2011 was a game changing year in social media. In some ways, social media is growing up, but in other ways we’re just getting started. But this is a dynamic field and we’re sure to see changes in 2012 too? What should businesses plan for in 2012 and what should they be looking for? I’m putting my Carnack hat on and writing down the trends I see in social media for 2012.

Social CRM:

I predict in 2012, I think we’re going to see an increasing attempt to translate digital profiles back to a customer. Businesses are looking for ways to see the lifespan of their “social circle”, they want to know what platforms I follow them on, if I follow them on all three and which of my email addresses tie back to the profile. Consumers aren’t likely to just give that information away, businesses will have to get creative to get consumers to connect the dots for them and even then, they are likely to only initially be able to connect the dots with their most active and passionate customers. But 2012 will see some changes in this area and as a marketer, its none too soon.

Cross-Department Social Media:

As businesses continue to face the reality that community management (social media) requires time and committment, they are likely to empower more and more employees to work on the “social media team” the social media team won’t be a coming exclusively from the marketing and communication teams. Rather, the social media team will be comprised of the best communicators within each department.  This will lead to:

More integrated social media campaigns:

Social media will be an integral part of business communication. Businesses won’t launch an initiative without considering how they’ll support it within social media. Whether the initiative is a new business product or simply a campaign, we’ll see businesses working those ideas and campaigns more throughly into their social media platforms.

Further segmentation of social platforms.

With the launch of G+, we’re seeing that people are picking their favorite platforms and spending their social media time there. Much like radio and TV have certain demographic segmentation, social platforms will too. But the segmentation won’t be based entirely on the demographics we think of for TV or radio, rather it will be as much about how they consume information, how frequently they share it and time spent on the platform.

Social ROI:

The social media sphere will have more pressure on it to create programs that suit business objectives and then show the ROI. By the end of 2012, we’ll start to see some beginnings of what makes up social ROI. We won’t quite be universally using the same ROI model, but as an industry, we’ll be closer to agreeing to some best practices.

Content, Content, Video:

Creating content will continue to be a considerable aspect of a social media program. We’ll see more and more video as the content type of choice. Its faster, easier to consume and more entertaining. The challenge for most businesses will be creating video content that creates conversation and isn’t just a commercial. I think we’ll see more video content that also incorporates calls to action on social platforms also.

Game-ification:

We’re likely to see an increase in web-based and social platform-based games that consumers want to play, they’ll gladly give away their email address in conjunction with a social profile for access. These games are the domain of enterprise and large businesses today, but by the end of 2012, you’ll start to see more games and with that a higher likelihood of affordability for medium-sized businesses. I don’t think it will be affordable for most small businesses yet, but I’d love it if I were wrong!  The curve ball here might be Facebook. Facebook may make it easier for small businesses to create interactive experiences within Facebook.

Social and mobile integration:

Businesses will have to begin to think about how and when people are consuming content and engaging on social platforms. 49% of people use their smart phones to do social networking. We’ll have to think more about how what we post appears and engages mobile users. That’s another reason why gaming will continue to grow, because 52% of smart phone users also play games on their phones.

Social online will merge into social online:

We’ll start to see more and more relationship solidification happen in real and social channels. By that I mean, business (and people) will be looking for ways to take the social engagement into the real life scenario. Social media for events is already hot, but we’ll start to see businesses of all types work their content and social efforts towards real-life experiences. Businesses will also be looking to location apps more often for this reason as well.