Human beings are incredible creatures at making sense of events in hindsight. Whilst looking backwards it’s may seem simple to make out the paths we’ve taken and the reasons we’ve chosen to take it, we’re conversely incredibly poor at making foresighted predictions with the even slightest degree of relevancy. For this reason, we’ve decided to take a 2-pronged approach to our 2013 predictions.
Some of our predictions are already well underway, for example social advertising has been part of Facebook’s repertoire for quite some time now, we just see it rising in dominance or reaching a level of maturity of which it warrants wider attention. On the other hand, we’ve taken some sparsely diverse dots and tried to draw a line between them. Take what we’re calling ‘converged devices’. Although many manufacturers are pushing towards device ecosystems, we see our prediction as a more consumer focused approach than concepts such as The Internet of Things, which will probably have more relevance at an enterprise level. These predictions may seem a little outlandish, but that’s OK, we’re sort of hoping we’re like Christopher Columbus.
Without further ado, here are the following themes we’ll be pinning our eyes on in the beginning of 2013:
Native Social Advertising
The most obvious opportunity is without a doubt native social advertising. With more reasons to succeed than fail, and an already stable foundation to grow on, we’d be surprised to see the big networks mess this up.
Native social advertising is defined as branded content that is integrated within the usual framework of a social networking platform, often sandwiched between user-generated content. Facebook already enjoys success with their Sponsored Story format, and twitter is increasingly rolling out access to promoted tweets. What they do is allow advertisers to scale their social media efforts with the one asset they often have in abundance in comparison to the average web user – cash.
They’re attractive because they offer advertisers a richer solution that, according to a study by BIA/Kelsey, drives greater demand, engagement and ROI. The more a consumer interacts with the advertising, the more successful it becomes to the advertisers. This is the beauty of social advertising, there has to be some mutual transfer of value between the advertiser and consumer, so rather than pushing media in front of someone and hoping they’ll recall if the next time they’re at the store, there has to be something in it for the everyday person who is sat browsing Facebook.
Another huge benefit is that social has the biggest foot in the door on mobile platforms. Advertising on mobile has yet to see it’s dominant player, however Google is struggling to make the same impact it has on desktop. With mobile ad revenue set to hit $1.5billion in 2016, a social-mobile partnership could prove to be a rather fruitful one.
Social media pulls in practices from a diverse set of disciplines. Although communications subjects such as Marketing and PR were quick to jump on board, people with knowledge from backgrounds as diverse as computer science and technical development, statistical sociology and graph theory are have all developed to become respected social media practitioners.
MSc courses in Social Media are already available from universities such as City University London, Goldsmiths University of London and The University of York. With the latest alumni about to hit the working environment, it will be interesting to see what benefits these specialist courses bring to what is a relatively complex and idiosyncratic subject.
Why do I need to use a hashtag to tell twitter I’m watching Britain’s Got Talent if my TV already knows? What if, my TV communicates with my tablet and automatically threads my conversation with people who are already in a similar situation? Third party applications, where much of the innovation takes place (are you listening, twitter?), are already doing similar things. Take a look at what InstaBAM is doing with location, for example. But with access to a wider range of devices and data points (location, content or whatever socially relevant signals you can pick up on) you’ll be able to take part in richer communications as you’ll have a more specialised device. For example, smartphones are great for tweeting and texting, but video calls? I’d rather do that through my TV any day.
This trend is certainly already underway. Microsoft, Google and Apple are all taking heavy steps into the device ecosystem, however Microsoft already appear to be a step ahead of the curve in the living room with Kinect and SmartGlass.
With the introduction of 4G, video and richer content in general will begin to play a more prominent role. It isn’t hard to imagine an Instagram for videos, or at least gifs, beginning to pick up steam within the next year. However, the barriers to creation and skill involved will prevent it becoming a mainstay of wider social media enabled communications just yet. For now, I’d expect Apple’s FaceTime and Google’s Hangouts to continue developing, integrating devices (;)) such as TV, tablets and maybe even smartwatches into the mix.
Another Big Industry Disruption
For me, AirBnB is the undisputed champion of what can be achieved through social this year. The online service matches people who are seeking vacation rentals and people providing short-term accommodation. With offers ranging from to the Aliko Suite, Santorini to this rather dubious looking wardrobe somewhere in Manhattan, some people are speculating that they’ll be filling more rooms per night than the Hilton hotel chain by the end of this year. Although it was founded in 2008, it’s only recently that it’s overcome some growing pains and become caused an unmistakable quake in a centuries-old industry.
So what could next year hold? Well, with the long surrounding controversy and ethical procedures of the banking institution, it looks like an easy target for some social goodness. Mint.com are taking a more co-operative approach by teaming up with current banks, however businesses like SoFI are promising to cut out pre-existing banks altogether and allow students to connect with their schools alumni, who are happy to help finance you through university and find get you a job so you can pay them back when you’re finished. Much better than the myriad of debt, confusion and bureaucracy of today’s student finance options.
In conclusion, if any of us were accurate more than 50% of the time in our speculative thoughts we’d be tearing up Wall Street as investment bankers. However, with most incidences that cause major effect often characterized as ‘Black Swans’, unpredicted yet completely rationalized in hindsight, we’re not quick to close our minds on any potential vulnerabilities or opportunities that may arise on any occasion, whether it’s a new year or simply a new day.