Social media is constantly changing and transforming the way we behave online and offline. From reconnecting with old friends to communicating in real-time to get information you need, social media has something to offer everyone. There’s a lot of innovation and a lot of excitement in this space, but it’s also easy to get lost in it. To help you make sense of the madness, let’s take a look at some of the social trends to watch in 2011.
1. Innovative Mobile Computing
The number of social applications is continuing to rise with the creation of new smartphones (like the Nexus S), netbooks and tablets (like the Galaxy Tab™), proving that mobile computing is what we want for both business and pleasure. We will not only continue to see innovations in both the hardware and software that power our mobile devices, but also a plethora of new apps and features that enhance our social life—making it easier to create, organize and share content.
2. Enhanced Location-based Applications
Location was definitely a hot topic this year. From Foursquare and Gowalla to Facebook Places, there are more than enough options for you to “check-in.” It’s likely that location apps will go from being simple games on maps to actually providing contextual recommendations based on who you are, where you’ve been and where you’re going.
3. Group Texting
Many have started to report “check-in fatigue,” including the people behind BrightKite, one of the pioneer location-based apps that has decided to stop the check-in madness by moving entirely to group texting. Group texting basically lets you send text and picture messages to groups of people, from your phone contacts to people who don’t know each other but have similar interests. The concept of group texting has not fully taken off and it seems like a step backwards in terms of technology, but it’s officially on the radar here in the U.S.
4. Group Buying
If there’s one category that really stood out this year due to its timeliness and growth, it’s group buying. Groupon and Living Social are only two of the hundreds of sites that serve deals to groups of deal-seekers. Group buying is on the verge of going mainstream, especially now that Facebook has jumped on the bandwagon. We can expect not only enhanced group buying experiences but also new forms of social commerce.
5. Social Websites
With Facebook plugins, sharing widgets, commenting systems and all kinds of user-generated content, websites (like ours!) are no longer catalogs of products and information. Communities and participation have become as relevant as content. If a website does not have some kind of social feature that enhances the overall experience, it might as well be in the Dark Ages so get ready for all kinds of social integration.
6. Easy Sharing
Our culture is one that enjoys sharing with others, and Facebook “Like” buttons, Twitter “Tweet” buttons, and LinkedIn’s “Share” buttons are only the beginning. You’ll notice a lot of sharing options here on Samsung.com, and we expect the entire web to become increasingly open to the idea of integrating with both top social networks and emerging technologies on all kinds of devices that enable sharing and conversations.
7. More Personalization
Amazon, Yelp, Pandora and Huffington Post are just a few of the sites adding various degrees of personalization, inviting visitors to connect with their Facebook accounts to get socially relevant information. As the web becomes more personalized, we’ll see niche social networks that are more intimate and private, as well as other giants like Google and Twitter following in Facebook’s attempts to personalize your web experiences. You’ll also see more personalization in devices, marketing campaigns (like our very own TweetWrap) and Facebook pages (like Samsung USA) in order to be in tune with your particular tastes and needs.
8. Real-Time Communication
Phone conversations have always been “real-time” so it’s no surprise that everything on the Internet is going live as well. From live streaming concerts, to video chats to smartphone notifications (like the ones the Continuum and Focus provide), we can now communicate in real-time and on-the-go however we please. With Facebook giving everyone an e-mail address, we can only assume that more real-time messaging, in tune with Google’s failed Wave project, is coming soon. We are not far from an Internet in which most of the content updates itself before your eyes. Maybe we’ll finally be able to say goodbye to the good ol’ refresh button.
9. Augmented Reality
Have you seen a Quick Response (QR) code recently? There might be one on a billboard on your way to work or maybe on a food package you recently bought at the grocery store. QR codes are like bar codes that let you access information through your phone and they are one of many uses for Augmented Reality, a technology that adds layers of context akin to the movie Minority Report. The technology is very cool but not as friendly as we’d like it to be. We will not only see more innovative uses for AR, but also more useful and seamless experiences.
10. Social Gaming
You might not be a gamer but there’s a good chance one of your friends (at least those on Facebook) is very much into playing social games. Companies like Zynga have taken the world by storm with farms, cities and mafias. Yes, really. We may see non-social shooter, sports, driving, RTS and RPG games (maybe even Angry Birds) go social as smartphones become faster and well, smarter.
11. Social Q&As
It’s not all fun and games, of course. Sometimes all we want is an answer from someone with more experience or knowledge on a subject. Sites like Quora may not seem that special at a glance, but they are a wealth of user-generated information . Features that enhance how people vote up or down and how we organize and filter information, similar to how Digg, Reddit and Delicious did some years ago, could drive much of the innovation here.
12. Social Customer Service
While we can sometimes help each other, it’s always great to get some help from the companies that make our favorite products. At Samsung, we have several official Twitter accounts (including @SamsungService and @SamsungTweets) and some of us on the Samsung team are also on Twitter (@SamsungEsteban, @SamsungJessica and @SamsungCos). Twitter is only one example of how customer service is going to become more accessible, helpful and human.
Social media is everywhere. I wouldn’t be surprised if you used some kind of social network at some point today, maybe this very minute! The social universe will continue to converge across digital platforms, letting us seamlessly jump around from websites to search engines, mobile devices, TVs and other web-enabled devices without missing a beat.
14. Social Good
Social media has allowed anyone to spread messages of hope, and it has become a platform to fundraise and promote change. Samsung and Sears recently partnered to create Tackle CF to fight the deadly disease Cystic Fibrosis by donating $5 for every “social action” on Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare. As social media continues to unite people, we will see new technological advances that will help us create awareness and donate money and time to worthy causes.
Esteban Contreras, the Social Media Manager for Samsung USA, is passionate about the convergence of technology, marketing and the social web. He lives with his wife and two dogs in NJ, enjoys playing soccer, blogging and podcasting.
The views and opinions expressed herein are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of Samsung USA, Samsung Electronics America Inc., or any of its parents/affiliates as well as any other individual employee thereof.