11 trends for 2011

It’s that time of year again where things are polled, lists are compiled and predictions are made. As opposed to looking back, I’m keen to look forward to next year, and what I believe will be some for biggest areas of growth across the world of social media.

So without further ado, and with a limited word count in mind, here are my 11 trends for 2011.

1. Group buying

Without doubt, one of the big success stories of the last 12 months has been that of Groupon, the deal-of-the-day website formed in 2008. Like all good ideas, the premise is extremely simple, but that hasn’t stopped the company notching up $1 billion in revenue since launch – making it the fastest growing company ever.

As users of LetsBuyIt.com would attest, Groupon offers nothing new, but its timing is impeccable. With purse strings being tightened all over the world everybody is looking for a good deal, and what better way to spread the word than via the many social media platforms and applications that we’re now all so familiar with?

Now available in 300 markets, Groupon took the form of a WordPress blog just two years ago. Its CEO Andrew Mason is regarded by many as a Zuckerberg 2.0, and with retailers like Gap clocking up single day sales of 441,000 $50 vouchers for $25 via Groupon, it’s clear that this is an appealing premise for brands and consumers alike.

2. Social commerce

Another group buying platform worth keeping an eye on is “Juhuasuan“ group-buy platform of China’s largest e-commerce site Taobao. In September this year, Mercedes dipped its toe into the world of social commerce, offering 22% off its Smart car.

The results were staggering. The first car was snapped up after 24 seconds, 55 cars were sold after six minutes and all in all 205 cars were gone after 204 minutes – more than a car every minute! The results are even more impressive when you consider the fact that Mercedes only usually sells one Smart car a day in China.

Brands all over the world would’ve sat up and taken notice of the extraordinary success of this campaign, and with more and more commerce initiatives popping up on Facebook, you’re set to hear social commerce success stories in 2011.

3. Facebook credits

It wouldn’t be overcooking it to describe this as a defining moment for Facebook. After signing a big deal with Zynga to roll the credits premise out across social games such as Farmville, businesses are now scrambling to tap into credits in some way, and consumers can now snap them up from retailers such as Tesco for Xmas. Social gaming is already huge on Facebook, so there’s a vast, readymade worldwide audience out there with a lot of time on their hands. Expect to be able to buy all sort of things with Facebook credits next year.

There’s also Pay with a Tweet, allows consumers to get something free (mp3, e-book, etc) if they tweet about a brand. If a brand assigns say, the first 2,000 of what they’re willing to give away in exchange for a guaranteed 2,000 tweets out to the followers of those 2,000 people, they’re reaching a potentially huge audience.

4. Q&A sites

The ‘Q&A’ premise is nothing revolutionary, but it becomes something different altogether when in the hands of Adam D’Angelo, former CTO of Facebook and founder of Quora, a crowd sourcing Q&A service. Drawing on the understanding that collective knowledge is a hugely powerful tool, and working on a similar system to Wikipedia as a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited and organised by everyone who uses its Quora is set to go mainstream in 2011.

And if you had any doubts as to why an online Q&A service should be regarded as a big digital growth area next year, the fact that Mark Zuckerberg and co recently launched a similar service to Quora in Facebook Questions should confirm how seriously this is being taken by people smarter and richer than you and I.

5. Fans into affiliates

How much is your Facebook fan worth? As the title might suggest, this is all about turning your fans and advocates into affiliates for the brand. It’s been said that the most successful brands on Facebook are the ones that engage with consumers and offer them tangible rewards for their support. Domino’s UK launched a great widget, rewarding anybody who got a friend to buy a pizza with cash. A really simple idea, and one we can expect to see replicated and taken further next year.

6. Social Gaming

As anybody who’s had their Facebook news feed inundated with Farmville notifications can attest, social gaming is now a big deal. It may seem unfathomable to many of us, but there are a lot of people out there killing a lot of time in the company of crudely digitised cows and crops. 7-Eleven launched a great campaign in the States earlier this year offering codes on instore products that could redeemed for ‘gifts’ online. The more gifts a person collects, the more ‘uber gifts’ they’re eligible for. Again, it may seem baffling to many of us, but people love this stuff.

Whatever your feelings, it’s a great combination of on- and off-line offerings. McDonald’s also got in on the act with a one day Farmville campaign recently, with interesting results.

7. Video hauls

You’d be excused for not being familiar with the bedroom antics of two teenage sisters from Tennessee, but Blair and Elle’s ‘video hauls’ have proved outrageously popular in the States. Essentially it’s girls coming home from shopping trips, uploading videos of themselves talking through their new purchases or ‘hauls’ onto YouTube. Simple content sharing to begin with, but things started getting serious when they were snapped up by an LA talent agency. Expect even more copycat hopefuls to pop up over here in the UK, and brands to distribute products to a selection of taste makers that can’t believe their luck.

8. Mobile revolution

In 2013, smartphone sales are set to overtake PC sales for the first time. As the cost and size of the devices reduce, sales grow. We’re using our smartphones for web browsing already – an incredible 50% of UK mobile traffic is for Facebook.

We’re already web savvy with our smartphones, but soon they’ll be taking care of other aspects of our lives too. A recent Marketing Week exclusive revealed that the Nokia C7 had inbuilt contactless payment technology, but that Nokia hadn’t thought to tell anybody. Just last week Nokia announced that it was set to activate the technology in 2011, and it’s widely recognised as a huge priority for the mobile industry.

An American start-up by the name of Square has also developed a dongle that can plug into your iPhone and process credit card transactions on the spot. With Nokia already producing devices with in-built capabilities, you have to wonder how long it’ll be before dongles even seem obsolete.

9. Location

We already know about Foursquare and Gowalla, plus you can attach location info to your tweets, and Facebook Places launched just a couple of months ago. From January, Facebook Deals launches in the UK, and Google Latitude is already proving useful for small businesses. Despite the raft of offerings gaining traction this year, just 4% of the US internet population are currently using location services, so there’s huge scope for growth.

An interesting example can be found with Gap, and a campaign launched via Facebook Deals recently in the US. Gap offered a free pair of jeans to the first 10,000 people to check in instore, a huge commitment and one that generated a lot of invaluable buzz.

10. Privacy becomes mainstream

You may or may not be familiar with RapLeaf, a company that has caused a stir recently for scraping IDs out of Facebook and selling them on to interested parties. Facebook has since banned RapLeaf from accessing its user data after an ‘exposé’ or sorts in the Wall Street Journal, but that won’t stop the company’s growth – it can apparently already segment people into 400 categories, ranging from political leaning, religious beliefs and which charities they donate to.

RapLeaf represents a whole new level of data intelligence, and we can expect plenty of hyper targeted repercussions, not to mention the inevitable privacy debates played out in the media.

11. Measurement and data

As more clients want to get into this space, the various KPIs, data sources, APIs and listening tools available will become more important. Here at EHS 4D, along with our sister agency Cake, we are developing a tool which provides one view of social media data and platforms enabling a brand to see the landscape, have an early warning system, insight tool, and benchmark against competitor, products and previous campaigns. We call it the Flightdeck.

David Skerrett is Head of Social Media & Mobile at EHS 4D Group