This is the 29th in a series of 32 posts—each one a section from Euro RSCG Worldwide PR’s “The Big Little Book of Nexts,” which in total features more than 150 sightings for 2012. It’s the biggest, most robust annual trends report ever from @erwwpr CEO Marian Salzman and her trendspotting team. To download the entire report, go to the Brainfood tab at eurorscgpr.com.
Today, 98 percent of U.S. adults aged 18 to 34 use social media in a typical month. The study that recently revealed that information, conducted by Experian Simmons, estimates that roughly 129 million people—41 percent of the total U.S. population—are using social media to reach out and touch someone. There has been no other medium more powerfully affecting how we connect than social media, and its impact will continue to pack a punch in 2012 and beyond. The rise of the social consumer will have a huge influence on how we purchase goods and services next year. There’s power in numbers when it comes to views on value, quality and experience, and social media has given birth to a new generation of savvy consumers who like to share. Recent data from M Booth and Beyond shows there are two types of consumers on SoMe these days: high sharers (20 percent of online consumers) and low sharers (the remaining 80 percent), with marketers targeting high sharers for their influence and product recommendations (they recommend products three times more than low sharers). Plus, 53 percent of consumers use Facebook to interact with a brand, while 40 percent of social consumers liked a product on Facebook. There’s also big evidence that today’s social shoppers are becoming their very own brand advocates and reviewers: One-third wrote a product review online. Most interestingly, Facebook has big power when it comes to baby brands, YouTube is handy for music marketers, and review sites pack a punch for electronics brands. Look for the culture of influence to keep affecting the way we buy in 2012, as we continue to seek approval from the “experts” in our lives: our friends in our extended social networks. Today’s educators are also realizing the power of social networks, and social academics will be the next big way to teach. Because Facebook started on a college campus, look for the social giant to go back to its roots, this time as educational tool. Says Peter Carr, a social media for business professor at the University of Waterloo, “The new modern philosophies of education would say it’s important to have students working in groups, interacting with each other and the professor and learning the content together.” And what’s more, professors are creating Facebook pages for their courses so that students and professors can share information and exchange ideas. Some professors are even taking to Twitter to answer questions or create an onscreen forum for discourse—all during class. Look for more social networks and giants such as Skype and YouTube to interact with academics and devise ways to educate students where they live, in the classroom and beyond. And if academics are segmenting social, it’s further proof that such networks build communities and can get micro. Social will go hyperlocal in 2012 as we continue our fascination with local news and connecting with those in our real backyards. A new startup in San Francisco is looking for a piece of the (local) social networking pie. Nextdoor is a community network with local recommendations for goods and services, and with digital garage sales, and there are rules: If you don’t live in the neighborhood, you can’t join, and you must use your real name to create community trust and build relationships. Businesses and institutions are jumping on the local bandwagon, too; Stanford University, for instance, is launching a private, internal social-networking service, called CAP (for Community Academic Profiles), to encourage community in the School of Medicine. Plus, HR departments across the board are getting employees to talk to each other; in the past 18 months, private cloud-based social networking services such as Yammer, Chatter, Huddle and Jive (all taking cues from Facebook) are putting watercooler conversations online. China is running with the local trend by going from “Made in China” to “Created in China 2.0”—in other words, the country’s social media influencers are innovating in their own unique environment. Social networking services (SNS) in China aren’t copycats but are pioneering a unique landscape that will just keep evolving. And the rate of growth across those services is extraordinary—which is good news for marketers, because Chinese consumers are almost six times more likely to trust brands they engage with on social networks than U.S. consumers are (46 percent vs. 6 percent). We also see SNS content becoming increasingly more visual compared with their Western counterparts. In the near future, Chinese SNS will very likely influence Western social networks. No conversation about social media in 2012 would be complete without discussing how social media will affect the U.S. presidential election. With Obama’s brilliant social strategy the first time around, it stands to reason that candidates desperate to connect with today’s potential voters (of all ages and in both major parties) need to get social. President Obama just added a Tumblr account to his roster of social media profiles—and, according to Mashable, the choice is significant, as Tumblr is often thought of as more casual and approachable than some other social sites and blogs. Other significant news, with more like it to follow, is Mitt Romney’s hiring of Zac Moffatt as his campaign’s digital director. No matter the candidate’s point of view, there’s no question that there’s great power in numbers when it comes to getting that POV across to large groups who are willing to spread the love (or, of course, digitally knock someone down if they don’t like what he or she has to say).