Five Social Media Trends To Watch in 2011
Five Social Media Trends for 2011
Five Social Media Trends for 2011

Where is social media headed? What is important to learn about now so that we feel like we’re “in the know” six months down the road?  Although everyone and their uncle is doing or will be doing 2011 prognostication pieces, I’m jumping into the fray and offering my own predictions and a bit of analysis on where we’re headed as we close out the final six weeks of 2010.

Consumer Content Curation

“Are we in the stream?”  That’s the #1 question that brand managers should be asking about their social media efforts going into 2011, because in the coming year people are going to be much more diligent about curating their own content into a more managable form.  Consumers are realizing that following eleventy-hundred brands on Twitter and Facebook is getting them some good coupons and deals, but it’s also turning their walls into malls, which is getting overwhelming.

Therefore, what’s happening in Facebook is that consumers are turning off brands posting to their walls, using Friends lists to pay close attention only to their “real” friends, and commenting on or sharing only when something is really juicy.   In Twitter, a company called Cadmus aims to change the way we view our streams by determining what content is most relevant to you based on your Twitter usage patterns.  Other tools, such as and Flipboard (for iPad), also curate Twitter, primarily based on content popularity, and make that content much more reader-friendly.

For brands, this means it’s not going to be enough to create content – you have to create content that gets curated into people’s streams. If your content is truly compelling and share-worthy, it’ll get noticed and Liked, it will generate Comments and Retweets, and you’ll be okay because it will have legitimately earned its way into people’s streams. If not – you’ll have to have a combination of search optimization savvy, fans in high places (influencers), and maybe some cash to Promote your content right under people’s Twitter noses.

Niche Location

2010 may have been the year of location, but 2011 will be the year of Niche Location. While true that only 4% of the Internet population is using location based services (LBS), there’s no question that Foursquare and Gowalla were media darlings this year. I predict that in 2011 LBS will get more narrowly focused, which will make people more likely to use those services when they feel that there’s a) a specific value returned, and b) less of a feeling of “big brother” broadcasts to all.

Image via CrunchBase

Services like shopkick appeal to in-store shoppers who love bargains – and who only want their location to be known to the store they want to shop at.  New platforms like Foodspotting appeal to the foodie niche; Xtify’s geo-location technology is going to allow a whole host of brands, such as Playboy, to unleash apps to target their exact demographic right where they are.  So, tell me what’s in it for me and promise that my mom won’t know about it and I just might buy in.

Gamification and Social Gaming

I love this topic. Not just because I’ve recently become a FarmVille addict, but because it’s such a natural. After all, we’ve been buying the large McDonald’s Coke for decades just to get the Monopoly piece.  2010 was not only the year of location, it was the year of Zynga – when they formally aligned with Facebook, cozied up to Apple, and generally made a mess of people’s free time. So what’s do I predict will happen in Social Gaming in 2011?  It’s going to the Super Bowl!

You heard it here first, folks: I believe that a big brand is already planning to gamify their Super Bowl marketing; we’ll see everyday Joes chasing after some special trophy collection on their packs of beer.  That trophy will of course tie in to the social web, where the consumer will share their victory and the brand will collect all sorts of data on the trophy holders’ social spheres. (You brands who haven’t started planning yet and are now going to do this – you can send me the check, thanks.)

And beyond the gridiron: FarmVille, for one, has become a new testing ground for brand integration – it’s come a long way in the past couple of weeks, even, with new promotions for Farmer’s Insurance (duh), the Megamind movie and, yes, McDonald’s.  In the coming year we’ll see more, and deeper, brand integrations with existing gaming platforms, as well as more brands creating their own gaming structures for consumer advancement into preferred status, coupons, or freebies.

Jason actually offered some great thoughts on gamification in this month’s Navigator, Social Media Explorer’s monthly newsletter. You should subscribe.

QR Codes

I may be too geeky for my own good, but I love QR codes. I even have one on my business card. I love how they add interactivity and trackability to traditionally un-trackable print and outdoor media, as well as a bit of whimsy and mystery to everyday objects and events (see my photo of a knitted QR code that I saw at Maker Faire – as a knitter I really geeked on this, even though I can’t seem to make my QR reader read it.)Knitted QR Code from Maker Faire

Although QR codes seem to still be the provence of geeks like me, they are completely mainstream in Japan and they’re poised to grow expontentially here in the US, given that 51% of all Americans will be carrying smartphones in 2011.  There are a number of great companies and apps currently experimenting with (or betting their business on) QR codes, and I predict that we’ll see a great deal more in QR territory in the coming year, including greater brand integration in print magazines, more consistent use in outdoor media, and even some clever mashups of QR codes, gamification and social commerce.  So read on….

Social Commerce

I started out thinking about this trend as two trends: Group Buying and Facebook Commerce.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it’s all the same thing: new ways to leverage your social circle to help you shop or share your haul.  In 2010, there were a couple of bold startups that wanted consumers to share their every purchase with their friends (is anyone really still talking about Blippy and Swipely?) – but it seems pretty clear that most people do not want to share each and every pharmacy item purchased with their former flame, their mom, and their neighbor.

However, when you add in a “what’s in it for me” component like with Groupon, or a “look at me I’m so cool” component as with Facebook Commerce, there are many more people willing to share their individual purchases (or purchase intent) through their existing social platforms.

Social Commerce also goes to the “fish where the fish are” concept that I’ve often invoked when talking about Facebook: if there are nearly 600 million potential customers in Facebook, why not try giving them something else to do with your brand besides grab a coupon? In 2010, savvy brands saw a solid rise in revenue from mobile commerce applications; I predict that next year will be the year of social commerce for brands which are bold enough to give it a go.

Are you with me on these five social media trends for 2011 or am I completely off?  What have I missed?  The comments are yours.

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About the Author

Stephanie Schwab
Stephanie Schwab is the Principal of Crackerjack Marketing, a digital marketing agency specializing in social media planning and execution. Stephanie is also the founder of the Digital Family Summit, the first-of-its-kind conference for tween bloggers and content creators and their families. Throughout her 20-year career, she has developed and led marketing and social media programs for top brands and has presented on social media and e-commerce topics at numerous conferences and corporate events. Stephanie writes about social media at, sometimes hangs out at Google+, and tweets @stephanies.
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  • Mgm

    No offense but these are the basic trends that obvious.

    • Fair. But you’re also commenting on a two-year-old post. ;-)

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  • Hairy John

    My nokia read your knitted QR code as text … “eW61”

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  • Here’s another QR Code startup! QRAFFiTiCODES: 

  •  The post is very
    nicely written and it contains many useful facts. I am happy to find your
    distinguished way of writing the post. Now you make it easy for me to
    understand and implement. Thanks for sharing with us.

  • Qr codes are great! we use them on all our flyers, and on our website so customers can take our facility directions and information with them on the go. 

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  • Chien

    c. ronaldo

  •  QR code are everywhere now.  Most restaurants have it and it;’s a great way for them to have their menus online or their events posted. have it and it;’s a great way for them to have their menus online or their events posted.

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  • Tomgeorge

    Can I repost this article with Stephanies bio?

    • As long as it's not on a commercial site, yes.

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  • Stephanie, I really enjoy your writing style and also concurr with your trend analysis. Thank you for a great post. John

  • Alicia Eler

    Hi Stephanie, thanks for this great list. I am wondering about LBS though…I found that at SXSW Interactive 2010, Foursquare and Gowalla were the big thing. As soon as I got back to Chicago, where I live and work, I found that it was only a small group of early adopters who cared at all about these. Foursquare is growing in Chicago but it's still foreign to most. I have found Facebook Places to be the most successful amongst my friends. Why build an entirely new network on Foursquare and/or Gowalla when you can just integrate your existing Facebook network? This actually makes me think that LBS will NOT be popular in 2011. Would love your thoughts on this.
    Alicia Eler
    Social Media Consultant & Writer

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  • Jsable

    Stephanie, nice article. Thanks for sharing. Fyi, my company Moontoast is a social commerce software company. Please take a look at our site and let me know if I can answer any questions.


  • blogger peep

    Japan uses QR codes in everything and they can scan it using their phones. Once we have that here in the US more and more, that would be cool :) Yay! Thanks for this article. I loved reading it :)

  • Loved the post – very informative and forward-thinking. I totally understand and love your point about smartphone ownership increasing in 2011 as I agree that will be a big trend in the next year. I am (finally!) due for a new phone (through Verizon) and am getting a smartphone for Christmas, which will make it a lot easier to use some of the things you've mentioned in this post. Now the big question for me: How the heck do I choose which smartphone?? So many to choose from! :)

  • Brunohoera

    Great post Stephanie! hugs from Brazil!

  • Emma

    LOVED this article! I recently stumbled across a website that offers users their own personal QR and you can manage it on their site. It's pretty darn cool! There's also the option of buying more if you want more than one if you have a small business or something. Technology blows my mind!

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  • Stephanie- I was surprised that analytics did not make your top 5 list (to be fair, you did mention a few groundbreaking tools). I literally “stumbleupon'd” an amazing list of 170 social media tools the other day…it might compliment your insightful post. Enjoy!

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  • Stephanie — I think your predictions are dead on. I feel particularly strongly that content curation and social commerce will make big strides in the next year. I see these as strategic elements of a larger movement toward more social, interactive brand websites. As you well know, the competition for attention online is fierce and brands that have been ignoring their own sites in favor of Facebook, are now realizing the need for a holistic, integrated online presence that supports social commerce and brand loyalty. But that goal cannot be achieved without quality content and user engagement. In any event, 2011 will be an interesting year for each of these trends, and we’re looking forward to being a part of it all. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Thad Martin, ONEsite

  • nancymyrland

    Hi Stephanie…great post! I think we will also see the rise of tools that will help users manage their Social presence. I have a feeling we haven't even seen what this will look like yet, but am certain there are many brilliant people creating them behind the scenes. People start out thinking they are more “special” if they gather thousands of Followers, Friends and Connections, but they are becoming overwhelmed by the numbers. Even those of us who deal in this for a living have to work hard to visit all the important places we need to be and study every day. I think people will start to hide Friends to make their streams more manageable, or will use tools geared toward cleaning up (and out) their Followers and Contacts so they can get back to what they perceive as a manageable number of people with whom to communicate. Brands are going to have to be very creative in developing campaigns and tools to entice them to spend some of this time with them.

    • Florencia

      Hi Nancy! Yeah I think you're right…it seems like some brilliant people have already invented a social utility website with QRs! If you sign up you get your own personal QR for free that you can manage which ever way you want. I just had my business cards printed out with my QR. che che check it out!

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  • Adrianquarless

    This is a great article very informative.

  • janniklindquist

    The knitted QR code leads to: :-)

    • Stephanie Schwab:Socialologist

      Oh, I'm SO glad you could get it to read – I should've tested it with another QR code reader. That makes perfect sense – I snapped this pic at Maker Faire, the cousin to Craftzine. Thanks for letting me know.

      • Great article, I too was able to get it to read on my iPhone “Tap Reader” app!

  • “Therefore, what’s happening in Facebook is that consumers are turning off brands posting to their walls, using Friends lists to pay close attention only to their “real” friends, and commenting on or sharing only when something is really juicy.”

    I think that “following” brand names is absolutely senseless. Following only makes sense when you follow the people whose opinions are valuable to you or real-life close friends. For services and brands Google Search model is much more relevant: when you need something you search for it and not clutter your personal informational space by garbage. That's why Google makes and will make much more money than Facebook and does not need to garbage our Internet experience / harm us for their survival as Facebook does. 3 mins ago Reply “Tours w

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  • Sandy

    Thanks for a very thought-provoking and insightful post. You definitely game me a lot to think about.

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  • +1 in agreement with the social commerce trend. That is definitely going to gain significant traction in 2011. Social networks have critical mass, and payment processing technologies + API's have finally caught up enough that they can be securely integrated in unique ways with social networks.

    I'm part of the team who just launched the RainMaker social giving tool for Twitter (, so we're helping to encourage this growth. We're also very connected in the development world, so we know what's being worked on and where investment money is going.

    Your other trends are right on, too, I believe. But I can definitely assure you the last one – social commerce as a trend in 2011 – is correct.

  • elemenager


    I think you're right on track with 2dbarcode technolgoy. I'm the community manager for Microsoft Tag ( and we just released some numbers that I think you and your community might be interested in.

    • 1 billion Tags have been printed in the past four months, bringing the total to 2 billion Tags printed since its January 2009 launch.

    • The number of Tag users per month increased three fold in the first quarter since emerging from beta in May; the number of Tags scanned per month increased four fold during the same time period.

    •To date, more than 100,000 Tag accounts have been set up to add interactive digital experiences to brand advertising and marketing campaigns.

    • Since August, Tag has been used in more than 100 million magazine issues.

    • In the largest known barcode campaign to date, Allure had 450,000 scans, using Microsoft Tag for its annual Free Stuff Giveaway issue in August.

    If you haven't checked out Tag before shoot me an email, I'd love to go over it with you.

    Thanks :)

    • Stephanie Schwab:Socialologist

      Very cool stats, thanks for sharing. I'd love to know more about Tag – you can get in touch with me at or @socialologist. Thanks!

  • Stephanie Schwab:Socialologist

    Alan, I agree that's a huge trend – it was really big in 2010 and will continue into 2011 for sure. Thanks for your thoughts.

  • Stephanie Schwab:Socialologist

    NFC, QR, whatever – I'm all for anything that gets us to one standard, like in Japan (QR dominant). It is exciting but I just hope it's not as fractured, spec-wise, as it's starting out to be, otherwise it will be years until a shakedown makes them ubiquitous.

  • great tips… very interesting, i loved the Gamification and Social Gaming part, im addicted to cafe world and similar games, truly was a wonderful article.

  • Interesting post. I'm with you 100% on content curation and QR codes for sure.

    If I may, can I allso direct you to Dave Chaffey's predictions for 2011 too (given to the UK Institute of Direct Marketing a few weeks back). He opted for 11!


    • Stephanie Schwab:Socialologist

      Great article, Rene, thanks. I whittled down from 10 I had originally to focus on the 5 I thought would impact brands the most. May have to do a followup early in 2011 as things develop.

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  • Great prognosticating! And thanks for confirming that eleventy-hundred is a number. I had just bet eleventy-hundred dollars that it was, and now I'm off to collect.

    • Stephanie Schwab:Socialologist

      Wait, it's not? How come @jasonfalls crack edit team didn't catch that? :-)

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  • Whistler Heather

    Thank you… Groupon is one of my favorites today.. not into farming (yet) and Foursquare is catching on in Whistler.. I enjoy your stuff Stephanie – globalwhistler

    • Stephanie Schwab:Socialologist

      Thanks, Heather! Watch out for the farming, could be terribly addictive and a huge time-suck. :-)

  • Alan_Wayne

    I'd say another huge trend is the rise of crowdsourcing.

    Sites like blur Group, 99 designs, crowd spring, really are changing the way alot of companies are doing business through social means.

    • Stephanie Schwab:Socialologist

      Alan, I agree that's a huge trend – it was really big in 2010 and will continue into 2011 for sure. Thanks for your thoughts.

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  • Stephanie I have been doing a lot of reading and playing with QR codes lately. I think the biggest hurdle for more mainstream usage is the access point. Users should not have to download an app to read the codes. The functionality for it is so light weight that it really should simply be built in to al smart phones already and I believe it will be in the next 1-2 years. QR codes may get leap frogged by NFC (near field communication) functionality in which are reportedly being more tightly integrated into Apple's upcoming iPhone and supported by Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T (for all of their devices?). Exciting times.

    • Stephanie Schwab:Socialologist

      NFC, QR, whatever – I'm all for anything that gets us to one standard, like in Japan (QR dominant). It is exciting but I just hope it's not as fractured, spec-wise, as it's starting out to be, otherwise it will be years until a shakedown makes them ubiquitous.

    • % of smart phone user has obviously increased, just for US is 45 million and 100 million by 2013. That why I agreed with you about OR Code will be the King of social code.

      Read more the number of smart phone user by 2013:…/

  • Great post, Stephanie. You're not alone in feeling like barcodes are still “the provence of geeks.” I count myself among them as well. But you're right. They are mainstream in Japan, mostly because their smart phones are so much “smarter” than ours! (Curse you, American “carrier barriers!”).

    A particularly exciting type of barcode is the Bokode. If it's new to you, I suggest you go to my blog and type “camera culture” in the search box there. It includes a helpful video — although more helpful to us “geeks.” :-)

    Thanks for a great read!

    • Stephanie Schwab:Socialologist

      Ooh, Bokode! One more to add to the mix – I think we're going to have the same problem w/ barcodes that we have with mobile platforms: too many types, not enough standardization. But heading over to your blog look at it right now – thanks!

  • Great article. I particularly agree about the Niche location discussion. I personally did not register with Foursquare based on the fact that I felt it was merely a “big brother” broadcast to everyone of where I was. Now that I am seeing that there are coupons, discounts, and various benefits for checking into places via Foursquare, I'm starting to use it.

    Something else that I think will be big in 2011 is social media software that companies will start using in addition to Facebook and Twitter. At this point, many companies think Facebook, Twitter and Youtube is enough, but they are starting to see that social media software enables them to take all of their content from those 3 social media sites and host them under one umbrella that their consumers can easily access. INgage Networks has been accommodating various social media trends, including community, crowdsourcing, and social mobile for 10+ years. To see our customer success stories using ELAvate Community as well as our other ELAvate Business Services, please visit this page

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  • Add in, which will make it even easier for companies to develop their own internal geo-location apps on top of the platform.

    • Stephanie Schwab:Socialologist

      Good one, Ike! Thanks.

  • You've got valid points here, Stephanie. I guess next year will all be about the 'Web of Intent' where everything will evolve in what the customers really want, and not what brands dictate for these customers to want. It can be tricky just how businesses can tap into the collective desires of their target market without appearing to do blatant self-promotion. QR codes are clever, but in the end, people will still ask what's in it for them, really.

    • Stephanie Schwab:Socialologist

      Thanks for your comments! Agreed completely, the WIIFM (what's in it for me) factor is huge in driving social adoption and brand success.

  • Christina S.

    Fantastic post, Stephanie. Your “What's In It For Me” insight makes perfect sense.

    I totally agree with you regarding the QR codes – particularly as smartphones become more accessible to wider demographics.

  • Stephanie, with you on the QR route for sure. It's an area any business could explore with minimal risk. When integrated into a comprehensive search strategy, the insights could be really useful. I'm not quite there on the gaming trend, though. I see the buzz potential which can boost short-term visibility, but personally lean toward tactics delivering long-term brand value. I don't see that in gaming.

    • Stephanie Schwab:Socialologist

      When thinking about gaming, think about loyalty. What if the game were an ongoing campaign with a brand, delivering new benefits and opportunity to loyal consumers with every level achieved? The game could morph and grow quarterly or as often as needed to accommodate new marketing messages, products, or services. Can you see that as a long-term play?

      • I see your point, with a game component as a solid hook to attract consumers and provide a platform for interacting with the brand. The evolution or progression of levels you describe is a great way to build user stake in outcomes. I'm still puzzling over the loyalty angle, though. I just don't see gaming as a method to truly impact loyalty, any more than a Facebook “like” necessarily indicates loyalty, or even interest for that matter. I've played the McDonald's Monopoly game semi-passively before–don't feel any different about the brand but willing to play along just in case. But I may not be a great judge of this kind of opportunity, out of my field of depth some.

        • Stephanie Schwab:Socialologist

          When I say “loyalty” I mean as in rewards/points system – like airline frequent flyer programs or hotel programs. Aren't those some forerunners to today's gamification? You stay with them because you're climbing the ladder in some way, and you “game” the system when you get special perks. I see social gamification as enabling new forms of loyalty programs.

          • nancymyrland

            Loyalty, not unlike all these airline miles we've been collecting all these years. They've made some loyal to certain airlines because they want their free trips.

    • I think there is huge potential for the application of game mechanics in conjunction with internal social media programs. Keeping momentum rolling after the launch of any new employee program is challenging – internal social media is no different. Gamification around corporate blog participation, intranet posting, sharing brand content, Twitter customer service initiatives, etc. could be a great way to keep staff motivated and engaged.

      • Mark, I like your idea and think it's very forward-thinking. I wonder if an initiative of that scale might be out of reach for many companies, those in the small-to-mid size? Are you seeing these types of marketing budget investments through your work?

        • Hbic

          Actually, there is a mid-sized company in Kansas City, MO named Assurant Health that used a game strategy to communicate to employees the corporate values and goals. They experienced over 95% participation rates, and got rave reviews. I think the issue of keeping it fresh will be the biggest challenge, after the initial launch, but this is one example of a smaller company using this approach.

          • Hbic

            Oops – it was Assurant Employee Benefits, not Assurant Health (a sister company). Sorry!

      • Stephanie Schwab:Socialologist

        Great points, Mark – that social has internal/corporate use as well as external/customer and could follow the same trends. Maybe needs another post? :-)

      • AngieVanDenzen

        Stephanie & Mark – you're so right! Gaming is an impending force to be reckoned with. A perfect example that has sprung up in Toronto is the Find the Red M&M game to win a SmartCar! which creatively uses a YouTube video and Google Streetview.

        If you look up gaming on there are tonnes of great speakers on the subject, one of my favourites is Jane McGonigal on how gaming can be used to make a better world.

        Angie VanDenzen
        Circus Strategic Communications

  • Funny, I'm talking tomorrow night at SMC Indianapolis about how I think a trend is going to be the normalization of social media. I think we're starting to get past the hype cycle and into the plateau of productivity. But these tactical trends are certainly ones worth watching. QR/mobile is certainly going to come to a level of maturity soon. Good stuff, Steph.

    • Stephanie Schwab:Socialologist

      Jason, I think you're dead-on with respect to the overarching theme of 2011. Break a leg at your talk!

    • nancymyrland

      Jason, I wish I could have been there for your SMC Indianapolis talk…next time!

  • Ilana Rabinowitz

    Stephanie, this is great stuff. Thanks for pulling it all together.

    • Stephanie Schwab:Socialologist

      Thanks, Ilana! I've been thinking and talking about these and a few other things lately; when I went through my list these were the five standouts that I thought were solid up-and-comers.

  • vungveets

    Nice, OK that makes a lot of sense dude.

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