Today, we published our social media trends forecast for 2011. When we published our first forecast in 2008, social media was still in its infancy. Often people would ask us, half smiling, if social media isn’t just a fad that’s going to go away. The notion of Facebook, Twitter, and mobile connectedness seemed like the territory of teenagers with extra time on their hands. And yet, within the last two years, social media—and more importantly—the application of social technologies, has come farther and faster than most imagined possible.
For each article, we apply a design-thinking-based exploration process and frameworks to help us push the envelope on our thinking. We interview and survey technology experts, thought leaders across various fields, and executives in Fortune 500 and startup companies who get to work daily with new technologies and adoption processes.
The toughest part is choosing which trends to focus on for the 12 months to follow: it’s a fine balance between pushing hard enough and making sure we’re still within the timeframe (or we might as well write a sci-fi novel). For the 6-week period prior to publishing the forecast, our walls are typically covered with hundreds of post-its, in various colors, as we synthesize the massive information we have and go though cycles of insight generation.
Interesting in this year’s process was the realization that we have moved from disambiguating social media to focusing on operational application of social technologies. In 2008 we focused on setting the parameters around this thing called social media. Back then we predicted 2009 would be about building relationships online, meaning, relevance, and cross-platform experiences. In 2009 we discussed the move to “connectedness” and identified 10 important trends we would be seeing for both consumers and companies and included ROI, enterprise adoption of social media, and interesting online-offline integration. And now, the conversation is shifting again and is focusing on the application of social technologies across all touch points we have with others, with companies, and with information. We have moved from “brainstorming” what is social media and why Facebook and Twitter are important tools, to operational discussions of social solutions’ integration into companies’ technologies, budgets, and organizational structure.
What we once called social media has run its course. Today, we are focusing on all things social: social content consumption and creation, social activities, social decision making, and much more. “Social” has (or soon will) become an integral part of business operation, and as such, it has moved from being the newest, most exciting, shiny object to becoming a standard component of how business is done today.
A little less exciting, but definitely real.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on social media in 2011. Feel free to comment here or on ReadWriteWeb where the conversation is already going strong.