Here are my five social media predictions for 2010.
1. Augmented Reality Applications Will Start to Go Mainstream
Augmented Reality (AR) is the ability to place computer-generated information, such as text and labels, on top of live real world data, such as video from a smart phone. Most AR applications in 2009 were quaint curiosities designed to demonstrate the AR concept. It took a lot of hacking and ingenuity to make these a reality since most consumer platforms lagged (but not by much) in features (think video finally coming to the iPhone) required for AR.
A few AR applications have been rolled out by progressive marketers and other organizations this year, but 2010 will be the year AR explodes. Expect to see applications from major corporations, municipalities, and institutions of higher learning. Some of the most interesting applications will be outside of marketing and promotion. These might include realtime campus maps and guided tours; theme park guides; capital equipment location and inventory; and even applications in which the operator makes computer-based notes on top of realtime images, which would be useful for things like home inspection and insurance claims estimating.
Geekspeak marketing and lack of public awareness will hold AR back. Verizon was featuring AR capability (by name) in its Droid spots, and one can only assume this was to attract early adopters and gearheads, since most consumers have no idea what AR is or what it can do.
2. Location-Based Applications Will Dissolve Into General Social Networks
Location-based applications like Foursquare and Brightkite will not be the darlings of social media as some predict, but will instead turn into features and dissolve into general social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Twitter recently rolled out its Geotagging capability on a limited basis. Features and capabilities help grow a network’s user base in infancy; huge subscriber numbers grow it to adulthood. Services that are specifically location based will not experience the kinds of growth achieved by general purpose social networks. Additionally, other than location information, specialized location-based services have little to differentiate themselves from mainstream social networks. These companies could end up being acquired.
3. Enterprise Social Software Applications Will Become Commonplace
Large software providers like IBM, SAP and Oracle will launch, or announce, the first enterprise-grade social networking and Web 2.0 collaboration applications/suites that will gain broad momentum and recognition in the marketplace.
Certainly all of these companies are active in the Web 2.0 space. Oracle has Beehive, Microsoft has added social capabilities to SharePoint, SocialText is in the enterprise, as is IBM’s Lotus Connections, but no category killer has emerged. Many enterprises are launching blogs on TypePad or WordPress and building social networks and communities on third-party software or developing it from the ground up using Ruby-on-Rails.
What needs to happen in the enterprise space is for one or two brands to be so well understood, so feature rich, and so commonplace, as to achieve generic status. PowerPoint is ubiquitous. Before we can say the enterprise social software market is mature, enterprise brands must become as generic and pervasive as PowerPoint. 2010 could be the year that happens, or the year we see the first enterprise application/environment that achieves pervasive status.
4. More Social Media Regulation Will Follow the FTC’s October Endorsement Guides
Most social media professionals were surprised when the FTC announced its updated Endorsement Guides earlier this year, which described in great detail new requirements for bloggers and celebrities to disclose their relationships with sponsors, including arrangements whereby companies provide bloggers with products and services for review. Uncertainty about the legitimacy of these arrangements led to the term “blogola,” based on the 1950s record industry “payola” scandal.
The Web 2.0 marketing industry has proposed numerous codes of ethics, such as that of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, but ethical lapses continue to occur and the only answer is regulation. The EU Unfair Business Practices Directive technically banned astroturfing (the practice of company or paid third-party representatives posing as consumers and leaving positive comments on a blog or forum) some time ago.
In the past, print journalists have generally been fastidious about not having these kinds of relationships with the manufacturers of products they review, and have returned products after they have been reviewed. Those that haven’t have been harshly criticized, and there is no reason to expect bloggers to be held to a lesser standard.
I have always held that new media doesn’t require new ethics, but in the relentless quest to grow revenue and acquire customers, some still have ethical compasses unable to find magnetic north. As more and more non-social media savvy consumers come into contact with Web 2.0 marketing, there will be problems in areas of disclosure, privacy and fair competitive practice. Expect the proposal and enactment of new regulations in 2010.
5. Social Search Will Shake Out, and the Search Metaphor Will Change
We’re nearing the end of the hegemony of Google Search. This is not to say Google is in immediate trouble, or some other search engine will take its place, but traditional search is becoming irrelevant, and other kinds of search will begin to challenge Google. Even Google, a Web 1.0 company — or Web 1.5 company at best — recognizes this, and launched its Social Search experiment. Technorati, an early leader in social (media) search, could have owned the space, and maybe they did for a while, but not anymore.
Microsoft’s Bing was the surprise hit of 2009, and has started to erode Google’s share of search. Bing has some social features, but expect some big news in social search in 2010. Facebook and Twitter both offer “interesting” ideas in social search, and both are sitting on top of mountains of social data, but both have taken an incidental approach to social search.
The whole metaphor for search will change. Search won’t be a separate function. Instead of going to a site like google.com or bing.com, users will receive meaningful, personally relevant search results within the context of whatever they are currently doing.
If you’re writing a term paper, you’ll be presented with links and summaries that point to information directly related to the topic and content of your paper. If you are browsing items on eBay, you’ll see list prices superimposed, Craig’s List listings for the same and similar items, and maybe user reviews. You won’t type into a search box. Search results will come to you based on your needs. This isn’t 2010 stuff, but things have to move in that direction. The conventional Web 1.0 search engine is irrelevant, and merely adding social features to these outmoded services does not make them the next generation tools people will expect.
I invite you to share your reactions to these, and add your own, in a comment below. Thanks!