8 social media trends to watch in 2011

By Gini Dietrich

From Washington, D.C., to your own smart phone, there’ll be plenty to keep your eye on

Every Thursday, we take a question from Arment Dietrich Facebook fans and answer it via video on Spin Sucks and YouTube. A few weeks ago the question was, “How much should I budget for social media?” You can view the response here.

That got us thinking about budgeting for 2011 in general. Not just how much you should budget, but which tools, technologies, and ideas you should be considering as you create a plan.

Following are eight trends to be watching.

1. Net neutrality. If you pay attention to only one trend in 2011, it should be net neutrality. Anytime you see news where Google and Verizon are mentioned together, read the story. If what they want to do passes, the Web will soon be a paid model, just like cable television. That means the end of a level playing field on the Web.

2. Customer engagement. Long gone are the days of surveys, focus groups, and market research. We’ve long lamented how much time and money it costs to find out what our customers think. Well, no more! Now we can ask them directly every day by learning the difference between talking at and engagement.

3. Content. All companies will become media companies, in that the content they provide is valuable, consistent, and non-salesy. This will be big for B2B companies while they figure out how to use, what they’ve always considered, intellectual property to attract new customers.

4. Social commerce. Social who? In short, you can now sell on Facebook by letting your customers buy, but also letting them tell their friends. And letting their friends tell their friends. Even if you don’t offer ecommerce on your website, it’s now possible to provide that service through the social network. And it’s overly simple to set up.

5. Group buying. You’ve heard of sites, such as Groupon, that sell for discounts if you get your friends to “group” together to buy a product or service? Based on the $1 billion price tag Groupon received this year, expect them and like-minded sites to continue to grow, offering you a new way to reach different audiences.

6. Q&A sites. It may seem crazy if you’re not a frequent user of the social platforms, but people are beginning to make real decisions based on recommendations from their virtual friends. Sites such as JustAnswer and Quora will begin to pop up, allowing people to ask a question and get real answers from real people. The marketing possibilities become endless, because you’ll begin to collect data from groups of people instead of one customer at a time.

7. Mobile. It’s no surprise our phones are becoming like third hands for most of us or that we’re eons behind Asian countries on how we use them. But we’re beginning to catch on and move toward abandoning our laptops for phones. Watch for movement toward mobile payments and begin thinking about how to accept payments via an application on the phone.

8. FTC rulings. As companies begin to create their own content, paying attention to the FTC rulings will become imperative. Right now, things such as blogger disclosure and not paying for reviews are the hot topics. Be sure someone within your organization is kept abreast with changes to avoid unnecessary trouble.

Now you can get to planning and budgeting!

Gini Dietrich was recently named the No.1 PR person, according to Klout and TechCrunch, was No. 1 on Twitter, according to TweetLevel, and blogs at Fight Against Destructive Spin.