February 17 marks the close of Social Media Week, a series of interconnected activities and conversations on emerging trends in social and mobile media that draws 60,000 attendees to events in more than 20 cities around the globe. The continued proliferation of social media – it has been widely reported that if Facebook were a country, its 800+ million inhabitants would make it the third most populous nation on the planet – makes the channel increasingly important for individuals and businesses.
With that in mind, we asked 10 GW graduates who are social media practitioners about what to watch for in social media in 2012. (Note: Information about each of our alumni “panelists” can be found at the bottom of the story. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.)
1) What is one important trend individual social media users should be closely following in the coming year?
Chris Abraham (@chrisabraham) – It is essential to remain curious and flexible — as people become more committed to living an online life and connecting and communicating via PC or via their mobile device, they’re choosing tools more fitted to their interests and passions than simply Twitter and/or Facebook…So, don’t be stubborn and insist that you only use Facebook and you don’t have enough time for other communities because the result will be that you’ll end up being passed over and excluded.
Steve Goldner (@SocialSteve) – Follow the advancement and changes of Facebook and Google and determine what platform works best. Understand what Google circles means and Facebook timeline, and assess how to use them to connect and engage with friends, family, and professionals. Also, while it is not a “trend”, I strongly suggest that individuals think about what it means to be a “personal brand,” how they use various social media channels, and how they communicate on each.
Jaclyn Schiff (@j_schiff) – We’re seeing a move away from “traditional” blogging in favor of leaner, more frequent updates on a variety of platforms. Some of the most visible personal brands have moved away from regular blogging and are using platforms like Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, etc. to deliver information and connect with people daily.
James Walker (@jaywalk1) – Curation is a big trend…I thought curation would be big when I first heard about services like Storify, but with popularity of services like Pinterest, it’s clear that people are seeking out ways to string together the things that they like. Individual users can have a lot of fun building their own digital museums with these services, but those who want to be subject matter experts can now be the master curators simply by knowing who has the best collections.
2) Name one big question that organizations / brands will need to address in their social strategy / policy in the coming year.
Eric Friedman (@ericfriedman) – Organizations and brands have been jumping on to social networks forever, but they need to focus on metrics that prove it’s worth it. Are they reaching their current or prospective customers? Is there a continuous interaction with people? There are too many brands/orgs that jump in without thinking about who will manage the presence or why they are there in the first place. Many get it right and make it worthwhile for both the brand and the people interacting with them.
Julie Germany (@julieg) – It’s the same question they have been struggling with for the last few years: How do I use these networks authentically and meet my goals as a brand/organization at the same time.
Chris Pitre (@chrispitre) – Localization and operationalizing are two big questions that organizations will need to address. As more sides of the business are realizing the impact of social media, marketing/PR will have to adapt their strategies to include legal, finance, HR, and others that have typically been silent in public channels. Also, as global business continues to expand, real-time conversations in multiple languages mean that brands need to have appropriate communicators to communicate with respective audiences.
DJ Saul (@darienjay100) – Are we experimenting and taking enough risks to actually do something different, and can we actually afford to take any risks? (That and the persistent questions of ROI and of privacy).
Menachem Wecker (@mwecker) – I think there are two major questions. (1) What platforms are younger people flocking toward? It’s one thing to have presences on Twitter and Facebook, but if younger people think those platforms are for “older” people, then organizations and brands had better start investing time and resources in finding what the next platform is going to be. (2) I think another burning question is to what extent, if at all, people who’ve grown up in the era of social media are going to…truly embrace it in a conversational, rather than promotional way, when they become executives and senior management.
3) What’s one social platform do you think will have a “breakout” year in 2012?
Chris Abraham (@chrisabraham) – Pinterest is growing like crazy…I am getting more people sending me invitation and following me and sharing things with me than I have in a long time. At first, the only folks who were buzzing about Pinterest were in their early 20s…but in the last few months, people have become obsessed.
Eric Friedman (@ericfriedman) – Too early to tell!
Julie Germany (@julieg) – I have a few: Tumblr, XBox Live, and Pinterest
Steve Goldner (@SocialSteve) – Breakout is equivalent to hype. That said, there will likely be 1/2 dozen breakout platforms…I focus more on sustainable long-term growth platforms. Will Pinterest stay hot or Google+ continue growth? I would place my money on Google+.
Chris Pitre (@chrispitre) – Pinterest is growing at a phenomenal rate… as long as Pinterest continues to grow with demand and partner with interested brands, their platform should continue to see growth in 2012.
Jaclyn Schiff (@j_schiff) – Change.org ended 2011 on a very strong note…and it has just continued to gain momentum. People are increasingly expressing their frustrations with governments, businesses and organizations online — and the numbers and intensity are forcing these institutions to pay attention. Change.org is a huge part of this trend.
DJ Saul (@darienjay100) – Pinterest. It’s blowing up right now, and is one part browser plug-in, one part curation machine, and one part beautiful UX/UI. That and the ladies love it. (Seriously — 97% of Facebook Fans are women).
Mark SooHoo (@MarkSooHoo) – It’s impossible to ignore the rapid rise of Pinterest in the past few months…It’s easy to use, useful and visual, making it strangely addictive and poised to be the “next big thing.”
James Walker (@jaywalk1) – I’m not sure about this one at the moment.
Menachem Wecker (@mwecker) – Google+…I worry a bit that the reason many organizations are joining Plus has more to do with Google being a bit of a bully — one risks rejection by the omnipotent Google algorithm if one doesn’t participate in Plus and social search — than it does with Plus being a particularly flexible and innovative platform. But I’d welcome being proven wrong.
Our Panel of Alumni Social Media Practitioners
Chris Abraham, CCAS BA ’93 | @chrisabraham
Senior VP for Social Media, Social Ally; Founding Partner, Abraham Harrison
Eric Friedman, GWSB BBA ’04 | @ericfriedman
Director of Business Development, Foursquare; Blogger, EricGFriedman.com
Julie Germany, GSPM MA ’03 | @julieg
Vice President of Digital Strategy, DCI Group
Steve Goldner, SEAS BS ’85, MS ’93 | @SocialSteve
Senior Director of Social Media, MediaWhiz Holding LLC
Chris Pitre, GWSB BBA ’06 | @chrispitre
Executive Director of Social Media and Innovation, Idea
DJ Saul, ESIA BA ’08 | @darienjay100
Vice President of New Ventures, iStrategyLabs
Jaclyn Schiff, ESIA BA ’06 | @j_schiff
Social Media Consultant and Global Health Journalist; Managing Editor, Brazen Careerist
Mark SooHoo, CCAS BA ’02 | @MarkSooHoo
Director of Digital, Edelman Middle East
James Walker, CCAS BA ’07 | @jaywalk1
Manager, APCO Online; Blogger, PR Prescriptions
Menachem Wecker, CCAS MA ’09 | @mwecker
Education Reporter, U.S. News & World Report; Blogger, Houston Chronicle