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8 Significant Developments in Social Media You Should Watch

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While I don’t have a crystal ball, here are some developments that I think are worthy of our attention and will affect how we do things in the social mediasphere over the next few years. Many of the things on this list will not be news to the very well-informed social media consultant types who live and breathe this stuff. But for the rest of us, there are seeds of opportunity here that should not be missed.

  1. MySpace: CEO Leaves; MySpace will die. Last year, I was telling my clients “We are cautiously optimistic that MySpace (GigaOM Pro company profile) will make a comeback because their new CEO is a Facebook co-founder.” Scratch that. I think MySpace is about to go the way of Friendster, although it is still a player in the entertainment space. Because Facebook doesn’t allow flexbility and customization, I’m going to miss MySpace. But now I wonder: Who is going to be the next MySpace? Virb? Bebo? (And don’t underestimate LinkedIn.)
  2. Virtual Goods: Insane, but insanely popular. The creation and selling of virtual goods and gifts makes absolutely no sense to people who just use the Internet as a basic communications tool. Try telling someone who isn’t really into Facebook that they could buy a virtual bouquet of flowers for 99 cents and send them to a friend — they’d look at you like you were mad. But with virtual goods as an industry already raking in the billions of dollars worldwide and over a billion in the U.S. alone (source: “Inside Virtual Goods: The US Virtual Goods Market, 2009 – 2010″), how can anyone ignore them? I’m not saying everyone needs to make and use virtual goods, but there is opportunity here for both marketing and revenue. Have you even thought about how you might be able to leverage virtual goods? Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): How the Next Zynga Could Reinvent Social Gaming
  3. Gaming: Not just for kids anymore. I think the very fact that the largest player base of passive online games is women flies in the face of the typical view that games are for kids. According to Nielsen Entertainment in August 2009, of the 117 million active gamers in the U.S., 56 percent play games online and 64 percent of those online gamers are female. And the revenues generated from online games is enormous and growing. Do not underestimate the power of games and gaming — and not just the marketing and revenue opportunities, but also the learning opportunities as well in the form of fun quizzes and polls. Have you used gaming yet in a social media marketing campaign?
  4. Twitter: Still transforming communications. Back in 2008, I wrote about Twitter’s impact on the fundamental ways we communicate and the way new tools and applications are being developed, but it continues to grow and evolve. How has Twitter helped you lately?
  5. Niche networks: A marketer’s secret weapon. Whether you choose or KickApps or any of the other “white label” customizable social network-building platforms, the concept of creating a “gated”online community that is narrow in focus is smart and potentially powerful. The concept isn’t really that far removed from hosting an online messaging board in the early days of the web. If you held the keys to the gate of a more private, closed or niche community, you had everything from an instant focus group to a band of passionate buzz agents on your hands — if you knew how to properly leverage the community participation. Fast forward to today and the tools ca now give your members integrated communications, networking, publishing and social tools — brilliant. What niche networks are you participating in or do you run?
  6. Augmented reality. Sounds sci-fi, but it’s really here. I’m having a hard time describing Augmented Reality to people who haven’t seen it (if you haven’t seen it in action, these infographics from GigaOM might help). The reaction isn’t just “what in the world?” but “who cares about that stuff?” AR uses simply boggle the mind, and I plan to explore more of that in this column soon. I do wish we had a better term for it, though (like “data overlay” or “overscreen view”) so it didn’t have such a sci-fi feel to it. What potential uses for AR are getting you fired up? Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Augmented Reality: Lots of Promise, Lots of Hurdles.
  7. Google Buzz: Pay attention, even if you don’t care. (s goog) I am one of the gazillion people who currently do not care about Google Buzz, apart from the fact that just because Google did this it means something in terms of the tools we’ll be using in the coming years. Right now, I feel like Google has the means to just throw tech spaghetti on the virtual walls of our work and lives to see what sticks. Anything it does has major significance and impact, even if it fails. So pay attention as you scratch your head. How is Google Buzz changing the way you communicate, or is it? Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Google Buzz’s True Home Is in the Enterprise
  8. Mobile: Be there. I don’t know about you, but I consider my iPhone (s aapl) to be a mini computer and Wi-Fi device first and phone a distant second. I’m never normally an early early adopter because I’m too busy to keep up most of the time, but I will be one of the first to buy the iPad, because it looks to me like a bigger iPhone, and I rely on my iPhone in ways I have never relied on my computer or my regular cell phone. My entire concept of connectivity and my access to everything has changed so dramatically since I got a smartphone that I know I can never go back to the old ways. What forays into mobile marketing are on your radar for 2010? Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Web Tablet Survey: Apple’s iPad Hits Right Notes

I could also add the concept of location to this list, but I’ll leave that for another column.

What developments in social media are knocking your socks off?

Photo by stock.xchng user bigevil600

51 Responses to “8 Significant Developments in Social Media You Should Watch”

  1. Good post. I am very curious to see you take on location based social networking. In particular, while I think really small retail businesses have succeeded in ignoring social media, I don’t think they will be able to easily ignore things like Foursquare. But seeing how few understood Facebook or Yelp I don’t at all see them getting their arms around location based social networking.

  2. Great article. I am most curious to see who will replace the highly customizable MySpace. I wonder if Facebook will ever step up to this challenge or if it will let someone else tackle the issue and possibly become a major competitor.

    I also agree with many of the commentors that in the long term Wave will have more of an impact on business in particular then Google Buzz will. I have yet to jump on the Buzz bandwagon as I just don’t see what really distinguishes it from other social media platforms.

  3. Some good points!

    Re Virtual Goods: I’m amazed at how well the Blizzard Pet Store (World of Warcraft) has done. There used to be photoshopped parody screenshots from early MMOs showing a credit card dialog when your character went to open an in-game treasure chest. This one has gone from comedy to reality. As more people spend more time in online communities, an upward trend of the virtual goods market is inevitable.

    Re Gaming: The major gaming companies are really ramping up their web portal presence now. It isn’t just about playing the game, it is about being the first place you go whenever you want to play or buy a game (see Steam and Windows LIVE; look out for Battlenet; etc.).

    Re AR: Any guesses on the date for Chrome AR beta? If you haven’t seen SixthSense on TED, you should. It is also probably time to re-watch that scene in the Minority Report where Cruise is walking through that Mall and gets spammed by ads…

    Re Buzz: Despite all of the stumbles and naysayers, I’ve a techie friend that has only now jumped (leaped)onto the social networking band-wagon. Google has a LOT invested in ensuring they are your primary web portal and the allure of an integrated product is strong. If Twitter is RSS for the lazy, then Buzz just may become Twitter for the really lazy.

  4. As a long-time gamer, I’m disappointed to see that Facebook’s most popular games are mostly derivative of Farmville and Mafia Wars where you get ahead by spamming your friends irritating updates and invites. While the games industry as finally found the holy grail of casual gaming in Facebook, I want to see more innovation in gaming rather than using the basic carrot-and-stick mentality.
    Games can be powerful behavior changers and educators and we need to go more that direction. Look at Jane McGonigal’s work at for examples.

  5. I totally agree with the article. The 8 points are right on and I do believe that niche markets will help drive all non-Facebook sites. For example, a site like DrinkedIn caters to the bar/pub cruising crowd and all other lovers of drink… it’s definitely helpful that it targets the drinking market (young, professional, disposable income, etc)

  6. Siddharth Singh

    Its said really well that social media is the backbone of marketing . Whether it is brand promotion or brand distribution the companies are following a humanly approach. Facebook and twitter are god which can be well seen in the statistics provided above but we should not forget others as well i.e linkedIn , bebo, youtube etc. The best thing about social media is about listening so executive engagement is must. Initially most companies do not realise this but l8r when some mishap like negative blogs happen then they start following this crucial approach.

    There are so many things about social marketing if anybody wants to ask anything dont hesitate to mail me on [email protected]

  7. This is great! I’m really not a fan of Google Buzz and am curious to see how it grabs people. How much more noise can we handle? I’m at my limit.

    The one thing I’d add is that augmented reality apps are still figuring out their sweetspot. World of Warcraft is booming, but Second Life is pretty much dying on the vine

    Most recently Scoble’s article on Second Life even has the company admitting to this.
    It’ll be interesting to see if they can turn it around.

  8. I can’t believe virtual goods is that popular! You are right, it does seem insane.

    As for MySpace, I was hoping they would be able to find a way. They’ve been buying up little companies and I thought they were on the verge of re-defining themselves. Although extremely cumbersome to navigate now, it sure was great when it started.

    I still need to find out what the buzz is over Google Buzz. I haven’t figured out what it means yet-
    Thanks for such a great article.

  9. I think as much as people talk about the importance of phones, most people are still underestimating their future importance. The three biggest phone players next year will likely be Apple, Google, and Microsoft. People are running video games (Doom 3) on their iphones that only a few years ago required a $2,000 computer. The future sure is a crazy place!

  10. “Should Watch” implies that these are future ‘big things’. All 8 of these bullets are ‘now’. I don’t see a single mention of ‘foursquare’, which is right on the now/future boundary… a mind-boggling omission in an article like this. Social media’s future will be location based. Hold your camera-enabled smart phone up and see local tweets superimposed on locations in real-time. Better still, wear enhanced reality glasses and see it without having to lift your pocket-sized window to the internet to your eyes.

    • Well, Aliza does say at the end: “I could also add the concept of location to this list, but I’ll leave that for another column,” so keep an eye out for content on location-based services from Aliza in the future.

      And as for “Hold your camera-enabled smart phone up and see local tweets superimposed on locations in real-time, ” perhaps you missed the augmented reality in the list (the sixth bullet)?

  11. I agree with everything except MySpace. It’s too big to just die and it’s not too late for someone to step in and make the changes necessary to keep it growing or at least, not shrinking.

    With regards to augmented reality, the key is that iPhones and other handheld devices finally have the computing power necessary for AR applications to have an impact in our day to day lives.

    I recently blogged about augmented reality business cards and that’s just one example of how AR’s value-adding can make a big difference in a relatively simple way.

  12. I really enjoyed the article. Your insight on the iPad was particularly of interest because I continue to try to force it into the computer category in my mind. Thinking of it as a glorified iPhone just hit me (this comment is coming to you from an iPhone afterall).

    One area that’s caught my attention is location-based services. I currently enjoy Foursquare both for it’s networking and game purposes. :) What’s your take on that field or do you consider them a part of a segment you listed above? (Gowalla, Foursquare, etc.)

  13. We’re using social media all the time at and it’s having a huge impact on the way we work day to day and the business we’re able to generate. We’re not underestimating the power of social media at all, but this article has been a very illuminating read! Thank you,
    The Ooh Team

  14. I could see Google Buzz being a new way to comment on blogs. Someone throws they’re article up and instead of re-tweeting it like on Twitter, they can respond via Buzz. It’s handy to do it right from your email inbox, more and more blogs are disabling comments, and I think it would open others up to seeing blogs they wouldn’t normally see a la Twitter.

  15. I think Google Wave deserves to be on this list too. I agree that right now as far as “tech spaghetti” goes, it doesn’t have much sticking power, but as peoples’ personal and professional online selves begin to merge, Wave will have a greater role to play in the evolution of social media as a communications and collaboration tool. Facebook and Twitter have taken over the ‘status update’ space and Buzz will probably not be able to crack it. But Wave has the potential and scale to carve out a whole different niche for itself.

  16. agree with everyone else in saying that this is a great post / I think Buzz and Wave or the fact that Google continues to take strides here (as well as the mobile phone market – be it a separate item to watch) will be interesting to see how it plays out… I also think buzz has spurred more around privacy then ever before in respect to what is min vs yours vs the social web. I would also watch out for the added benefits of validation in the socialweb space.

  17. Excellent Article.

    Good Insight. I think that one aspect of social media and an under appreciated trend is in the co-integration of all of these technologies. I can see a day where you iPhone will notify your friends on the social network of their choosing of your location, mood, general questions, and who else has been there. (slight reference to Gowalla).

    While I don’t know who will dominate, I do believe that interconnectivity will be a required element of whoever dominates.

    Just my 2 cents.

  18. I like where you’re headed with this post, some really salient areas to consider.

    Concur with your thoughts about AR and Google Buzz.

    The great thing about interactive technology is that it’s INTERACTIVE which means we get feedback from those around us. This is so unlike a device, or piece of equipment, it’s a way of being.

    Thanks for your insight.

  19. This is such a great post! I completely agree about niche networks. I started using Ning in 2007 and created a network for mom bloggers, the Mom Bloggers Club. I have had a great time growing the community and meeting new members.

    I’m so afraid that I’m not paying enough attention to Google Buzz. I just can’t handle another social networking platform right now and Buzz bugs me. I’ll just watch it develop and then jump in when necessary.

  20. I love the way you described your current perception of Google Buzz, because it articulated what’s been on my mind very well, thanks! I know it means something, but I haven’t really placed it into its proper niche or perspective on the broader information sharing front as yet. I’m SO glad I’m not alone on that one!

  21. Aliza,

    Nice summary of issues. It’s not something clients will read, but Charlie Stross’ novel Halting State does a nice job showing a near-future world with AR as a part of everyday life. It’s not the central theme of the book, just a part of the world… but it shows people using it to do commonsense, mundane things like look at a pub on the street and see reviews of it. At one point two characters need to remove their AR-enabled glasses and the city (Edinburgh) looks familiar, yet oddly different to them. After all, they can’t get directions, they need to rely on their knowledge of the city!