What is the future of social media in ‘09?

social2009As we start the new year, I wanted to provide some thoughts on social media trends for 2009 (also check out this review of the Lab’s 2009 Digital Trends). Although some of these concepts are not new, in 2009, we’ll see increased usage and adoption by brands and consumers. Here is a look at where things are now and where we may be heading: 

Trend #1: Internal business functions get social
Social media strategies continue to get injected into business functions.  Uses include support forums, wikis and Twitter (ComcastCares) for customer service and support; gated communities and monitoring tools for market research; customer collaboration sites and community suggestion boxes for product improvement and development; internal communities for employee communications; and social strategies for employee recruitment. This is beginning to reduce transactional costs, contribute to democratized efficiency and ultimately change infrastructure.

Trend #2: Focus on demonstrating return on investment (ROI)
It’s not your traditional ROI model, but due to tight budgetary times, there will be a move from social media experimentation to accountability. Marketers are likely to embrace relationship marketing and engagement metrics to measure success of social media efforts. One way, that Dell measures ROI on its customer collaboration site, IdeaStorm is by the number of viable ideas that are submitted on the site.

Trend #3: Focus on expert users to act as Web guides
Expert users help others navigate through the onslaught of information allowed by digital media, providing additional credibility and delivering further meta-data. Experts are rated by the community via advanced reputation systems. Read reviews from the top reviewers on Amazon, search for answers from the top contributors on Yahoo! Answers and check the seller’s reputation on eBay. Brands will tap into the power of expert users to help lead their communities.

Trend #4: Expansion of the new editorial
The line between mainstream media journalists and bloggers has been blurred for years. But we are now getting our news from some lesser known sources –friends and friends of friends. I can count on my friend Michelle to not only post political articles on her Facebook wall – but I also count on her political commentary around these stories. Is it possible that all UGC creators have become the new editorial? Twitter will continue to influence the format for breaking news. Live mobile video will further increase the speed by which news is transmitted.

Trend #5: Listening is the new black
There has been a fundamental shift in perception – companies are really starting to trust their customers and enlisting them for collaboration on design, packaging, marketing, products, solutions and even engineering. In 2009, both brands and customers will see more real life benefits from the crowdsourced feedback model. Have you noticed Starbucks healthier (and better tasting) breakfast selections developed based on feedback from MyStarbucks Idea?

Trend #6: Openness and transparency are no longer options
Openness and transparency continue to give people access to information they didn’t have access to before, shifting people’s expectations for corporations. The Obama’s transition team held a social media Q&A where questions were submitted, voted on, and answered.  Rather then ignoring it, the team responded to the most prevalent question “Will you consider legalizing marijuana?” with a “no”.  Expect this to set a new bar in what people expect from institutions.  I.e. “If the government can be open, why can’t you?”

Trend #7: Social media gets personal
Users will start to rely on an open standards-based data portability ecosystem, carrying their preferences, interests and connections with them –providing for an enhanced and personalized online epxerience. As communities improve targeting accuracy, we’ll see profile targeting in action. But watch for a potential push back from users.

Trend #8: Social Media Reputation Management
Personal branding is more important then ever. Individuals are taking control of their online images with their own branding strategies (build your own personal brand with Ziggs). Brands are employing brand protection strategies allowing them an opportunity to respond to negative commentary and tell their side of the story.

What are your thoughts on other trends?