By Will Beresford (pictured), Strategy Director, beyond analysis
If 2007 was the year of the rise in social media, then this year we’ll see changes in the way social media is used, and an increase on its effect on business.
1. Traditional models for consumers to research a product or service will begin to be fundamentally changed by Social Media
With the advent of the social web has come more and more interaction between consumers online. Social networks, and user feedback sites, which were seen as slightly quirky a year ago are being normalised by the consumer. Traditional search engines will become increasingly less relevant to the consumer and businesses will need to re-think their online strategies.
2. The growth in data and content created by the social media will also bring change to the traditional search models
With the sheer size of data available, search engine providers will look to introduce tiered services providing more accurate results to those willing to pay. Whilst this will begin with services to business, over time we will see tiered search services bundled into our ISP packages as value differentiators.
3. Likewise traditional models for businesses to research their consumers will fundamentally change
As more businesses realise the value inherent in their customer data and the strategic role it plays for the future, reliance on traditional qualitative research will fall into terminal decline. Customer data will be enriched by data found on the social web to supersede traditional research tools such as questionnaires and focus groups.
4. Customer feedback and the social network will overtake price, and in some cases brand as a major factor in online purchase decisions
Feedback and influence from your social network will become more significant factors in the purchasing decision cycle. Until recently many online purchase decisions were driven by brand and security concerns. Smaller lesser known brands will begin to pick up loyal networks of customers that have come direct as a result of influence from within their network. Small companies will be the champions of networks.
5. The data generated from Web 2.0 will be increasingly important to all organisations, not just to web based businesses
Companies that are more offline than online, and less rich in customer data, will start to use Web 2.0 data to enrich their understanding of their customer base. Forums, networks, blogs etc will provide a rich source of insights into what customers are thinking or saying about products and brands and therefore what they are likely to buy.
6. The interest in large social networking sites as the next best thing in advertising will fall away as quickly as it has arrived
As social networking sites become ever more cluttered with advertising and branded applications their popularity will decline. Like a trendy bar or nightclub, or ships passing in the night, the popularity of the monolithic social networking site will fall as consumer begin to realise that it isn't such a great thing to bare all to the world and secondly, that it isn't half as much fun as everyone thought it was.
7. Many agent-based, or middle- man, businesses will find it increasingly hard to justify their existence
This will be especially acute in specialist interest areas of sectors such as recruitment or travel. People will look to their social networks to do much more for them, such as: finding jobs, getting advice, and even making specialist purchases such as niche travel destinations. Forums and networks will bring common interests together to share advice and create purchasing power.
8. Official news will be increasingly contextualised by consumer opinion and it will become harder to discern the difference between real news and opinion
We’ll see more people commenting on official news, such that the comments will become increasingly influential and a real candid – and broader - view of public perception. The boundaries between fact, commentary and opinion will become increasingly blurred. People are already reading Blogs to get their news fix - this will increase.
9. Further lapses in data security within the public service will see to it that the ID Card scheme will die a death this year
This year will see more lapses in data security, with public offices and parliamentary representatives being deliciously outed by the newspapers. The current planned ID scheme will once again be shelved for the next government to deal with as has happened since the 70's.
10. At least one major multinational will suffer a hugely damaging exposure for lapses in customer data and personal security.
The ongoing lackadaisical approach to data by many of the traditional corporates will finally become one of the biggest boardroom headaches, and will demonstrate the potential for data to break - as well as make - a company
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