Okay, I’m going to jump on the trends bandwagon and offer yet another online predictions blog post where I polish my crystal ball and predict the future of social media. I think I have a decent track record going for me. In 2010, I predicted that Android sales were going to outpace iPhones, and I was only six months late on that (it finally happened earlier this year). Of course, I also said SMS would become obsolete, and that ain’t happening any time soon, so I’m batting .500.
Emboldened by my previous success — and with a promise to Allison Carter (@allisonlcarter) that this list will not mention mobile or geo-location networks — here are my four predictions for 2012.
1. An even bigger focus on quality of written content.
Thanks to Google Panda, the traditional SEO techniques of on-site optimization and backlinking is not as effective or important as it once was. Now, Panda measures things like bounce rate and time on site. In other words, if your site sucks, your rankings will drop. If your site is good, your rankings will rise.
Want to improve your rankings? Improve the quality of your content, especially your writing. The better your writing is, the longer people will stick around.
We’ll see a bigger push for web designers and bloggers to have better writing, not just a bunch of schlocky writing. So for anyone who has been in the quantity-over-quality camp of blog writing, you’re going to have a tough time of it in 2012.
2. Disruption will be the watchword, and the way to make money.
We’re already seeing how social media, broadband, and mobile phones are disrupting some middle men businesses. People are canceling their cable and satellite TV, and instead watching videos on Netflix and Hulu. We’re getting local news from local bloggers, or national news from each other, instead of TV news and newspapers. I even quit listening to local commercial radio, choosing instead to listen to an awesome public radio station out of Louisville, KY. Traditional media has been disrupted, but that’s not all.
We’ll continue to see more middle men being disrupted by fast phones and social media — look for advertising and PR agencies, publishers, banks, and credit card companies to take a big hit as people figure out how to circumvent these gatekeepers. Look for other people who figure it out to make a buttload of money being the disruptions, or taking advantage of the new disruptions.
(Case in point, Dwolla, which only charges $.25 per transaction for anything over $10 (under $10 is free), and is currently on course to move about $350 million per year.)
3. Citizen journalism will continue to grow and become more important.
Newspapers have taken a big hit in the last 10 years, thanks to online media — a disruption that’s been years in the making — but people still want local news. The newspapers that will survive and thrive will be the dailies in smaller cities, and the weeklies in small towns. In the big cities, we’ll see more citizen journalism as people report on their local stories. More Twitpics, more cell phone videos, more stories that are pieced together through people acting like their own journalists.
I would love to see some news-minded entrepreneur figure out a way to gather all of this content and monetize it. While that may not happen in 2012, look for online-only newspapers like The American Reporter to pick up the slack of the big city papers, and local news outlets like Patch to become more widespread and easier to use.
We’re going to see more news, commentary, sports, etc. covered up by real people, not professional journalists. I also think we’ll see smaller print newspapers get smarter about their online efforts, and even TV stations to continue to embrace the web. Could we also see someone start an Internet-only TV news style of website?
4. Teenagers will begin to leave Facebook in droves.
Their moms and dads are on Facebook. Their grandparents are on Facebook. The whole point behind Facebook was it was a place to go where you could be cool. And as everyone knows, it’s impossible to be cool when your parents are around. They’re moving to other networks where their parents are not. Even Ben Bajarin (@benbajarin) of Time Magazine is questioning whether it’s the beginning of the end for Facebook. (Hint: No, not yet. But don’t be surprised if it happens one day far off into the future.)
Where they’re all going is still unknown. MySpace is still popular among teenagers. YouTube is actually the second biggest network among teenagers (Facebook is still first). And the gaming console networks are seeing a big uptick. But when all the stats are showing that 1 in 5 teenagers are leaving Facebook, it’s time for marketers to stop with this “social media is for young people” nonsense and recognize that the parents and grandparents are embracing it more easily now.
Photo credit: JasonLangheine (Flickr)