Shake Out, and the Search Metaphor Will Change
We’re nearing the end of the dominance of Google Search. This is not to say Google is in immediate trouble, or some other search engine will soon take its place, but traditional search is becoming irrelevant, and other kinds of search will begin to challenge Google. Even Google, a Web 1.5 company at best, recognizes this, and launched its Social Search experiment. Technorati, an early leader in social (media) search, could have owned the space, and maybe they did for a while, but not anymore.

Microsoft’s Bing was the surprise hit of 2009, and has started to erode Google’s share of search. Bing has some social features, but expect some big news in social search in 2010. Facebook and Twitter both offer “interesting” ideas in social search, and both are sitting on top of mountains of social data, but both have taken an incidental approach to social search.

The whole metaphor for search will change. Search won’t be a separate function. Instead of going to a site like google.com or bing.com, users will receive meaningful, personally relevant search results within the context of whatever they are currently doing. If you’re writing a term paper, you’ll be presented with links and summaries that point to information directly related to the topic and content of your paper. If you are browsing items on eBay, you’ll see list prices superimposed, Craig’s List listings for the same and similar items, and maybe user reviews. You won’t type into a search box. Search results will come to you based on your needs (and when and where will be controlled by you). This isn’t 2010 stuff, but things have to move in that direction.

The conventional Web 1.0 search engine is irrelevant, and merely adding social features to these outmoded services does not make them the next generation tools people will expect.

4. Augmented Reality Applications Will Start to Go Mainstream
Augmented Reality (AR) is the hot tech buzzword applied to applications that superimpose computer-generated information, like instructions and labels, over real world data, such as live video from an iPhone or Droid. Most AR applications in 2009 were quaint curiosities designed to demonstrate the AR concept. It took a lot of hacking and ingenuity to make these a reality since most consumer platforms lagged (but not by much) in features (think video finally coming to the iPhone) required for AR.

A few AR applications have been rolled out by progressive marketers and other organizations this year, but 2010 will be the year AR explodes. Expect to see applications from major corporations, municipalities, and institutions of higher learning. Some of the most interesting applications will be outside of marketing and promotion. These might include realtime campus maps and guided tours; theme park guides; capital equipment location and inventory; and even applications in which the operator makes computer-based notes on top of realtime images, which would be useful for things like home inspection and insurance claims estimating.

Geekspeak marketing and lack of public awareness will hold AR back. Verizon was featuring AR capability (by name) in its Droid spots, and one can only assume this was to attract early adopters and gearheads, since most consumers have no idea what AR is or what it can do.

5. Location-Based Applications Will Dissolve Into General Social Networks
Location-based applications like
Foursquare and Brightkite will not be the darlings of social media as some predict, but will instead turn into features and dissolve into general social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Twitter recently rolled out its Geotagging capability on a limited basis. Features and capabilities help grow a network’s user base in infancy; huge subscriber numbers grow it to adulthood. Services that are specifically location based will not experience the kinds of growth achieved by general purpose social networks. Additionally, other than location information, specialized location-based services have little to differentiate themselves from mainstream social networks. These companies could end up being acquired.

6. More Social Media Regulation Will Follow the FTC’s October Endorsement Guides
Most social media professionals were surprised when the FTC announced its updated Endorsement Guides earlier this year, which described in great detail new requirements for bloggers and celebrities to disclose their relationships with sponsors, including arrangements whereby companies provide bloggers with products and services for review. Uncertainty about the legitimacy of these arrangements led to the term “blogola,” based on the 1950s record industry “payola” scandal.

The Web 2.0 marketing industry has proposed numerous codes of ethics, such as that of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, but ethical lapses continue to occur and the only answer is regulation. The EU Unfair Business Practices Directive technically banned astroturfing (the practice of company or paid third-party representatives posing as consumers and leaving positive comments on a blog or forum) some time ago.

In the past, print journalists have generally been fastidious about not having these kinds of relationships with the manufacturers of products they review, and have returned products after they have been reviewed. Those that haven’t have been harshly criticized, and there is no reason to expect bloggers to be held to a lesser standard.

I have always held that new media doesn’t require new ethics, but in the relentless quest to grow revenue and acquire customers, some still have ethical compasses unable to find magnetic north. As more and more non-social media savvy consumers come into contact with Web 2.0 marketing, there will be problems in areas of disclosure, privacy and fair competitive practice. Expect the proposal and enactment of new regulations in 2010.

If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to add me on Facebook and Twitter. I invite you to share your reactions to these, and add your own, in a comment below. Thanks!



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Joel Postman is the principal of Socialized, a consultancy that helps companies make effective use of social media in corporate communications, marketing and public relations. He's the author of SocialCorp: Social Media Goes Corporate, a handbook designed to help corporate communicators and executives understand how to successfully adopt social business strategies in large companies. Prior to founding Socialized, he was EVP of Emerging Media at Eastwick Communications a Silicon Valley public relations firm, and before that, he has a decade of Fortune 500 corporate communications experience, including leadership roles in executive and internal communications at Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems.

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