Friday, December 21, 2007

Future Gazing - Predictions for 2008...Social Networks

Well it wouldn't be a real blog if it didn't have some predictions to nail bite over in the New Year. Some are obvious but may be underestimated in their impact. You may even spot a contradiction but keep in mind the year is long. I've split them into two categories: Social Networking and Local Search.

Disclaimer - I blame Neo-Citran for any ambiguity or downright foolishness.

Social Networking

1. Attrition

The first part of the year will most likely see continued growth in membership to social networking sites. Mid-year, the growth will plateau and there will be a fall in user frequency. As application fatigue deepens within the early adopters, the same bug will hit mainstream users. The underwhelming selection of tools that in the main provide little value continues to grow out of control.

As a media person, I hate to say it but the overt onslaught of ads on the networks will diminish the user experience. See 5 & 6 for market's response.

2. Privacy

To date, mature advocates “looking out for our youth” have lobbied privacy issues. I believe that privacy issues will start to become a focus amongst youth themselves in the coming year. As news releases continue to leak about job candidates being assessed through their online profiles etc., the issue will become more tangible to this group.

While teens wield limited power in the courts, their actions will speak for themselves and the caliber of profile information will deteriorate to vague tongue and cheek commentary.

The use of social networking for investigative purposes will continue to rise. Police, financial institutions and other parties will exploit the exhibitionism and this will further encourage a cut back to disclosure (even among innocent by-standers).

3. Consolidation – Unduplicated Reach

As users invest more time on networks that have the bulk of their BFFs, the need to use multiple platforms diminishes. While there may be some shopping around, it’ll be tire kicking for the most part. Leaving networks with inflated numbers of members and a discrepancy in usage that creates a lack of clarity on loyalty.

4. Measurement

Major advancements towards understanding the inner working of a social network will take place in the New Year. User segmentation by behavior and other identifiers will come into vogue. The challenge will be to maintain some level of consistency as the above factors begin to erode the quality of profile data available to mine. Decentralized networks will challenge solution providers and I think some will step up to the plate.

5. White Label Mania - Hyper Social Networks

Much like blogging, everyone will feel it necessary to create their own cultures and white labeling platforms will enable this. So micro-communities will start to take shape much like the Facebook networks only not.

6. Decentralized Social Networks

The world will be ready to take back the reigns by the end of the year. The idea of maintaining a social network in a closed, private desktop environment may become attractive to those wanting to clean house and control their own applications. Look out for widgets here.
Underlying themes will be ownership and control for the consumer.

7. Voice

This is a bit of a no-brainer but enabling calling on social networks will have to happen. Insert Ribbit here?

8. Niche Agencies

A new crop of agencies (this is already happening so I'm cheating a bit) will grow out of social networking. Niche agencies will occupy themselves with reputation monitoring and management (basically online PR).

So tools to measure will continue to flourish and Google will most likely offer one for free.

9. Video

I was going to keep this to 8 but video is nagging in the back of my head (thanks to an IM brawl's not over). I've got some half-baked notion of Google's OS for mobile and YouTube - I'll have to clarify when codeine is not affecting the thought... I guess I've got 11 days.

So there they are 8 for '08 plus the refugee that squeezed in for Social Networking. Stay tuned for Local Search...

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