When trying to predict the future, it’s probably wise to look at the past. This year we saw Pinterest take off, we also saw a major redesign of LinkedIn, and Instagram was sold to Facebook for $1 Billion. We also saw Facebook become a public company. Looking forward, 2013 will likely set another record for social media monetization; both on the software products being able to monetize its users and agencies being able to monetize the management and monitoring brands.
LinkedIn becomes a major force in online advertising
LinkedIn has established itself as the Facebook of the business world. It arguably presents a more captive audience. In 2013, look for LinkedIn to model itself after Facebook and Google; after Facebook in terms of target interest-based demographic targeting and after Google in terms of its LinkedIn Audience Network (similar, but much smaller than the Google Display Network). Also look for a big shift in the way companies market themselves on LinkedIn. Right now it’s mainly B2B marketing, but in the coming year look for LinkedIn to enter the B2C advertising sphere (think marketing high-end products to high-income earners). Also look for them to aggressively pursue their LinkedIn Premium membership subscriber base (something that Facebook will never have, because after all “Facebook will always be free”).
Facebook incorporates search and revamps timeline
In 2013, look for Facebook to attempt to capitalize on search-based advertising. Despite all of Facebook’s targeting capabilities, they still have yet target buyers in the exact moment when they’re researching a product or service. Can Facebook ever compete with Google, are they way too late to the search game? Will they just further integrate their user data into Bing? Either way, look for Facebook to monetize its user data and attempt to push its stock price up. Also look for Facebook to enhance Timeline which rolled out for users in late 2011 and for brands early in 2012. 2013 is sure to bring with it enhancements to the platform in terms of speed and usability.
Third-party tools proliferate and get snatched up by the big players
Third-party social media tools give users new abilities not found on their original platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. In recent years we’ve seen a number of acquisitions in this space. For example, Radian6 was sold to SalesForce, Google bought advertising platform WildfireApp, and on a smaller scale Followerwonk was purchased by SEOmoz. It makes sense for the big guys to buy up these third-party applications, given that it’s cheaper and faster to integrate an existing product rather than developing it from scratch. Look for more of this to happen in 2013.
2013 will be the year of search + social
The +1 button gave us a glimpse of how social connections could influence search results. To many, the +1 button seemed like a rather crude way of determining whether people liked or disliked a webpage. Do +1’s still matter? Of course they do. Have they achieved the adoption rate Google hoped they would: no, not at all. In 2013, look for search engines to get even smarter by diving deep into social data and knowing how its users are connected outside of the Google network. Look for this data to feed search engines and help them determine what results are relevant to you.
Social networks learn from each other
It seems like when one social network innovates the other do a little R & D: replicate and duplicate. Just think of LinkedIn copying Facebook’s news feed, likes and commenting or the popularity of Instagram-like filters. Watch for lots of innovation as each social network attempts to copy and even outdo one another. Might we see Facebook attempt to compete with Google+’s Communities platform? Only time will tell, but one thing’s for sure, they’re definitely paying attention.
Social goes mobile and hyper-local
I’d be remiss not to mention mobile. With smartphone adoption soaring every day, look for 2013 to bring an even better social experience to mobile. In 2012 we saw Facebook release its Pages app which allows people to manage their pages from their smartphone. Look for more this and also an improved social/mobile experience to come. Increased functionality and a faster, more local experience are ready to make your life better in 2013. Picture a day when the iPhone’s “Find My Friends” app, Facebook, Instagram, and Siri are all one app. It’s coming, and you should be very excited about it!