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With the year of 2011 in social media thoroughly recapped and analyzed by Mashable, it’s time to set our sights on the year ahead. While I recently shared my predictions for media and advertising, there are some broader social media trends with big implications that are worth identifying.

Be sure to add your own predictions here or on our open thread, where Mashable readers have been sharing their own ideas for what might lay ahead in the New Year.

1. Facebook Growth Plateaus, but Engagement Continues to Surge


With more than 800 million users, Facebook is running into a nice problem to have: There are only so many more people to add. While the site will continue to grow in emerging markets that are only now getting online, Mark Zuckerberg has shifted the conversation to sharing and engagement, arguing that sharing on Facebook grows exponentially and that users will double the amount they share each year.

That sharing is driving users to spend more time on site — the average Facebook user now spends nearly seven-and-a-half hours on the site each month, up from four-and-a-half hours just two years ago. With the arrival of Timeline, increased focus on media and entertainment consumption, and continued growth in social games, engagement will surge even further in 2012.

2. New Social Metrics for Ads Gain Adoption

The “death of the page view” as a meaningful metric has long been predicted, but never seems to materialize. While I don’t see that happening in 2012 either, I do see the rise of new metrics that measure social engagement and price advertising and sponsorship dollars accordingly.

We’ve already seen the likes of Klout and develop business models around charging for influence. More recently, Starcom MediaVest Group, a subsidiary of Publicis, teamed up with ShareThis to pilot a new metric for ad buying that values content based on how often content is shared and how impactful those shares are. While 2012 won’t see traditional models like CPM and CPC advertising thrown out the window, look for new metrics to make a meaningful impact as sharing becomes central to more media companies.

3. YouTube Gains Popularity in the Living Room


While Google TV has been widely dubbed a flop, the company is planning on a full-fledged reboot in 2012 and is optimistic to say the least. Google-owned YouTube will undoubtedly be a default “channel” on all of those devices. At the same time, YouTube is investing heavily in premium programming, as well as designing user experiences for the big screen. When you combine these two forces — not to mention the prospect of an Apple TV and other emerging players in the connected TV space — YouTube is poised to disrupt the television landscape. We’ll likely get a glimpse at what lies ahead for YouTube in the living room next week at CES, where the company is set to host a press conference.

4. A Meaningful Second Tier of Social Networks Emerges

I’ve often said that social media is no longer about “the next Facebook or Twitter.” While I think that remains true, for the first time in several years there’s a meaningful second tier of social networks emerging.

In 2011, sites like Pinterest and Tumblr experienced hockey stick growth, going from niche to mainstream in short order. In 2012, additional services like Instagram, Quora and Path are positioned to carve out significant audiences as users look for more personalized and curated experiences than the top tier social networks can deliver. Google+ will also continue to make noise as the search giant pulls more levers to try and make its biggest social bet to date pay off.

5. Celebs Pour Money Into Social Media Startups

It might be easy to dismiss the current surge of investments in startups by celebrities as a signal of another bubble. However, unlike the last bubble, many of those celebrity investors now have audiences of millions online that they can turn into users of the products and services they invest in. When there’s a strong brand fit — like Kim Kardashian and ShoeDazzle — the celebrity investment and integration can directly drive growth and revenue.

With more traditional areas for investment languishing, startup valuations remaining frothy and social media continuing to expand, look for celebs to keep allocating a portion of their wealth toward startup investments. Here’s a look at some of the celebrities currently invested in startups:


6. Social Media Security Threats Go Mobile

New phishing and malware scams emerge on the web every day. With smartphone adoption continuing to rise and smartphone users continuing to adopt apps and social media on their devices, the same threats of the web are now arriving on mobile phones — and they may actually be amplified.

For example, security firm Trusteer estimates that “mobile users accessing phishing websites are three times more likely to submit their login info than desktop users,” as a result of scams being harder to spot. The rise of mobile ad networks and third-party app stores also represent new risks.

7. Social Fuels Ecommerce Renaissance

While social media has emerged as a viable way for retailers to gain followers and broadcast deals, making social central to the shopping experience is still a largely untapped way to drive sales and increase margins. In 2012, look for more businesses to setup shop within the walls of Facebook, personalize their ecommerce sites based on your “taste graph” from Facebook and Twitter, and increase participation in communities like Tumblr and Pinterest where users organically share their purchases and wish lists. It’s also an area that’s starting to see big investment dollars flow in from the likes of Marc Andreessen.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, JamesBrey

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