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Social media evolves and changes rapidly and constantly. One of the great challenges for brands and social practitioners is staying one step ahead of the changes to be ready for what’s going to happen next.
Predictions are always at least half a fool’s errand, but they’re also fun year-end exercises. When you work as closely as we do to such a new yet essential part of the marketing ecosystem, how can you resist? So, based upon our relentless reading and discussion of social features, trends and research, here’s a list of things we think you’ll see in 2013:
1. Instagram will monetize: Amidst changes to its terms of service, Instagram recently dispelled rumors it was preparing to merchandise site user’s photos in the New Year. Though all social sites need to keep a close watch on the third rail of privacy rights, Instagram will likely move closer to Facebook’s revenue model in 2013. What we will likely witness this year is the rise of the "sponsored pic" -- think Facebook sponsored ads that feature the names of your friends who also follow the brand. We expect to see brands pay for ads in users’ Instagram feeds, featuring their photos and hashtagged with the brand name. This move could increase Instagram’s bottom line and make it a more valuable platform for brands.
2. Rise of niche social platforms: Forums and other types of simple, niche-topic social networking platforms have been around since the Internet’s earliest days. Now we will begin to see mainstream social platforms intended for a very specific market segment. The new Myspace, for instance, while still in invitation-only mode, is specifically for the arts community, a place where musicians, artists and their fans can interact. With the digital space saturated with social media platforms, new sites will have to differentiate and fill niche markets’ needs not currently met by Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn.
3. Brands in social get technical: With the boom in social media technology startups over the past few years, there is no lack of programs available for brands. Brands are beginning to harness the "big data" of social media. Through research, social listening, content analysis and influencer tools, brand content is only going to get better and more valuable for brands' followers this year.
4. Deep integration of search and social: For the past year we have seen the beginning integrations of social and search--first with Google introducing the integration with Google+, Bing featuring a social feed on the side of search results, and most recently Facebook announced plans for its own type of search engine in the near future. This integration makes optimizing social content for search increasingly important.
5. Social will go [more] mobile: Every major social media network has a mobile solution today, but there are a lot of improvements that need to be made. Facebook, for instance, needs a better solution for brand pages on mobile. Notice that tabs aren’t accessible on mobile? That has to change. Or perhaps there will be a new mobile solution to replace tabs altogether. Either way, it’s inevitable social media sites will evolve this year to become more mobile friendly. After all, mobile is set to overtake PCs as the most common web access device worldwide by 2015.