10 Social Trends to Watch

Social media has irreversibly changed the communications landscape over the past several years. My company, Vitrue, turns five this week, and I’ve been thinking about the next five years and how social will continue to impact our relationships, especially between consumers and brands. Here are 10 trends I believe will be key for social media marketers in 2011 and beyond.
1. Social Spending: Social media marketers will triple their social spends — both in earned and paid social media — over the next few years. Social use will only grow and so will the dollars and resources brands earmark for it. Consider today’s millennial demographic. They are a Facebook generation. Social media will remain a key communications tool as they age, get married, have kids, and live their lives. Social is mainstream — and so will be the marketing efforts towards it.
2. Mobile: Mobile will be vital as the main means of communication for the social world. The proliferation of smart-mobile devices  will drive this trend. Marketers must have the sophistication and platforms to manage and deliver.
3. Local: Marketers need to deliver hyper-targeted, localized content at the right time in the right format for maximum effectiveness. That can be coupons, information and specials. This will be increasingly important with the rise of mobile. Brands should know where their consumers are and how and when to deliver content of value to them.
4. Social Segmentation: Brands need the marketing sophistication to segment their audiences to deliver relevant content by a consumer’s likes, interests, location, history and even the interests of their social circles. Again, much more targeting and segmentation to audiences will be applied. After all, it’s marketing 101: Know your audience, what they want and how and when to deliver. Not all of McDonald’s 7.6 million fans like the same thing, right?
5. Metrics: Marketers will begin to truly discover and measure ROI through intelligent metrics, monitoring, data and analysis. They will apply metrics to understand their social efforts and be able to analyze, respond and change.
6. Gaming: Brands’ social marketing efforts will rely heavily on game mechanics. Brands should and will be able to leverage gaming tactics in their social marketing efforts.
7. Social Commerce: Tech that lets consumers receive information on potential purchases from their social networks will have a profound effect on retail. Near Field Communication and other mobile-commerce technologies are quickly making this a reality. Brands, where appropriate, must integrate.
8. Consolidation: The social media space, particularly software, continues to get hot. Wittness Salesforce.com buying social monitor Radian6. With social’s importance rising, look for smart, forward-thinking companies — think midsize players all the way to the big boys like IBM and Microsoft — to continue to buy up technologies. Funding investments will rise, too.
9. Network Differentiation: Not all social networks are the same, and all are interacted with in very different manners. Marketers will become much more strategic about how, what and when they deliver in each channel channel, whether it be Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, even country-specific social networks or even niche-oriented sites.
10. Social Ads: Social advertising is still in its infancy. You’ve already seen Twitter and Facebook’s “sponsored” ad plays. Most recently both have announced targeted initiatives, first with Facbook’s real-time ads and now with Twitter’s geo-targeting of ads. Rest assured, they can’t and won’t become overtly forced advertisements. The content and information delivered must still be of value and interest to the users. Social media is an incredible communications tool. But it’s not a one-way, old-school advertising avenue. It’s all about two-way conversation, engagement and a customer-brand relationship.
I’m certain other yet-to-be seen trends and technologies will arise.But for now here is how I see them. Let me know your thoughts.
Reggie Bradford is CEO of Vitrue, a provider of social media management software.

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