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Social Media 2010 Predictions

I really do try to stay away from writing “prediction” posts…most of the time you’re not going to be right, and it’s really easy for people to point out what you were wrong about. That said, I’m a bit of a masochist at times so I’m going to post this up here on the first day of 2010 because I think this year will reveal significant evolution in social media. If you are in the field either professionally or as a casual but interested observer I would love to know what you think the next 52 weeks will hold for this new medium of communication.

  1. Agencies will gobble up consultants. This is one of the biggest game changers I think, because a lot of the talent that is freelance now will be on payroll for an agency.  I already saw this starting in 2009 with amazing folks like James Whatley moving to 1000heads and Dave Armano going to Edelmen.  Heck, I even joined forces with M80 and I’m incredibly happy to be there. This change is going to be driven by three forces I think…. First, anytime a new business field emerges it usually starts off being run ad hoc by individuals or groups, but big business starts buying it up when it becomes a clearly viable venture.  Social Media is no different than organic foods, internet connectivity or the gold rush…eventually the big guy steps in and throws a lot of cash around, knowing that very often it is easier to purchase than innovate.  Second, agencies are used to being fairly full-service and right now they are not.  As Fortune 1000 companies start spending on social, they tap their usual agency of record to perform.  Right now most of those agencies can’t do anything other than subcontract the work out, no doubt they will change that in 2010.  Third, simply put… it’s getting fairly difficult to make good money as a consultant in social media.  With over 15,000 people on Twitter alone boasting about being a social media expert, the field is wide but shallow.  I would venture a guess that most of those experts made less than $1,000 in 2009 as directly related to their expertise.  Companies are starting to realize that just because somebody has a Twitter account it doesn’t mean that they can deliver the goods, so these same companies will stop tapping consultants and will start turning to agencies even more.  It stands to reason, therefore, that the agencies will need more talent.  Time to update your resume, folks, and practice interview questions.
  2. Big companies will allocate big bucks to social. Until very recently I had a hard time convincing a company of any size to spend more than $10k directly on social media marketing and outreach.  Now I personally know many companies that are spending $1MM or more on social in 2010.  One very large, very well known company (that I have no association with professionally or personally) recently announced to internal department heads that they will be allocating 10% of 2009 marketing dollars to social in 2010.  I see other companies like Apple that have been conspicuously quiet in social finally starting to get into the game (although their engagement sucks…not a single @ reply or RT…)  Even though I’m happy to see money going to direct consumer interaction, I hope they don’t throw out big piles of money without being wise in their selection of outlets, otherwise they’ll pull it all back in when 2011 hits and we’ll see a big bubble pop like the dot com crash of the late ’90s.
  3. Twitter will offer paid accounts. I don’t think this is too prophetic on my part, they’ve been talking about special business offerings for some time, and I have no doubt they will deliver to the paying business customer. What do businesses want more than anything? Metrics. Numbers. Analytics.  Bring it on Twitter, and make sure it’s not some rinky-dink package…we want numbers we can sink our teeth into!
  4. Foursquare will be purchased. I have no substantiation for this other than a gut feeling.  They’ve got all-star investors and some nice funding, but I think they’re looking for a quick flip and 2010 would be a great year for it.  My guess? Surprisingly not Google, who buys companies like I buy groceries.  I think this one is going to either Microsoft or Twitter.  No matter, I love the service (you can friend me here) and they continue to do great things with their geo-location services.
  5. MySpace will stabilize. The service has been bleeding 1MM+ users per month for some time, but I think that will slow down around the middle of the year.  At the 140Conf in LA a couple of months back I heard COO Michael Jones talk about a renewed focus on the music and entertainment industry.  I think this is a good move (as long as they don’t have many more gaffs like the acquisition and shuttering of imeem), since music is really what launched MySpace in the first place.  Let standard users go over to Facebook and make MySpace the best channel a musician can have.
  6. ROI for social media will be standardized. This is the most elusive of all creatures…the return on investment in social media.  Since companies are going to be dumping buckets of cash into social (see points 1 and 2 above), they will get more insistent upon seeing a metric version of their return.  This is incredibly difficult to put onto paper, because scoring a relationship isn’t very cut and dry.  How does one measure  week over week growth of trust? Of perception?  It’s not easy.  Because social media occurs online, too many companies expect to see a simple ROI chart like they get with paid media, but social isn’t measurable like click-thrus.  I’ve seen several attempts at ROI (all have come up short), but I think 2010 will reveal a winner and one that will be adopted by the industry.  I should probably mention that I’m obsessed with this, so I work on it constantly.  With any luck, the methodology and algorithms that I have created will become standard. ;)

I’ve got other ideas of what I believe 2010 will hold for social media, but I think six is probably enough to reference back throughout the year, and to tell me why and how I was wrong…haha! Whatever this coming year holds, I know one thing is certain: it’s going to be exciting and ever-changing.  As I type this I imagine there are some very smart people sitting around, enjoying a drink and talking about the little online service they’ve developed that will launch in 2010…and dreaming that it will be as explosive as Twitter or as big as Facebook.  I hope they are right, I can’t wait to see what the future holds!

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By Matt Singley

Personal: husband to Alison, father to four amazing kids. I used to live a fast but enjoyable life in Los Angeles, now I have chickens on acreage in Charlotte, North Carolina. Just a bit different. I'm an advocate for cycling as much as you can and eating as cleanly as you can afford. Professional: I'm the CEO of Singley + Mackie, a creative digital agency that serves well-known lifestyle and entertainment companies around the world. Clients include Microsoft, Samsung, Hulu, YP and others. If you want to find the more-professional me, go to http://singleymackie.com