Predictions for 2009

As Peter Kim writes, "Community and collaboration are a wonderful thing." Pete took the initiative to wrangle 14 social media bloggers to give our predictions for 2009. He's summarized some of the top predictions in a blog post, and also published all of the predictions in a PDF that's available as a free download, on Scribd, or embedded below.

I've republished my social media predictions below, as well as a few new ones that I've thought about since my submission to Peter.

- Obama-maniacs will spawn a new age of activism. The millions of online-activated volunteers in the Obama campaign will find the drudgery of governing unappealing and abandon Obama's citizen government movement. Looking for new challenges, they will champion causes ranging from gay marriage to local school improvements. Non-profits will recognize the potential of bringing on these virtual community organizers, especially their ability to raise money in tiny increments in a down economy. So despite a raging recession, charitable giving will new numerous new — albeit smaller — sources of contributions

- Exclusivity trumps accessibility. Having thousands of friends becomes "so 2008" and defriending becomes the hot new trend, driven by overwhelming rivers of newsfeeds. The movement is rooted in a desire to have quality, not quantity, as people cocoon in the face of the economic crisis. Facebook apps will emulate Twitter Grader, allowing you to prioritize your friends based on their overall social ranking — and prune safely to ensure the highest quality friends.

- Facebook's SocialRank algorithms emerge to drive the open social Web. In much the same way that Google has PageRank to understand the relevancy of Web pages to your search, Facebook will debut a "SocialRank" algorithm which determines which of your friends are most relevant and important to the task at hand. Tapping the algorithm that already drives NewsFeed, Facebook will make SocialRank available on Facebook Platform applications and Friend Connect partners, drawing on the implicit data stream created in these other environments to prioritize the relationships that matter in that context. The result: Facebook will strike a significant advantage as the leader in the open social Web, thus "opening" up while maximizing the value of their proprietary network.

- Everyone becomes a marketer. As companies debate who should "own" community efforts within the organization — marketing, corporate communications, IT, etc — their front line workers will go about quietly, unobtrusively interacting with customers, partners, and other employees within their social networks. Examples like @comcastcares Frank Eliason or "Nuts About Southwest" blogger Gordon Guillory (who is a mechanical engineer) point to the democratization of social media within the enterprise. Companies will struggle with how to control who says what — but will increasingly realize that in an economic downturn, they need all the marketing muscle and leverage they can get and actively encourage.

- Shopping Goes Social. After a devastating holiday season, retailers will eagerly seek a way to improve results other than driving demand with deeper discounts. One option they will investigate will be how to insert people and social connections into the buying process, illuminating and influencing for the first time the Black Hole Of Consideration. As they lick their wounds in the first half of 2009, retailers will watch from the sidelines as media companies implement open social technologies like Facebook Connect and the Open Social Platform. But as the holiday season launches early after Labor Day, shoppers will find options to see what friends are recommending, buying and rating integrated into the shopping experience. 

And two new ones for added measure:

- Implicit social and behavior data shapes ad targeting innovations, leading to "Personal CPMs". Targeting consumers based on their exhibited behavior — such as Tacoda's ability to show car ads to consumers if they've visited a car site within the past two weeks, will spawn a second cousin as personalization, social profiles and social graphs of relationships and influence become accessible. Marketers will not only be able to tell who is interested in cars, but also who has high engagement, and hopefully, high influence with people also interested in cars. Companies like 33Across are building technology to unlock the implicit data hidden in social interactions, while companies like Plista will tap into basic browsing behavior to personalize recommendations. The result: a new way to identify real time, implicit intent, which will be like manna for marketers already maxed out on search marketing. Each person's profile will command a different, personal CPM based on a trilogy of their behavior, influence, and market demand. 

- The portal wars shift to openness. The traditional GYM portals (Google, Yahoo!, and MSN) will complete their shift from competing to be the end-all, be-all for consumers, to one-uping each other on who they can be more open than the others. Google will continue to flog its Open Platform but struggle for adoption against Facebook Connect's well packaged offering. Yahoo!'s Open Strategy (YOS) will make the experience great on Yahoo loyalists on, but will suffer from acquisition distractions while attracting few new users to Yahoo!. And Microsoft will launch its new revamped Windows Live and online Office services and surprise everyone that the big bad Redmond giant plays as nicely as it does with third parties. The focus of the portal wars will, as it has always been, a battle to convince existing users to stay loyal to the portal site, and not stray or spend as much time on other portals. The turning point will be when users on one portal (e.g. Google) can forgo visiting another site (e.g. Yahoo's fantasy sports pages) because the openness has extended to so many parts of the sites.

Social Media 2009


  1. Good morning Charlene,
    Great insight into upcoming trends including social shopping & personal CPMs, the new age of activism, and how everyone will become marketers. Good way to get my brain working on a Monday morning
    I really do hope this new age of activism is not just a short-lived surge. I am a millennial and have felt the positive effect that the recent election in every corner of my network.
    Everyone becomes a marketer – I see the organization adopting social media as a culture rather than a strategy.
    Social shopping and personal CPMs may be key for networks such as Facebook to monetize in novel and creative ways.
    I’m a little curious as to why you think exclusivity will be driven by the proliferation of newsfeeds. My instinct pulls me in the opposite direction. The technology for dealing with feeds is getting better as well (I’m thinking of FriendFeed and the best-of-day filter, Tweetdeck and their groups) and crowdsourcing theoretically is much more effective the larger the crowd and the better the methods for targeting people and extracting relevant data.
    Additionally, due to economic crisis, I’ve seen a lot of people turn to the interweb to network as they look for new ways to make money. It’s a way of physically cocooning in your room while maintaining the feeling of meeting people and strengthening your network. I may be speaking from personal experience here.
    Have a great week!

  2. Thanks for this one – great summary. The question of openness re the portal wars is pivotal to where we head next with Social Media and will have a big impact on the overall direction of social media sites (and apps) in general. It’s also about time we had more seamless interoperability between out sites – the learning curve is just too much and not enough 2.0, otherwise ;-)

  3. @Ky – some great comments, but specifically to your point about exclusivity versus accessibility. I think there will be two types of networks — a wide one that includes anyone and everyone who may be relevant in your life, in the past, present and future. That could be hundreds, thousands, of friends. But then there’s your “real network” of people. FriendFeed is a great example — you only put people in there that you REALLY want to follow, not because they follow you back. Groups in Tweetdeck points to this trend as well, the ability to segment and organize your friends.

  4. I was just writing ( about one of your predictions up there, “everyone becomes a marketer”. With IBM and Intel recently releasing their social media guidelines for employees, there appears to be an early trend toward “deputizing” employees as brand marketers out on the web.
    As you write, employees are going to interact anyway. As a company, you can assume a laissez faire approach, or you can encourage participation and set some expectations to protect your brand. What I see IBM and Intel doing is the latter. Very smart.

  5. Nice overview and predictions, however the facebook connect prediction will probably not come to reality in countries where facebook is (until now) a quite small player in social media. The Netherlands is a good example. Open social has a better chance (also because Linkedin is quite popular).

  6. @Erik: You’re absolutely correct that the Facebook Connect prediction is very US-centric (my shortcoming being based there). The very fact that Facebook will face greater competition outside the US is a key reason why there will likely be interconnections between Facebook and everyone else at some point down the line — but unlikely in 2009.

  7. Great list, Charlene. I agree it’ll take longer for the eCommerce players to get around to the various “Connect” implementations than the media folks. But those who want to see a preview of what eCommerce implementations might look like can peek at one of the 9 commerce sites that are already live using TurnTo. (As of today, we’re still with the old FB API, so we just use it for network-building, not ID. The full FB Connect implementation is coming soon. But even without that the application gives a hint of the potential of bringing social graph data into the online shopping world.)

  8. Hi, Charlene! Great stuff! Thanks to Peter and you for pulling it together and sharing.
    I would add that identity/reputation aggregation is likely also going to become a hot topic as people begin to realize that their identities are being scraped together, usually erroneously, from the interwebs. When people understand that others can easily put together a public profile/lifestream for you without one’s knowledge or authorization, aggregators like ZoomInfo, Spoke, Wink and Xigi will get a lot more attention.

  9. Hi Charlene,
    Enjoyed your list. I love the idea of understanding demand on a social level. That’s huge and untapped. However, I have a differing prediction on targeting behavior and influence based on issues with scale, user discovery and data.
    Scale: Display is all about scale, as it should be. It just doesn’t cost that much to buy 50 million impressions. Micro-targeting, with the exception of geo-targeting is generally not a successful segmentation strategy in display.
    Discovery: The influence exerted by a third party is not as important or measurable as the first party interaction with the content. Simply, my opinion is always the most influential to my performing an action. The implicit data might make me aim better, but it’s not the best arrow to shoot. My money will always be on content targeting to outperform behavior and influence.
    Data: Social interaction data might be interesting and there is lots of it. However unless better filters emerge it will be littered with so much noise as to make the data worthless. Unless of course you are micro-targeting. ☺
    We still have so much headroom in 2009 to improve marketing to a person’s attention. Social recommendations have never proven to be more valuable and are certainly less numerous than personal discovery. There is certainly an opportunity here but it is probably coming from the semantic technology, based on temporal metrics and in 2010. That’s my prediction!
    Best wishes to you and Altimeter in 2009!

  10. “- Exclusivity trumps accessibility. Having thousands of friends becomes “so 2008″ and defriending becomes the hot new trend”
    I totally agree with this prediction and think there’s huge potential for new apps (ways) to create exclusivity networks; just need to be brain-dead simple to use.

  11. Jonathan: Excellent points. To your specifics:
    - Scale: This is not about scale, nor is traditional search marketing. Microtargeting, whether it be by keyword or by social profile, is about reaching the right person at the right time, not scale.
    - Discovery: Content targeting works great, but imagine if you could pair content targeting AND social profiles. That way, an article on running is illuminated by whether the reader is a dedicated marathoner or weekend trotter.
    - Data: Filters are definitely needed, and across many different data sources. We’re just at the beginning of this exercise.
    Your last point about semantics is one that I hope to address in a future post. Semantics by themselves are unlikely to provide enough intelligence because they are devoid of the personal and social context of the viewer of that page. Temporal factors add to the depth of the profile, but again, only provides data on page visits, not the person.
    I stand by the need for greater insight into the PERSON visiting the page — all too often, advertisers rely on targeting just the content of the page itself. By doing so, they are missing an essential data element that can help them target better.

  12. Mark: “Brain-dead simple” is a great point — it’s far too cumbersome for people to manage their friends today. I have thousands of “friends” on Facebook, and I’m not about to go back and categorize them into groups unless it’s easy.

  13. Charlene: I love your perspective. It’s sparking quite a few thoughts, especially where semantic web comes into play. Not to mention having done many tests in “personalization” I have strong feelings as to its efficacy.
    Scale: I just don’t think Social scales on a personal data level. We need thicker slices to sell, and make targeting possible to optimize. We simply can not optimize based on a single cookie or IP with so many segments associated to it. Well, maybe Google can but most of us can’t crunch that much data.
    Discovery: I think content and social are already intertwined. We just have not been able to pull them together effectively with old technology. That failed technology (BT) was already based on the visitor. So was the “one-to-one” personalization technology like epiphany back in 1.0 that never lived up to the promise. Semantic technology of course will solve this targeting problem – but semantic has to be about the content.
    Data: I think the data is manageable now – at scale. :)
    Google has proven that content rules irrespective of personal data is enough to deliver high degrees of ad targeting relevance. More than enough for most marketers to be very successful. Regardless, I think personal and social context is often defined in content — semantic web is perfect to bring these “content correlations” together, or “socialize” them.
    Last, we often express our affinity in the content we create, share and view. Companies like Glue, Inform, Dapper and others are at the start of something big and its will be gloriously mashedup and indeed social. We always must start with the assumption that the content the visitor is on is relevant to them. Targeting to this content the only way to provide a win for the person, the publisher and the advertiser. Not just the person.
    Happy holidays! Looking forward to your thoughts on semantic web when you get around to posting them.

  14. Thanks for the post, Charlene. Awesome that you mentioned incremental charitable giving in your first prediction. Text donations will be huge for us this year at MobileCause…especially since 100% of the donation is passed thru to the non-profit organization from the carriers.
    Even though they are only $5 donations, callers can donate 5 times a month. It adds up and is very convenient.
    Keep up the great work! Kudos from MobileCause!

  15. I think micro-activism, sort of like micro-payments is a definite possibility in 2009. A quality over quality approach to social networks is likely as well, which dovetails with social shopping if you think of ‘social’ as recommendations and reviews.
    Who cares what 50 random people think of a product! What do your friends think of it? Particularly the ones who you know share your taste.
    The easiest way to think of it is restaurants. Some think more food equals good food. But you might equate tasty food with good food. You might even have friends who fall into both camps. So someone who pans a restaurant saying ‘it’s good but the portions are too small’ is actually a good recommendation if you just like tasty food.
    For me, the biggest thing Facebook could do is reposition itself as a portal, using Microsoft’s Live Search as a revenue stream, and potentially acquire Netvibes to round out portal content.
    Doing so would upset the equilibrium in search and I think you’d see Microsoft sites shoot past Yahoo! which would then trigger Microsoft/Yahoo! merger talks once again. The net result would be real competition for Google.
    The rest of my 2009 predictions are on Blind Five Year Old:

  16. Hi Charlene, you may turn these predictions into markets and let people put their play-money where their mouth is at, thank you for your feedback and merry xmas from Athens, Greece :)

  17. Charlene,
    Your prescience and insight are much appreciated as always. It’s practically impossible to encompass the potential trends and changes in social media during 2009.
    I like your idea about how “Exclusivity trumps accessibility.” It seems inevitable (following from some of your earlier writings) that online social will pervade our lives. We’ll soon reach the point where accessibility is 24/7/365 and the quality of exclusivity is at a premium. We’ll be looking at providing exclusivity as a service, perhaps to the point where we’ll pay for walled gardens. Privacy at a premium.
    I had a few additional thoughts on “10 social media trends for 2009″ on my blog.

  18. Inspired by your preditions, please enjoy my month-by-month account of the year to come:

  19. Hi Charlene,
    Not sure if you’ve already been tagged but I’ve just tagged you to list 7 facts about yourself
    Happy 09!

  20. Hi Charlene. I’m late to the conversation! I really like your insights around social shopping. At StyleHop we are building the first fashion affiliate e-commerce engine that allows you to order your product search results based on the rankings of your self-identified fashion peers. Take three women living in Des Moines. One may want to see the top designer jeans as ranked by other women in her neighborhood, another by her friends, and another by women in the East Village of NYC. Each may have similar demographic characteristics and even similar initial “clicks” but, by identifying their unique fashion peers, they each get highly specific lists of styles that work for them.
    This is so much better than black box behavioral analytics which consistently give back poor recommendations in fashion. Peer review has credibility and gives a woman shopping online the ability to shop quickly and confidently knowing that, when she buys an item, the people she wants to look good in front of have already pre-approved her purchase. I’m biased but I think you have this trend nailed.
    David Reinke,
    President –


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