It's a new year, which means it's time to raise a virtual glass within your social network and toast your collective social graphs for a great 2009. Here are seven things to look for this year.
1. Social Media Continues its Rapid Growth
Social media will be propelled by the ease in which phones and netbooks are able to access them. Mobile devices will be the primary way people access these networks and tools.
People ages 35 to 50 will further adopt social media. These users activity levels will be less than those under 35 years old; primarily using social media to stay connected with those that they know or to reconnect with friends from the past rather than using the tools to meet new people. One exception will be growing their business network in sites like LinkedIn (see prediction 2).
The social media activity level of Baby Boomers is analogous to how senior citizens today utilize e-mail. Whereas Generation X all have an e-mail account and access it daily, these older users aren't all on e-mail and those who are access it only a few times per week.
2. Business Networks Surge as Economic Crisis Continues
Job seekers will look for every edge and contact available, and online business networks will be their primary resource. Integration points between sites like Facebook and LinkedIn will continue to be enhanced to make transitions for the user as seamless as possible.
This will help bring us closer to an interconnected Web rather than one that has been historically comprised of walled gardens and ghettos. This openness can already be seen on the music industry side with Apple recently announcing that all of their iTunes will be DRM-free.
3. Many Free Services Will Become Defunct
Sites and companies will learn it's difficult to make a profit, especially as banner revenue declines, and it will take some transition to figure out a better ad revenue model for the Web than banners. Don't be surprised if the leveraging of the social graph (i.e., online representation of our relationships) becomes the world's largest referral program.
4. More Traditional Broadcast Television Moves Online
Just as we've seen many people live without a landline telephone -- using only a cell phone -- we'll see households stop paying for cable and view what the Web has to offer via their Internet connection and hook up their computers to their high definition televisions. Keep in mind that YouTube already supports HD and the Democratic National Convention was in HD online.
5. Social Media Changes Offline Behavior
The openness of social media can often have drastic consequences in relation to jobs, relationships, etc. People will start leading their lives as if their mother is watching.
6. More Social Media Searches for Products and Services
People don't care what Google thinks as much as they do about referrals from friends. The technology is already available (e.g., Facebook Beacon) to track purchases online. Seeing what your friends purchased, as well as their opinions, is invaluable.
Unfortunately, the real adoption of this won't occur till 2010. Google has already recognized that their main competition isn't Yahoo, MSN and Ask; but Wikipedia, Facebook, and Twitter. Hence, a few months ago they launched Google Suggest, which allows users to rank and comment on search results they receive as well as view other's comments.
Don't be surprised if Google buys Twitter. After all, Twitter co-founder Evan Williams originally started Blogger, which Google purchased in 2003.
7. Marketing Budgets will Continue Shrinking
The financial downturn will encourage more marketing executives to turn to organic social media initiatives to drive awareness and interest.
All in all, 2009 looks to be a year of significant growth for social media. So if you haven't yet figured out how to incorporate a social media marketing plan into your business model, make it a New Year's resolution to do so.