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From politics to legal battles, 2012 is gearing up for even more social media innovation
This year was filled to the brim with tech IPOs, acquisitions and major moves to the expanding mobile landscape.
1- Second screen focus
This year we started seeing TV programs create hashtags for viewers to stream live comments and questions about programs such as Glee and American Idol. In fact, a study done at the very beginning of 2011 showed that 86% of people were already using their mobile devices while watching television and throughout the year more people started taking that time to tweet or comment about the shows they were watching.
Next year we will see an even deeper focus on assuring that people watching their shows and perusing the Internet at the same time will be focused on the program on TV.
In addition to TV networks including hashtags in the aired programs and streaming content encouraging watchers to comment and share what they are viewing, many companies have started capitalizing on the advertisement revenues available when joining forces with major programs.
There has been a great deal of buzz around the second-screen phenomenon. In our media-saturated lives, it is no longer enough to watch a show on you television, many people are concurrently contributing to forums and tweeting about the happenings on the program.
One of the major players in the social media around second screens, is a one-year-old start up called Miso.
Recently Miso secured its Series B funding of $4 million, led by Khosla Ventures. Currently, most of the Miso users are based in the U.S., but it appears that more people are starting to pop up from the UK, South America and Asia, as the platform has gained buzz and traction. Users can access the Miso platform via Web browser or iPad, iPhone or Android app.
The small 12-person team at Miso is catering to more than 250,000 users and is looking to double their team size over the next year and continue building out their services with the new funding.
Miso is also a free service and has not yet positioned itself to receive revenue outside the venture model.
People are using second screen devices (mobile, tablet, laptop) as they are watching TV, and in the commentary-heavy drive of online communication, the natural progression is to create a space for TV-centric communication to happen in real time.
Next year, more companies will be popping up and more viewers will be aware of these second screen options. I even expect more offered perks for those that contribute to the online dialogue.
2- Re-emergence of MySpace
Since the re-focusing that happened this year to design MySpace as a music networking site, Internet enthusiasts are interested in seeing if one of the original social networking sites can make a comeback after Facebook wiped out much of the field.
MySpace is reconfiguring its system to be the independent music scene's Spotify with the release of its first major product since it was purchased by Specific Media: a music player with a search engine and Facebook integration.
In June, Specific Media acquired Myspace from News Corporation. Although terms of the deal remain undisclosed, sources say the site sold for $35 million.
When Rupert Murdoch’s Corp. originally bought Myspace back in July 2005, it had paid $580 million.
In the year following February 2010, MySpace saw its traffic drop 44% to 37.7 million unique U.S. visitors, according to comScore. As the users fled, so did advertisers: revenue from advertising, eMarketer predicted, would decline from $288 million in 2010 to $184 million in 2011.
Currently, MySpace has 42 million songs with an exclusive library of 30 million songs from unsigned artists -- a great alternative market for the mainstream focus that Spotify capitalizes on. This year, MySpace has kept a consistent traffic pattern of 25 million monthly visitors.
In the new year it will be interesting to see if reinvention will save the site that was sending out S.O.S signals for the last two years.
3- Airtime launch
During the Web 2.0 Summit this fall, serial entrepreneur Sean Parker announced that he has a new project coming out called AirTime. This new service is expected to have some similarity to Chatroulette and its random video chatting services but without the commonly criticized problems with nudity.
As with most of the endeavors that Parker is involved in, people are taking notice of the strength in his business choices. Since Parker came on the Internet tech scene with Napster, Twitter, Facebook, and Spotify, the potential of AirTime is promising.
Video services have been growing rapidly in past months and have become signature features in big Internet companies such as Skype, Google+ Hangouts and YouTube. Very few details have been reviled thus far, but when it does roll out, we can be sure that everyone will know about it and will have to see what was kept under wraps for so long.
4- Facebook reaches a billion users
At the start of this year, Facebook was just over 650 million users and is closing out the year well over 800 million. At this pace, Facebook will be celebrating a milestone in 2012: the one billion user mark. This will be a momentous moment that will carry over the buzz of the company into its expected IPO in the spring.
With estimates putting Facebook's IPO price at $10 billion --and a valuation of more than $100 billion -- the word billion will be closely tied to the networking company.
The company will then have the powerful tool to sell investors and marketers -- we reach one in every seven people on earth.
But this milestone will also provide a challenge for the company, since any continued growth from that point forward would require serious talks with companies that censor Web sharing (such as China) -- where additional growth would be compulsory.
5- Legal battle for social media ownership
This month a legal battle broke out between a former PhoneDog blogger and the publishing company over who owns the Twitter followers accumulated during his time with the company. In October of last year, Noah Kravitz left his gig at Phonedog.com and agreed to occasionally post some Phonedog.com-related content in exchange for keeping the Twitter account, according to The New York Times, but months later the company sued Kravitz seeking damages equalling $340,000 (or $2.50 per follower per month.)
This lawsuit has many bloggers paying attention to the case to see what might be in store for their curated Twitter followings.
Many writers spend a great deal of time and effort creating their own brand on social sites such as Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and Facebook, which add value to their insight and would be non-too-pleased to hear that all that work would stay at the company when they move on.
While it is still unclear what the Phonedog_Noah account was intended to be (a place for the writer to curate a following or a place for Phonedog.com to build a readership) many publications choose to create more specific handles like the Guardian UK has done with its Twitter accounts -- creating @guardianbooks, @guardiannews, @guardiantech and several others to build its topic specific followers, while its reporters maintain their own accounts to build author specific readers.
In the coming year we will hear more about publishing companies creating very specific rules about the creation and maintenance of Twitter accounts and who will maintain the followers when employees leave.
6- Political push
With social media becoming inseparable in communication and marketing anything, the political year of 2012 will involve social media in a significant way. Even though the 2008 Obama campaign had a lot of support and following political figures on Twitter is commonplace, the immediacy and direct communication with voters is a growing political tool that will put candidacies to the test for this upcoming election.
We saw some inkling of how social media can hurt political campaigns when the Rick Perry's "Strong" ad became the video on YouTube with the most 'dislikes' and negative comments.
From Twitter town halls to YouTube channels and Facebook polling, there will be a lot of social media elements to the campaign and its seems impossible that any politician is going to take the nomination without strong social media support.
7- New buzz words that make us cringe
Every year there are new tech words that get folded into our vernacular. This year we were inundated with words like monetize, optimize and crowdsource. Many platforms were taking this year to boost their user-base and create revenue models for their services. Next year, I am expecting the explosion of a few new focuses and words.
Gamification: We were seeing the very tip of the iceberg of gamification. This is taking advertisements or services and creating games out of them -- complete with badges, notifications and the exchange of virtual goods for interacting with online services.
Brands that want to increase the interaction that their users have with marketing campaigns are using ramification techniques to increase the time spent and number of clicks on ads they run. News sources are expected to offer up badges for readers based on their loyalty to the company.
Mocial: It's mobile plus social. Yeah, cringe. But this is where every company is going to be putting a lot of focus on next year. With studies showing that most people using social networks are accessing them through their smart phone, the improvement of the mobile functionality is key to growing the dependance. From improving the usability of mobile web access to providing apps (sometime multiple apps) for social features and services, the word mocial will likely be a big conversation in 2012.
MoSoCom: The world of mobile, social and commerce all rolled into one. It may be the worst word I've run into but it is a market that people are running toward in order to get revenue from their online services. One of the biggest areas that is seeing this growth is in the commerce section like Amazon or eBay. These sites are trying to make it easy for someone to post that they purchased a particular item and with one click, allow friends to see and purchase the same item.
8- Sharing e-books will help transition more people to tablets
I have been slow to adopt the e-book revolution because I am a big fan of loaning and borrowing books from friends and it has been very tricky to get that convenience from Kindles and Nooks. In 2012, I am predicting that the world of book loaning and sharing will be a key factor in the growth of the digital book industry.
We have already seen some moves in this direction with public libraries offering digital copies and some books that are no longer under copyright are available for free download.
In order to get more people to buy these mobile book readers, Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble and others will need to start offering services to share books with friends for a small fee or for free -- then we would be combining the wonders of social media, book recommendations, and digital readers.
I might even be willing to deal with a few ads for the access to digital copies of books that my friends have.
9- Facebook will get iOS integration
It hasn't been announced but I am making the call -- the next iOS upgrade will include Facebook integration in i-device native apps. Twitter made the cut this year and introduced thousands of new users to the fun of micro-blogging and it only seems natural that the next would be the largest social networking site, Facebook.
Facebook would also love to jump on this bandwagon as it inches closer to IPO and is looking to be everywhere it possibly can (gaining more eyes on ads) and build an even stronger relationship with Apple.
From posting photos to checking-in, i-devices are ruling the one click social sharing and will continue to support the social media evolution.
10- Yelp and Facebook will bring back confidence in tech IPOs
This year was a lackluster time for tech IPOs -- from the Demand Media flop and the dim showing from Zynga to the nose-dives that Pandora and Groupon have endured, we are all awaiting Yelp and Facebook to put some boost back into the Internet tech sales.
These IPOs are expected to put air back into the investment sales. I am anticipating exciting pops in both stocks and continued announcements of revenue growing endeavors that may put additional fire under their competitors' feet.
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