Social media trends and predictions for 2012

A recent survey from global management consulting firm Booz & Company asked more than 100 leading companies for their thoughts on the role social media plays in advertising, branding and local search marketing efforts.

Researchers found that 96 percent of respondents use social media platforms for advertising and promotions, while 88 percent utilize it for public relations and 75 percent for customer service inquiries.

Furthermore, 90 percent believed the biggest benefit from social media is brand building. In addition, 89 percent said interactivity, 88 percent said buzz building and 81 percent pointed to consumer insights.

One example of social media and consumer insight integration is the recent marketing campaign from Domino's Pizza, where it posted unfiltered user feedback about its pizzas and other food items on a large billboard in New York's Times Square, the Harvard Business Review reports.

That sort of real-life integration is just one of numerous social media trends author David Armano, executive vice president of global innovation and integration at Edelman Digital, recently predicted for 2012.

Another trend he expects to see is the rise of digital influence. Websites such as Klout are already devoted to measuring this quality, and Armano suggests that more tools and techniques will emerge to score online clout and measure the results.

Furthermore, "gamification," such as the earning of badges, points or rewards seen in various social media apps, will soon translate to consumer settings and human resources. For example, those in healthcare, government or business management sectors may be able to use a "digital leaderboard" to negotiate a raise.

Lastly, the idea of social sharing may also be expanded upon. The author cites an example of how Sears allows users to post products they're interested in or reviews of certain items to Facebook. This takes online reviews typically reserved for sites such as Yelp to new levels, as recommendations are now made directly from people whom users know and trust instead of strangers or paid store representatives.

Another example of this can be seen in Bing's partnership with Facebook, which integrates friends' recommendations into online search. If a user is logged into Facebook and performing a web search on Bing for, say, a movie or a restaurant, he or she is able to see which of their friends also liked that movie, or whether they felt the food at a cafe would agree with their palate.