With 2010 fast approaching, there’s lots of talk about the social media predictions for the coming year. Although we don’t have a crystal ball here at, we do have recent social media studies to support some very likely trends.

David Armano recently published his social media predictions for 2010 on the Harvard Business Blog.  Here’s a detailed analysis on whether his predictions will likely come true.

social media predictions

Trend #1: Social Media Networks Become Exclusive

Armano predicts we’ll begin to see more exclusivity of networks as users focus more on specific niche content.  Indeed, research supports the prediction that people will be willing to pay for access to specialty networking groups.  Payment models by their very nature will exclude many spammers and create higher-quality networks.

“The bottom line is that users are willing to pay for social network content as long as sites cater to specific market niches as opposed to broader, mainstream audiences,” according to eMarketer.

Trend #2: Corporations Scale Social Media Efforts

Armano predicts corporations will begin to incorporate social media initiatives on a larger scale, moving beyond their one-off marketing experiments and general communication activity.

Research also supports this prediction.  For example, 94% of companies sponsoring online communities plan to increase their social networking support as well as engage with other social media tools, according to the 2009 Tribalization of Business Study by Deloitte.

Trend #3: Social Media for Business Becomes… Fun

Armano predicts businesses will focus more on adding entertainment to their social media efforts to incentivize user activity.

There’s plenty of data to support this trend:

Games rank #1 in top-performing mobile applications, followed by social networking apps, according to a recent report by Distimo. Games and networking are often closely related in many social media environments (I see this often on Facebook fan pages).

Here’s a great example of a mainstream company taking advantage of this emerging trend:  Volkswagen recently went 100% mobile for their GTI launch and created a virtual game via the Apple App Store.  It includes a chance to compete to win one of six limited-edition 2010 GTIs.  This is a great example of social media “game” marketing—and relates to trend #5.

Word of Facebook caution! Companies that plan on running contests on Facebook need to proceed with caution. Facebook just announced that brands, advertisers, and marketers that want to run contests or sweepstakes on its platform have to go through an approval process first. And it could get pricey.  For more information, check out this post by Mari Smith.

Trend #4: Social Media Policies Become Standard for Businesses

Armano predicts in the coming months, your company will release the “rules of engagement” for social media activity. These will be social media guidelines.

Here’s some data to support this trend:

  • 40% of companies actively block employee access to social media for any purpose and only 26% of companies actually encourage social media use to further business objectives, according to a report by Russell Herder.
  • 54% of chief information officers (CIOs) do not allow employees to visit social networking sites for any reason while they’re at work, according to a similar study by Robert Half Technology.
  • 19% of businesses permit social media use for business purposes only and 16% permit social media activity for limited personal use, according to the same study by Robert Half Technology.

Dave Willmer, executive director of Robert Half Technology, points out, “Professionals should let common sense prevail when using Facebook and similar sites—even outside of business hours.  Regrettable posts can be a career liability.”<

Trend #5: Mobile Becomes a Social Media Lifeline

According to Armano, with the banning of social media activity increasing in the workplace and smartphone sales on the rise, the social networking addiction will be carried over to mobile devices.

Here’s some research to support this trend:

Trend #6:  Social Networks Reduce Users’ Reliance on Email

Armano predicts sharing of content will be sent via social networking sites instead of via traditional email.

Here’s data to support this trend:

  • 32% of Gen Y consumers share promotional offers with members inside a social network, according to a report titled Participatory Network Marketing Methodology.
  • 34% of marketers feel integrating social media and email marketing is one of the most important email marketing initiatives, according to a study by Universal McCann.
  • 81.5% of social network users (those who use the Internet at least every other day) say messaging friends is the top activity when visiting social media sites, also reported by Universal McCann.

Here I’ve highlighted the studies and articles that support Armano’s conclusions.  The research seems to affirm his predictions.

Do you agree with these predictions? Are there any you predict won’t surface as trends in 2010? What other trends would you add to the mix?  Please leave your comments below.

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