2012 Predictions

It’s the time of year when predictions are thrown out left and right, so in keeping with the spirit I have put together a list of things I would like to see happen in the year ahead.

  1. The Business of Social Networks: We have seen a coalescing of business models form around social networks and not surprisingly the vast majority of them are evolutions of advertising models. This will work but as companies demand more (see next prediction) the ad driven model will evolve in ways not previously seen. What that will be I do not have a clue but sponsored tweets and ad campaigns simply cannot be anything more than a starting point.
  2. Brand Marketing Meets PPC: In most companies marketing exists in two forms, brand management and promotional marketing. On the latter we have seen a revolution in how companies advertise, increasingly around the notion of pay-per-click (PPC) that provides immediate and detailed performance metrics upon which ROI can be calculated. This level of performance management has not existed on the brand side but it’s coming because brands have an inherent desire to manage brand metrics to the degree that they measure online campaigns, and social factors into brand benchmarks as much as campaign objectives.
  3. Social as a Service: If you are a SaaS application there is an increasing portfolio of services that you can plug into your application to bring social capabilities as a layered service. There is another very nuanced view of this that speaks to the increasing sophistication of analytics services that measure social activities that contribute to application success in the market.
  4. 3 Mobile Form Factors: If you follow the mobile space you have no doubt paid attention to the rise of the super-size smart phone with 4.3″ and larger displays. For app developers there will have to be a standardization around template sizes and simply saying “tablets and smartphones” isn’t adequate. My view is that 10″ tablets, 4.3″ smartphones to 7″ tablets, and sub 4″ smartphones will co-exist as separate UX development paths.
  5. Integration Layers Matter: When it comes to social and SaaS applications a big challenge for consumers and developers alike is integration of activity streams and social services across platforms. Somebody will figure this out and deliver, to developers first, a service layer that normalizes and routes social activities across services based on rules and contexts.
  6. Customer Support is (increasingly) the New Marketing: Okay, this one is self-serving but dovetails nicely with some widely held views about how company-to-customer engagement is driving more than just customer sat but also revenue. Leaders in every business segment are figuring out that competitive leadership is directly linked with how they sell more stuff to the customers they already have.
  7. Loyalty Programs and Virtual Currencies: Everyone is familiar with the concept of loyalty programs, and their shortcomings. Virtual currencies are gaining in awareness and consumption inside games but there is a convergence happening with loyalty programs whereby points exist as just another currency with an exchange mechanism.
  8. SoLoMo: Social Local Mobile is on for 2012. The proliferation of location aware mobile devices and a service layer that enables mobile apps to take advantage of these capabilities is creating an entirely new technology segment that valuable companies will arise from.
  9. Messaging Explosion Continues Unabated: With Facebook giving companies a private messaging capability to reach fans we see yet another vehicle through which people-to-people and company-to-people communication will take place. If nothing else what this suggests is that people like talking on a phone less than ever.
  10. People Will Buy Stuff Through Facebook: Actually this prediction speaks very broadly about how retail is moving outside of a purely web experience. Facebook commerce is going to be a big deal, and mobile already is so there is no reason to expect that retail channels will consolidate… the opposite is more likely, multi-channel retail will become mega-multichannel.
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