It’s traditional to make predictions for the upcoming year but I hate being traditional.  Yet … it’s just too irresistible — so much happening! Most of the forecasts I’ve seen have missed some important ideas.  Here are a few things to watch in my humble estimation!

First let’s get the obvious trends off the table: Mobile, integration, location, group buying, privacy, tablets. Yes, those are big ideas for 2011. But we already know that. Let’s dig a little deeper on some of the market forces that may be less obvious but perhaps no less important …

Apps gone mad. Of course everybody has “mobile” on their list but more important is the breakthrough creativity in the apps we’re going to see.  This is the new front-line of online marketing. Breathtaking stuff coming down the pike.

Augmented reality debuts. In fact it already has. Perhaps Word lens is the first real shot across the bow. This is going to explode. I think it’s going to leap-frog QR codes.

Social Media “re-set” – Some time next summer as the 2012 budget planning process commences, many marketing executives are going to look over their budgets and figure out they’re not getting any traction from their social media efforts. I think there is going to be a re-set button hit because

  1. Companies leaped in simply because they were afraid of being left behind;
  2. They assigned ineffective resources to the task;
  3. The hyped expectations cannot possibly align with reality.

Overall the momentum for social media marketing will continue because the best companies get it, are seeing results, and new apps and mash-ups will drive a new round of creativity and investments.

Social scoring takes center stage – Ask any of your friends about Klout and you’re likely to get a blank stare. That’s going to change as social influence scoring goes mainstream. Whether you like it or not, people love to rate and grade other people and this is going to be an extremely hot trend.  Think how large the market is for SEO gurus. Social scoring is basically personal SEO.  How is the world going to change when every teenager on the planet is trying to figure out how to improve the social influence score showing up next to their Facebook profile?

The social SEO snowball — In a related development, search engines are now considering social influence in organic results. So companies have a new reason to participate in the social web. But unlike keywords and content which can be liberally sprinkled through a website, there is no shortcut for social validation. Will this give B2B’s a new incentive to get serious about social?

Social for the enterprise – What if we applied social software to people working within a company?  If employees in a far-flung global company could harvest these networking, collaboration and ideation benefits internally, couldn’t this create a significant competitive advantage?  The technology is there, employees love to use these tools, and the time is right for this trend.

Micro payments – finally? Facebook have been dipping its toe into micro payments in 2010 by giving out free credits to help condition customers use the new credit system. I saw a Facebook “gift card” in the stores for the first time this month.  This is significant because micro-payments have been the long-time dream of musicians, writers and every other artist getting their work ripped off on the Internet. Yes, it might aimed at virtual Farmville crops but I’m hoping this will finally catch on and introduce a new much-needed monetization system on the social web.

So those are some of the developments on the horizon that fascinate me. What is energizing you about 2011?

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