Chances are your company’s opinion on social media has come a long way in the past 3 years. Many companies across numerous industries have employed a reactive approach to social media preferring to wait for other’s success stories before investing the time and money to employ their own strategy. Well I’m here to tell you that strategy is dying faster than Myspace. Social Media is flooded with new noise everyday and more and more competition for your target market’s attention. 2011 is the year many brands are moving from “being on social media” to actually actively using social media to grow their brand.

Here are 5 different areas where I see Social Media’s evolution headed in 2011.

1. Mobile is driving the medium.
Our mobile device has become an extension of who we are. For the first time ever smart phone sales have surpassed that of desktops and laptops. There are more than 200 million people regularly using a Facebook Mobile application. We have a tremendous amount of information available to us at our fingertips and as consumers, a tremendous amount of power. In general, we’re seeing everything online move to more of a review based model. The ability to review a meal before you’ve received the check or to compare a hundred sites for the best price on an Ipad is real. Your challenge is how to stay relevant to your consumer in a world that’s now always connected.

2. Metrics are evolving.
The most difficult aspect of social media for us as marketers has always been justifying the ROI. I have seen more advancement in social media metrics in the first 3 and half months of 2011 then I have the previous 2 years combined. Facebook Insights have recently added a number of new metrics as well as a developer api to open up the sandbox for businesses to define their own goals. I think there is a concerted effort amongst social media sites to prove their tangible business value, look for industry wide metrics that show not just how many but who.

3. Facebook is still King (and Queen).
There have been a lot of changes from Facebook in 2011, the new fan pages, more robust ad reporting and the retirement of several of our favorite applications. Facebook continues to grow their market share, steadily growing at nearly 700,000 users per day. That 500 million active users number is pretty well known these days but would you believe that there are more than 250 million that log on at least once a day? How about Twitter you say? Bill Seaver, founder of MicroExplosion Media put it best when he said “Twitter will become a platform where you can connect with some people in their professional lives, and Facebook will continue to be the platform where you can connect with most people in their personal lives.” Keep an eye out for Facebook’s new “Tell Your Fans” email option, it’s the next evolutionary step for the newer more business friendly Facebook.

4. Consumers will value authenticity above all else.
Why do consumers follow their favorite brands through social media? They follow, to see the people and personality behind the brand. Be yourself, social media is a conversation and you need to spark it. Your challenge is to rise above all the noise and increased sales efforts and earn the respect of your target audience by being you. Don’t be afraid to show your personality, it’s ultimately what keeps people coming back and makes a customer for life.

5. Social Media is becoming more mainstream.
I for one, really despise the term “New Media” as it pertain to social media. It’s not new anymore, in fact there are a number of companies that rely solely on their social media entities to sell their product and have done away with their websites completely. Part of the reason social media has gone mainstream is how inexpensive it is. As costs rise in stalwart traffic sources such as paid search, social media is so incredibly inexpensive and accessible. It’s like the soccer of marketing channels, but instead of a ball all you need is an Internet connection to play.

Embrace the challenge and understand that social media isn’t a race, it’s marathon, one that takes a lot time and effort but with many victories along the way.

-Mark Randle
Online Marketing Manager