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Social media was once thought of as a fad, a quirky flash in the pan trend that would never catch on. Most people considered it to be either some sort of throwback to the days of MSN chat, or an exercise in online egotism: Clearly things have moved on a lot since then…

With Facebook and Twitter now considered to be fundamental pillars of the internet, social media has crash landed onto the web with a gigantic consumer-driven bang; in-fact the impact has been so great that the two are now virtually synonymous with each other.

2011 was clearly the year when social media and activism took centre spotlight. TIME magazine voted ‘The Protester’ as its person of the year. With mass demonstrations across Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and the #occupy movement taking the foreground throughout the western world, democracy became the flashpoint, and invariably, social media was the rallying cry.

Spin on 12 months and if 2011 was the year that social media came to prominence, what then lies in store for 2012?

Greater Integration

social media The Social Media Outlook for 2012. Trends and Predictions

‘Like’ buttons, plus ones, twitter widgets and ‘share this page’ applications have become all the rage over the last year or so. With so many sites now adopting social media plugins, ranging from international corporate entities to relatively small independent blogs, 2012 is likely to see traditional online platforms become much more integrated with social media. Crossover applications already allow you to share, promote and like websites, with Google now incorporating social metrics into search, integration between the two is only likely to increase in the future.

Consumer Power Rises

responsibility The Social Media Outlook for 2012. Trends and Predictions

Once upon a time companies thought twice about jumping into the den of social media; some still do, but the lessons learnt by companies such as Habitat and United Airlines show that social media can neither be ignored, nor treated with contempt.

With virtually the entire world updating statuses and tweeting away to their hearts content, one misjudged email (see Ocean Marketing) and a complaint can quickly see a multinationals’ PR department furiously back peddling in order to prevent a social media deluge of biblical proportions. There is no longer any escape from social media and companies are increasingly becoming aware that consumers are taking the power back, and they are literally connected.

Social Media Spends Will Increase

spends The Social Media Outlook for 2012. Trends and Predictions

As I mentioned above, companies were once dubious about delving into the undercurrents of social media, however, spin on to 2012 and virtually every company under the sun now has a mix of tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and flickr profiles.
A recent study conducted by Brightedge revealed that 72% of respondents intended to increase their marketing spends in SEO and out of that 72%, 98% of them intended to include social media. According to Forbes, by 2016 $77bn will be spent annually on online marketing.

Google Plus?

google plus The Social Media Outlook for 2012. Trends and Predictions

Despite a somewhat slow start, Google plus now appears to be picking up steam. Recent statistics show that Google Plus profile signups increased to 62 million at the end of December 2011. New estimates suggest that by the end of the year Google Plus could eclipse 400 million users worldwide.

So why the sudden increase? Quite simply Google is the king of search and anything that may, or may not, be considered to be a ranking factor has to be taken seriously if companies wish to continue to succeed online.

It appears that Google is intent on integrating Plus factors within search results; this therefore suggests that anyone, be it company or independent, without a Plus profile is potentially missing out on a trick and effectively tying one hand behind their back when it comes to organic search performance.

Social media is here to stay folks and every source and indication shows that it’s only going to get bigger – better dig out and dust off my twitter account…

Written by John Trivett

This article was written by John Trivett, on behalf of the price comparison site Confused.com. John is currently based in beautiful Devon and works as a digital media representative for LBi.