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February 12 2011

4 Small Business Mobile Predictions for 2011

This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

This year saw a staggering growth in consumer mobile usage, and with the smartphone industry growing at an unprecedented rate, 2011 could prove to be an unparalleled year in terms of mobile innovation and expansion.

With more than 70% of the world’s population owning a mobile phone, it’s time for small businesses to pay attention to mobile and begin planning their mobile strategy now.

Below are four predictions on how the growth of mobile will affect small businesses in 2011, with key takeaways on how you can get started with each one.

1. Mobile Payments

Allowing your customers to buy with speed and confidence is essential for any small business owner, but with the pace of modern life, it’s now increasingly important to let your customers buy at their convenience.

Mobile payments mean a retailer of any size can accept and process credit card payments, all with a smartphone, an account and corresponding app. Mobile payments can aid in expanding business and increasing revenue for a small business simply by using their existing smartphone.

There are already several options available to any small business interested in accepting mobile payments, including:

  • Square is a cube-like plug-in that works with your iPhone, iPad or Android phone, to read credit cards and allows merchants to accept mobile payments. You can track sales, tips, tax, payment locations and your customers from one place. There are no contracts or monthly minimums, and the card reader and setup are free. There is, however, a limit of $1,000 deposit per week into your bank account, with the remainder deposited in 30 days.
  • PAYware Mobile is an app, card reader and payment gateway from Verifone that allows the user to accept and process credit cards using an iPhone 3G/3GS. Manual card entry only is supported on the iPhone 4, iPad and iPod touch. It uses VeriFone’s PAYware connect payment gateway to process payments. The encryption sleeve costs $149 and the transaction fees vary by merchant account.
  • GoPayment is a service provided via a partnership between Intuit and Mophie to enable secure credit card processing on your iPhone (3G/3GS). You can process any credit card either directly or by swiping it with the Mophie credit card reader. Receipts are either e-mailed or texted to your customers. The card reader costs $179.95 with a monthly service fee of $12.95. There are no setup fees or monthly minimums.

While in 2010 mobile payments became a talking point, in 2011 making and taking payments directly from your mobile phone looks set to be the future of commerce.

2. Location, Location, Location

Location-based services and marketing have seen a huge growth this year, especially within social media, with services such as Gowalla, Foursquare and SCVNGR. But they have yet to be taken up on a large scale by small businesses.

The launch of Facebook Places and Deals, however, could push location mainstream, as most small businesses already have some type of Facebook presence, and the network already has half a billion users. In 2011, location-based services will prove a powerful, relevant way to create a location-based loyalty program, offer specials and perks, and leverage verified checkins to attract new customers. Over the next year, businesses will be able to offer real measurable rewards (and not just “fun”) for consumers, pushing the trend into the mainstream.

Services like Yelp are now offering checkin offers for businesses, meaning that businesses can offer Yelp users special deals for checking in at their places of business. With checkins tied to Twitter and Facebook when a user checks in, it puts your business in front of a lot of eyeballs. This is just the latest example of how a small business can take advantage of location-based services to reach the masses.

Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, also recently revealed that the microblogging service is working on a “self-serve process to advertise on Twitter, where a local coffee shop can advertise on the service looking for Twitter users in the area.” When combined with the plethora of third-party Twitter apps available, it means small businesses could potentially reach a large slice of their target market and demographic.

Using location-based marketing to proactively deliver messages and reach potential customers based on their geographic locations will enable small businesses to increase foot traffic and profits. With services like Geotoko now offering a way to quickly and easily build and measure location-based deals and promotions, it means creating a campaign needn’t be overly complex.

Partnering location-based incentives and marketing with mobile payments could prove to be a killer move for many small businesses in 2011.

3. Mobile Websites

In 2011, every website should include a mobile version, as consumers continue to shift their behavior to regularly using the mobile web. As mobile traffic increases exponentially, it makes sense for small businesses to craft mobile-friendly sites to ensure they don’t miss out on mobile traffic, and more importantly, sales.

Mobile and smartphone optimized web design will also be key to driving online sales, so now is the time to invest in designing your site for the mobile masses. For small business owners, considering your audience and user behavior for the lifecycle of your site is essential, and creating a professional mobile experience is key to this. Making this experience fast and efficient is an excellent way to improve your site’s effectiveness and make purchasing products as easy as possible.

Optimizing your website for mobile browsers no longer has to be a painful or difficult process, as there are a slew of services which make the task easier, including:

  • WPTouch Pro is a powerful WordPress plugin that can be used to create rich mobile themes for iPhone, iPad, Andriod, Blackberry, Palm OS and Samsung touch mobile visitors, independent of your desktop theme. Prices range from $39 for a single license to $199 for the developer license.
  • Mobify offers the ability to optimize and design your mobile site for thousands of mobile devices. It allows extensive customization and a plugin that automatically redirects visitors to the mobile version when using their phones to reach your site. There is a free version that you can use to get up and running quickly or switch to the pro plan, which offers custom branding, analytics, ad integration and more.
  • Mofuse provides a platform that optimizes your site for more than 5,000 supported mobile devices with built-in analytics, SEO, automatic redirection and WYSIWYG editing. Plans start from $7.95 for the local/personal use to $89 for small businesses and $199.99 for the ultimate plan aimed at larger groups.
  • Instant Mobilizer is an automated tool from dotMobi that takes any existing desktop website and transforms it into an enhanced mobile site. It resizes images, reformats text and inserts other mobile-friendly features to ensure your website works on any phone. You have to register your .mobi domain with one of their registrar partners, and Instant Mobilizer will take care of the rest.

With the mobile web estimated to overtake desktop Internet in usage by 2015, it’s time for small businesses to get ahead of the competition and cultivate a great mobile website experience now.

4. Small Business Apps

With more than 25 billion mobile apps estimated to be sold in 2011, up from 10 billion in 2010, the coming year looks set to be the year of the app.

Smartphone applications have changed the way many businesses operate, and small businesses will begin turning to creating apps that enhance the way customers interact with their products and services. These apps will also prove to be an affordable way to boost profits. There will be a distinctive shift from viewing apps as a fun buzz word to becoming an integral part of a small business’s marketing plan.

Having your business app front and center on a consumer’s smartphone is a tremendous marketing opportunity to improve customer service, attract new customers and open up the possibility of creating a revenue opportunity.

It’s important to note it may be wise to firstly make sure your website is mobile optimized before embarking on a dedicated app, as it will give you firsthand knowledge of building and refining a great mobile experience and effectively utilizing touchscreen navigation. You can then use your mobile website to graduate users to your native app to provide value beyond your regular desktop and mobile website.

Many applications have hit the market with no real strategy behind them, with many apps being deleted within 72 hours of being downloaded. It’s therefore important to identify the user case, define goals and create an app that provides real value. Ultimately asking “what do my customers want?” will enable you to decide if developing a native mobile app is the correct route for your small business.

For small businesses, where budgets are restricted, there are a multitude of options available, including DIY Tools, services such as iPhone App Quotes and dedicated developers such as those listed on They Make Apps.

These four trends are a look at how the mobile experience will shape small business plans in 2011. Let us know what you’d add in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Flickr: Randy Kashka, AxsDeny

More About: 2011 Predictions, business, Mobile 2.0, predictions-2011, small business

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January 01 2011

95+ Predictions for the Web in 2011

2010 was a busy year for social media and the web. It began (more or less) with the launch of the Apple’s genre-defining iPad tablet and culminated with the ascent of Facebook as the web’s most visited site. In between we had the fall of Palm, the rise of Android, the surprise of Groupon and the success of the Facebook movie. There was more, too, from fun new gadgets to embarrassing downtime (at a startup not called Twitter).

If all that was packed into the final year of the last decade, what’s coming our way as the calendar flips to the next?

For the past two weeks, editors and contributing writers at Mashable have been gazing into our crystal balls to try to discern what’s coming in the next year. Below is a roundup of all of our predictions posts for 2011, covering over 90 topical predictions for what’s in store for the web and social media in the coming year.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, sparkia

More About: 2011, List, Lists, New Year, Opinion, predictions-2011, roundup, social media

For more Social Media coverage:

December 31 2010

5 Predictions for Startups in 2011

How we engage with the people, places and things around us is ever-changing thanks to rapid improvements in mobile and web technologies. The speed at which this evolution takes place will only continue to accelerate in 2011 with the help of fledgling startups who will push the boundaries around geolocation, mobile photos, entertainment services, community and physical-to-digital connections.

What follows is an exploration of five significant startup markets that will grow in significance in 2011. Some of these specialized categories are ripe for disruption and innovation, while others have already produced early leaders that will be difficult to best.

Regardless, the startups iterating in these newly invented product categories will capture our imagination in the year ahead and transform the way we use technology in our daily lives.

Read on for five major trends that will hit startups in 2011, and let us know your own predictions in the comments below.

1. The Rise of Object Tagging

As constant web and mobile users, we’ve all grown accustomed to tagging people and places in photos and status updates. In the year ahead, new services will help us tag real world objects in much the same fashion.

QR code and barcode scanning mobile applications are growing in popularity and purpose, and we’re quickly moving towards a scanning and tagging world where we use apps like Barcode Hero or Stickybits to add our own content to the physical objects we encounter in the real world.

The physical-to-digital connection is what will drive this trend in the new year. Startups such as thingd and Moodstocks have a more grandiose vision around creating digital databases of things, but they’re also creating products that are people-friendly and practical.

We’ve yet to see any one object tagging application or service become a breakout hit, but this will change in 2011 as more consumers warm up to the mobile and social discovery of “things.”

2. Entertainment Services Will Embrace the Checkin

2010 was the year of the checkin. What started as a simple, albeit explicit, way to publicly say “I’m here” mutated into a way for startups to create entertainment checkin services and for companies to build tools to help publishers keep visitors on site.

The entertainment-oriented services are an especially interesting group of services. GetGlue, Miso, Philo, Tunerfish, TV.com Relay and a handful of others have all cropped up with their own variations of the “check in to content, get rewards” concept. Most are successfully inking deals with studios and networks around their entertainment properties, and just recently, GetGlue grabbed $6 million in a Series C round led by Time Warner Investments.

Within this fast-maturing niche is still room for innovation. The opportunities are in motivating user behavior around entertainment content and surfacing fail-proof recommendations.

Somewhere sandwiched amongst Clicker, Rotten Tomatoes, GetGlue, Boxee and Netflix is something that can actually figure out what we really want to watch right now and help us watch it in a fashion that supports the interests of studios and networks. It might be a combination of semantic intelligence, social media and game mechanics, or it could be something entirely new.

There’s certainly money to be had here. Investors are financing these ideas, networks are looking for strategic partnerships and cable companies have money to spend.

3. Website Communities Will Dominate the Digital Experience

The rise of the social web has led to brands and businesses emphasizing Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, YouTube and their social presence over their own website. Social will remain a top priority in 2011, but there will be a website renaissance that focuses on bringing the community back to the site.

2010 has laid the foundation for this movement with the emergence of publisher tools that drive website visitor engagement. Badgeville, OneTrueFan, Marginize, Meebo and Envovle, for instance, are all working on their solutions for the website-as-community concept.

Badgeville lets publishers install a plug-and-play product that adds social rewards and gaming elements to their websites — think rewarding user activity with badges and achievements, à la Foursquare. OneTrueFan also applies game mechanics to website content and Meebo will release its own solution for web checkins in 2011.

Marginize’s browser extension pulls social conversations into a site’s margin but its publisher tool eliminates the need for the extension and lets visitors check in, earn badges and rewards, and participate in onsite comment threads that can be pushed out to social networks. Envolve, however, takes a Facebook-chat style approach to website engagement.

There will continue to be rapid innovation around publisher community tools in the new year. I’m not yet convinced that 2011 will be the year web users completely embrace this idea, but this trend will certainly be pushed forward by publishers who use these tools to engineer a more compelling reason for the visitor to stay and engage. Should they do so successfully, the fruits of their labor will be users that remain on site, share their activity with social networks and influence upticks in traffic, and possibly even sales.

4. Private Location Services Become More Popular

In 2011, the location-sharing counter culture will emerge as mobile users demand less social, more practical tools for sharing their whereabouts with smaller circles of friends and family members.

There’s clearly an audience that appreciates the visibility and rewards that come with checkins, and that is not likely to change. But, a growing number of mobile users will want to apply geolocation technology to their personal lives — think keeping track of the kids, knowing that a significant other made it home safely, or sending and receiving timely notifications based on geographic location.

Consumer-friendly Neer is a prime example of how always-on location technology can be highly personalized and yet not overly intrusive. Geoloqi’s geonotes further personalize the experience by allowing you to leave notes for you or your friends at various locations.

In 2011, we’ll see more applications and services emerge with similar purpose due to advancements in geofencing, proximity awareness and mobile device technologies. Perhaps the only barrier to mainstream adoption is the strain that these services place on mobile phone batteries.

5. Mobile Photo Sharing Takes Off

We’re in the midst of a mobile photo sharing boom that has yet to reach its climax. Due to rapid improvements in handset technology, it’s now possible to take a stunning photo and upload it to the web in seconds.

Applications that build expressly around this purpose have cropped up in recent months and prove the viability of this emerging market. Instagram, for instance, has surpassed 1 million registered users in just 10 weeks’ time. With this type of momentum, the startup looks to be an unstoppable force.

But greatness will not be achieved in replicating the features or filters of Instagram, at least in an iPhone app. Android may still be up for grabs, though not if Picplz has a say in the matter.

Purpose will matter just as much as a platform. Foodspotting, DailyBooth and Path all have put their own unique spin on mobile photos. Still, the underlying mobile photo sharing trend can be applied in a number of yet-to-be fully explored fashions.

Because smartphone adoption is nowhere close to capacity, and growth is anticipated in the new year, there’s still time for a few more big ideas around mobile photo sharing to emerge in 2011.

More Startup Resources from Mashable:

- 5 Lessons Big Corporations Can Learn From Startups
- HOW TO: Get the Most Out of a Coworking Space
- 5 Signs That Coworking Might Be for You
- 37 Productivity Tips for Working From Anywhere
- Why Co-Working Makes Sense for Small Businesses

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, LuisPortugal
Images courtesy of Flickr, jcoleman, dan taylor

Reviews: Android, Boxee, Clicker, DailyBooth, Facebook, Flickr, Path, Rotten Tomatoes, Twitter, YouTube, foursquare, iStockphoto, instagram

More About: badgeville, barcode hero, barcode scanning, Envolve, geolocation, geoloqi, getglue, instagram, List, Lists, miso, mobile photo sharing, mobile photos, moodstocks, neer, picplz, predictions-2011, QR Codes, startups, thingd

For more Startups coverage:

6 Predictions for Social Networks in 2011

The past year was an eventful one for the world of social networking. Facebook went on an acquisition spree. Twitter started growing up. And MySpace? Well it’s the same old story over there.

In 2010, we predicted that Facebook would conquer the web. We just didn’t know the social network would do it so convincingly. We’re not oracles, though, and we did miss on some of our acquisition picks. Well, time for round two.

Now that Facebook is clearly king, what is going to happen to the rest of the world’s social networks? What will happen to Bebo? What’s next for MySpace? And will Facebook finally hold that IPO?

Here are my predictions for what will happen in the world of social networking in 2011:

1. Google’s Social Networking Efforts Flop Spectacularly

Google dominates search. It has nailed mobile. Oh, and it owns YouTube, the web’s biggest video property. So why the heck does it fail so miserably at social?

Until this year, Google’s had middling success in social — YouTube, Gmail, Gtalk, Blogger and Orkut have all had varying levels of success. This year though, Google Wave was shut down, Google Buzz flopped and Google’s big social initiative has been delayed due to in-fighting and a lack of clarity and purpose.

Here’s my first prediction of the year: Google’s social media efforts will be spectacular failures. TechCrunch nabbed a screenshot of the “Google +1″ social toolbar, one big component of Google’s social plan, we’ve been told. We remain unimpressed, though. As Buzz demonstrated, sticking something social on a page doesn’t mean people will instantly use it.

More importantly, Google as a company is built for speed and efficiency, neither of which are critical to the success of a social network. That’s why we predict another horrendous year for the search giant in the social realm.

2. A Middling MySpace Is Sold Off

Despite a total redesign and overhaul, MySpace continues to plummet like a boulder pushed off a cliff. While we’re fans of the social network’s attempt to reinvent itself as a “social entertainment destination,” the frank truth is that MySpace is bleeding money and there’s no end in sight to the bloodshed.

Eventually MySpace will bottom out; we just don’t know when. It won’t come soon enough for News Corp. though, and it will start looking for someone to take its high-profile Internet property off of its hands. MySpace is still a valuable asset in the right hands, so somebody will pick it up.

3. Bebo Gets a New Owner… Again

Bebo’s fall from grace is one of the sad stories of social networking. When we first covered Bebo in 2006, it was on its way to becoming a powerhouse. In 2008, AOL acquired Bebo for $850 million, an astounding (and overvalued) price point.

Six months ago, AOL sold Bebo for about $10 million to Criterion Capital Partners. Then they made a few big moves: they hired Kevin Bachus, co-creator of the Xbox, and brought Bebo co-founder Michael Birch back as an advisor and investor.

Bebo’s still shrinking though. Unless Birch and Bachus can orchestrate a comeback of Rocky proportions, Criterion Capital Partners will start looking to make money on its investment or at least minimize its loss. Even if it makes a comeback, Criterion’s reportedly interested in selling Bebo this year.

We expect Bebo to be in new hands by this time next year. The most likely acquirers, we believe, would be a group led by Birch himself.

4. No Facebook IPO in 2011

There have been countless rumors about a Facebook IPO since 2007. The media has been waiting with baited breath for the day that Mark Zuckerberg cashes in on his baby and turns his company public.

I’m here to tell the media: Don’t hold your breath.

I could create a list of reasons the size of an SUV why Facebook and its billionaire leader aren’t going to be raising money on the public markets. Here are just a few of them:

  • Mark Zuckerberg is famously uninterested in money. He believes in delayed gratification and has lived in a modest home for years — he’s the opposite of the far more extravagant Larry Ellison, co-founder and CEO of Oracle. In other words, he’s in no rush for a big payday.
  • Secondary markets like Sharespost have changed the game for cashing out on investments. In the past, VCs needed to cash out on their investments by acquisition or IPO, but as Accel Partners proved last month, VCs no longer need an IPO to do so.
  • Zuckerberg sees no strategic advantage to an IPO. In fact, it’s just a lot more paperwork, headaches and scrutiny. He’d love to delay that as long as possible.
  • Facebook doesn’t believe it’s ready for an IPO: “Facebook would benefit from another year of growth absent the added scrutiny that comes with a public listing,” Business Week reported earlier this year.

The result is that there won’t be a Facebook IPO in 2011. So long as the company’s growth metrics are strong, Facebook has no need for the public markets. When it hits its saturation point though, that’s when you should expect the social network to make its move. I predict that will happen in 2012.

5. Twitter Has a Very Boring 2011

While I don’t consider Twitter a social network, many people do, so it’s only appropriate that I provide a prediction for what will happen to Twitter in 2011.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t come up with anything interesting: Twitter’s going to have a steady and boring 2011.

Sure, Twitter will launch new features, and senior execs will continue to step down and new people will take their place, but that’s what happens to any maturing business. Now that Twitter has new funding, has launched its ad platform and has launched a complete redesign, is there an earth-shattering event that could take us by surprise?

I don’t discount it; I just don’t predict there will be one. An IPO makes no sense with the new round of funding. A redesign isn’t necessary. Really, Twitter is focused on its ad platform and will launch features that enhance it. Twitter will slowly continue to grow, but I don’t expect Facebook-like hockey stick growth.

In 2011, Twitter is going to be one of the most boring social media services around. And I know the Twitter team is just fine with that.

6. The Social Networking Trend of 2011: Mobile Photos

“We’re in a unique time right now because of the power of the cell phone with the two cameras, both the front and the back, and the broadband networks that allow photos to be shared simply and consumed through social networks in realtime.” ~Brian Pokorny, Dailybooth CEO

Pokorny was discussing during his Ignite talk at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. He argued that publishing has evolved from the desktop (blogging) to the phone (tweeting) to the smartphone (photo-taking).

While social photography is nothing new (Flickr and Facebook dominate), mobile photography is just beginning to blossom, thanks to apps like Instagram, PicPlz, Path, and Dailybooth. Other services like Tumblr, Gowalla, Posterous and most recently Foursquare are only pushing the trend further.

2011 will be the year mobile photo sharing becomes all the rage. These services will hit critical mass as smartphone users install apps in order to keep up with their friends. I also predict that Facebook will join the fray and implement new mobile photo-sharing features integrated with its Places platform, bringing the whole trend to another level.

What Are Your Predictions?

Enough with my predictions. What do you predict will happen in the social networking space in 2011? Who will get acquired? Who will be acquiring? What will the big trends in social networking be next year?

Let us know your answers in the comments below.

More Social Media Resources from Mashable:

- HOW TO: Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions Using Social Media
- 4 Predictions for the Future of Politics and Social Media
- Why Chocolate Companies Are So Sweet on Social Media
- 10 More Creative Uses of the New Facebook Profile [PICS]
- Reddit Political Action Committee: We’re Not Happy With the New Net Neutrality Rules

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, temniy

More About: bebo, facebook, Google, Google +1, Google Me, List, Lists, myspace, predictions, predictions-2011, social media, social networking, social networks, twitter

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December 30 2010

4 Predictions for Web Design in 2011

Jacob Gube is the founder/chief editor of Six Revisions, a popular web development and design site, and the deputy editor of Design Instruct, a web magazine for designers. He has more than seven years of experience as a professional web developer and has written a book on JavaScript. Connect with him via Twitter.

There’s never been a more exciting time to be a web designer; but being a member of this fast-paced, persistently metamorphic profession, I’ll probably end up saying this at the end of every year until I retire.

But with the web design industry abuzz with new specifications like HTML5 and CSS3, and cutting-edge frontiers like the mobile web, I can’t help but wonder what the future will look like in the new year. Here are four predictions for the future of web design.

1. Mobile Web Goes Mainstream

The mobile web has been the dominant subject in web design for the past 2+ years. A quick peek at Dribbble, a social media site where designers share their projects, will show you that many of us are working on mobile device apps and interfaces.

However, it’s still safe to say that most websites have given little to no attention to their mobile web presence. Most of the innovative mobile device web designs we’re seeing are on big, industry-leading, tech-centric sites such as Amazon.com, Google, and Digg, or niche sites targeted toward web designers (such as A List Apart).

Where we’re not seeing mobile web design implementations are in run-of-the-mill company and corporate sites. Small- and medium-sized businesses, Fortune 500 companies, and government websites are sadly falling behind instead of in line.

However, companies are beginning to see the rewards of meeting the needs of mobile device users. In the years to come, there will be a significant shift in attention toward the mobile web presence in all websites.

There are already several mobile web tools you can use for creating a mobile web version of your site; it’s time companies seriously look into implementing these cost-effective and relatively simple solutions as either a stop-gap solution or a permanent one.

2. Web Design as a Profession Will Become Specialized

Web designers are increasingly contending with many roles and tasks. What used to be just HTML, CSS and designing static brochure sites for the desktop has extended to designing web-enabled solutions for mobile devices, web apps, rich Internet application (RIA) interfaces, content management systems (CMS) and much more.

We’re tasked with making harmonious designs that carry a website’s brand across all platforms and situations — designs that establish the company’s brand whether it’s being viewed in a 28-inch desktop monitor or an Android smartphone.

This leads to two things. Job security is one, but the other is the need to distribute these tasks so that we can specialize and excel in one specific area.

In the future, there will be greater stratification of the role of web designer. Right now, web app designers, mobile app designers and traditional website designers are clustered under the umbrella title of “web designer.”

Just as the profession of being a doctor and the field of medicine are branched out into sub-fields such as oncology, dentistry and neurology, we may see a similar division in the field of web design. I can see specializations such as mobile web designer, content management system designer (with further sub-specializations such as WordPress theme designer or Drupal theme designer), and RIA interface designer becoming a reality and being in demand as we move forward.

3. Simpler Aesthetics for Websites

There’s been a sweeping trend in the way new websites are being visually designed. Web designers are forgoing complex visuals and overdone design techniques, opting instead for clean and simple web designs with a high attention to detail, a greater emphasis on typography — with the help of web fonts and the upcoming open web font format (WOFF) specifications — and stronger interaction design for richer and more captivating user experiences.

Not only that, but simpler aesthetics means lighter web pages, which translates to a better experience on mobile devices where Internet connectivity is lower in speed and less reliable when compared to the traditional broadband connection, and where screen sizes are too small to fit excessive design elements. This web design trend of “less is more” seems like it will extend, if not dominate, the aesthetic tastes of web designers in the near future.

4. Web Design Will Replace Print Design (Even More)

Print designers are typically tasked with brand identity design, such as logo design, letterheads, business cards and other print materials.

However, companies are seeing the great opportunities and effectiveness of business networking online. Businesses are a lot more concerned about their brand’s visibility on the web. Business cards are being replaced by social networking profiles on Twitter and Facebook. Newsletters, brochures and company letterheads sent out by snail mail are being dismissed for HTML e-mails and e-newsletters.

We’ll be witnessing design budgets earmarked toward traditionally print-based branding materials shift toward web design solutions such as Twitter profile page designs, Facebook fan page designs and HTML e-mail and e-newsletter template designs.

Where Do You See Web Design Heading?

If you’re a web designer or are in a related profession, what changes do you see us heading toward? If you’re not a web designer, what things do you want to see in web designs, and what things do you want to become history? Share your thoughts in the comments.

More Dev & Design Resources from Mashable:

- 10 Predictions for Web Development in 2011
- 5 Free Annotation and Collaboration Tools for Web Projects
- 8 Tools For Easily Creating a Mobile Version of Your Website
- Hacker Web Design: Words of Wisdom for Building Great Apps
- 5 Design Trends That Small Businesses Can Use in 2011

Image courtesy of Flickr, Mike Rohde.

Reviews: Android, Digg, Drupal, Facebook, Flickr, Google, Internet, Twitter, WordPress

More About: design, List, Lists, mobile web design, predictions-2011, web design, Web Development

For more Dev & Design coverage:

December 29 2010

4 Predictions for the Future of Politics and Social Media

Show me a modern political candidate who doesn’t understand television, and I’ll show you a loser.

When TV became the dominant medium for Americans to consume news and entertainment, political candidates could no longer be successful without looking polished in televised debates, appearing on talk shows and spending big on commercials.

Like the television boom of the 1960s, we are standing on the precipice of a big shift in how public figures are perceived and how campaigns are conducted. Our frontier is social media, and its impact on mainstream political culture is coming on fast.

While my colleagues have been making their predictions about what’s on the tech and social media horizon in 2011, there will be no major U.S. elections next year. Here, we’ll be postulating about social media’s impact on the more long-term future of American civics.

1. There Will Be a Tipping Point

While campaigning and marketing share many similarities, the differences mean everything when you’re talking about democracy’s big picture. Brands can sell by hitting a tech savvy demographic of influencers. Elections involve everyone, whether they’re online or not.

If a large bloc of your constituency is made up of 65+ year-old retirees, chances are a Facebook strategy won’t be time well spent. Despite the enthusiasm of the tech crowd and blogosphere, Twitter is exceedingly far from the mainstream, with only 6% of Americans using the service. And while the world consumes YouTube videos at a mind-bending rate, viral success is still transient and elusive.

While these tools have certainly proven to be effective in rallying support and contributions, we don’t yet live in a world where social media can make or break a political candidate by itself.

That will change, perhaps even by the next major election cycle.

The future of the social media politician is not about wild speculation and technological uncertainties. It has everything to do with when and how deeply social media can be absorbed into mainstream culture. We are on track for a tipping point — a JFK/Nixon TV debate moment — when everyone on the political scene will acknowledge that we can never go back to campaigns without social.

2. New Media Strategists Will Just Be Strategists

I’ve had the opportunity to talk with the new media strategists for a number of senators, congresspeople and political causes. Despite their differences, they all agree that their own jobs will soon be folded into the larger campaign strategy. As many have already foreseen, social media will not require experts for much longer. As we head toward true mainstream adoption, social will be a default and well-understood tool in the belt of any public-facing professional.

We’ve already seen this happening in the private sector with marketing and PR professionals. As many corporate entities lumber to catch up with those on the cutting edge, so too will government officials and the campaigners who seek their offices.

3. We’ll See the Devaluation of Old Media in Politics

Print and radio ads are not as valuable as TV. TV will no longer be as valuable as interactive media. For politics, this is especially so, as the arena (at its best, anyway) warrants engagement and discussion.

As media appetites shift, this is an inevitability. In the U.S., we’re already seeing web use catch up with television in terms of weekly hours spent. Political money will simply go where the eyeballs are, and we’re likely to see a big payoff on social creativity when it comes to future campaigns.

4. Whistle Blowing Gets More Efficient, But That’s It

The WikiLeaks saga has ignited plenty of discussion about journalism and whistle blowing in the Internet age. But at the end of the day, the mechanics of an information leak are about the same as they’ve always been: Someone from within an organization leaks damaging information, and the media (in whatever form) disseminates it to the public. Generally speaking, WikiLeaks has only acted as a “middle man” for raw information. It’s journalists who are making sense of it and transmitting it to the public with context.

The web only speeds up this process through digitization and universal access. Governments and politicians will feel the impact of leaks sooner, but it’s unlikely the methods of protecting sensitive information will be much changed.

Your Thoughts?

What do you think will be social media’s biggest impact on the political process? How long until we see a winning campaign strategy that is purely social? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

More Political Resources from Mashable

- How WikiLeaks Became the Story of the Year in 2010 [VIDEO]
- The Future of Social Media and Politics
- How Political Campaigns Are Using Social Media for Real Results
- How the “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” Nailed Social Media
- 17 Web Resources to Help You Decide on Election Day

More About: facebook, List, Lists, politics, predictions-2011, social media, twitter, youtube

For more Social Media coverage:

December 28 2010

4 Social Media Marketing Predictions for 2011

Tim Ferriss is an angel investor (Twitter, StumbleUpon, Evernote, etc.) and author of the #1 New York Times bestsellers The 4-Hour Body and The 4-Hour Workweek. In his spare time, Tim has doctors stab pen-sized needles into his thighs.

Ah, social media marketing. Fewer things are so lavishly spent on, yet so poorly measured.

Here are a few predictions for 2011 related to where the smart money and dumb money will go. Special thanks to a number of high-volume retail experts for their insights, including Ryan Holiday, director of marketing at American Apparel.

Read on for our predictions and let us know in the comments what you think social media marketing will look like in the year to come.

1. YouTube Beats Yahoo — Video Will Convert

YouTube is the second largest search engine in the English-speaking world.

That’s right: YouTube is bigger than Yahoo. Zappos, as one example, added simple videos of people holding shoes and moving them around to its sales pages and increased conversion rate from 6% to 30%. When I look at the traffic sources for my book trailer on YouTube, the biggest referrer isn’t my own blog. It’s The Huffington Post. I customized the video and text content to a niche (but sizeable) outlet that didn’t exist two years ago: Huffington Post Books.

With proper targeting and syndication, this 50 second video almost immediately propelled my book from an Amazon rank of approximately number 150 to 30, now stabilizing at number four in all books. We used RankForest to track this sudden change.

graph image

The 50-second length was deliberate and was also later edited to 30 seconds for in-video advertising on YouTube.

At least 30% off all the video views (more than 6.3 million) on my main YouTube channel come from search or organic referrals. By putting up videos, particularly on YouTube, you open up a whole channel for sharing and connecting to the biggest word-of-mouth platform in the English language.

2. The Full Resurrection of E-mail

Groupon has an e-mail list of at least 15 million strong in the U.S. (the company says it’s 30+ million if you include international), which goes to show that a true permission asset can be worth nearly $6 billion on the bidding table.

E-mail addresses are a safer long-term investment than social media features. Think about all the money companies spent advertising their MySpace pages in 2007. Even on Facebook, your direct messages to fans are relegated to a second tier inbox no one reads. This is something you don’t have to worry about happening in e-mail marketing. Among 20- to 35-year olds, at least, their physical addresses change more frequently than their e-mail addresses.

The smarter marketers will budget “social media” acquisitions based on lifetime value (or a set duration, like 6 months’ retail purchases) of e-mail addresses.

One major retailer did the math and learned that an e-mail subscriber is worth roughly $20 a year in annual online revenue. Knowing this number allowed the retailer to:

  • Calculate the value of the real estate it gives the e-mail signup box at the register in stores. It turns out to be one of the most lucrative converters in an already competitive area.
  • Easily say “Yes” or “No” to requests to participate in contests/sweepstakes by judging return on new e-mails acquired.
  • Calculate what the company can spend to build its list.

There are companies like Opt-Intelligence that can be paid a CPA (cost per action) for what are called “co-regs.” Co-reg example: If you’re signing up for an account at NYTimes.com, and it says “Get 4 issues of Golf Magazine FREE!” someone paid for that because they knew it will make money based on lifetime value.

After the above-mentioned retailer quantified what an e-mail subscriber was worth, the company was able to double its subscriber base in less than eight months. The majority of that growth came not through spending money upfront, but from the redirection of already existing resources in ways that weren’t possible before calculating that number. Let’s say that added 500,000 e-mail addresses, each worth $20 in 2011; that means an additional $10 million in revenue with no significant capital outlay.

Aaron Ray uses the same tactics for the “free agent bands” (major acts who’ve left a label) at The Collective. He figures out how many tickets you sell through your fan club, how many downloads come from your e-mail list, and how much traffic you can drive through Facebook and Twitter. It’s critical for two reasons: 1) For accurate revenue/sales/attendance predictions, and 2) As ROI metrics to justify investments for growth.

This also allows loss-leader campaigns. Even if the math on a Groupon deal is razor thin, a smart retailer (online or offline) can acquire e-mails through a special form they set up and add an extra $20+ per transaction, per our hypothetical example.

Many companies can afford to give product away for “free” if they have the right metrics. Most companies don’t, which leads us to number three.

3. Large Companies Will Waste Money on Vanity Metrics

There’s a difference between “actionable” and “vanity” metrics. Just because your competitors are on Foursquare doesn’t mean that you should be. Could it make sense? Sure, but you should run the numbers — the right numbers. Impressions, page views, and undefined terms like “engagement” are at best gameable and at worst meaningless. Some social media consultancies define their success metrics well (including, in rare cases, “engagement”), but beware the services that don’t. Remember that those who got rich in the gold rush weren’t panning for gold; they were selling pick axes. Apple isn’t chasing Facebook updates, and Steve Jobs isn’t worried about getting blog posts up before noon. Apple’s doing just fine, as are many companies quietly focusing on the tools they know best.

“Actionable” need not be expensive. The conversion from SlideShare to purchase from my WordPress blog, both of which were free, helped me to sell more than 4,000 books on Amazon in less than 12 hours. If you’re spending more than $5,000 per month for insight, make sure you’re getting actionable data that you can at least correlate to sales.

Much of social media is trackable, despite the noise. Don’t get tricked with new lingo or you’ll end up with an embarrassing motto straight from here.

4. Ads & Conversation Will Impact Different Conversion Rates

I recall once seeing a Zynga billboard while driving up the 280-N from the San Francisco airport to downtown San Francisco. There was no tagline, and I joked to my passenger, who was in the financing and IPO business: “I’m not sure who that’s intended to sell.”

He laughed and responded with “Dude, that’s not for end users. That’s to get the attention of the bankers driving from SFO to downtown.”

Remember, you can have multiple audiences for your ads. At American Apparel, many of its best known ads ran in obscure publications or in short bursts on niche websites. Millions of people know about them, however, because blogs thought they were so interesting that they wrote articles about them.

In that case, the press was the audience and the public only indirectly so. The public was a later side effect, but not the first target. One good test of whether your advertising can become a conversation: Would people notice if your ads stopped running? Clickthrough rate is not going to answer that question.

This is why advertisers should start monitoring chatter about their content and come up with ways to track and value that. You also need be able to think big picture so you can know that sometimes negative chatter is still a good thing (it means people get emotional about what you do).

Does this violate the actionable metric rule in my third point? Not at all. It’s another feedback loop and easily measurable, whether in press mentions (including blogs) specific to an ad, or even product development impact.

For developing product, Amazon is well known for “working backward” from internal press-release response. That is, it starts with the reaction or response from its intended audience and designs its advertising messages — or products — backward from there. Google also used this approach by launching Google News without chronological or geographic filtering, only afterward responding to requests and implementing the chronological feature. There was a ton of debate and fighting internally for both features, and they let the market decide.

“Listening” isn’t enough. Tracking the number of Twitter mentions tells you nothing. The bigger question is: What are we trying to build or accomplish, and how will we digest and use this data?

If you nail that, you can nail your competition to the wall. They’ll be too busy chasing the latest shiny web service.

More Business Resources from Mashable:

- 6 Free Chrome Apps and Extensions for Small Businesses
- HOW TO: Land a Job at Microsoft
- 5 Predictions for Small Business in 2011
- 5 Essential Web Apps for the Lean Small Business
- 5 Design Trends That Small Businesses Can Use in 2011

Images courtesy of iStockphoto, grapix, Silberkorn

More About: 2011, analytics, business, campaigns, e-mail, MARKETING, metrics, predictions-2011, social media marketing, youtube

For more Business coverage:

December 27 2010

10 Predictions for Web Development in 2011

As a class, developers have had a fantastic year in 2010.

We’ve made headlines, grabbed the limelight, been vilified and glorified beyond all reason and gotten paid pretty nicely along the way. And the bubble of consumer web apps just continues to swell, so there are no signs (yet) that 2011 will bring anything short of grandeur for the web and mobile development communities.

Looking ahead to what the coming year might hold, there are a few sure bets and a few speculations we’d like to offer. Some are, as noted, almost certainly bound to come true. Others are more along the lines of hopes and prayers than hard-and-fast predictions we’d stake money on.

With that in mind, here are 10 things we think the world of hacking will hold in 2011.

1. There Will Be a Need to Understand and Optimize for All Form Factors

Even the most brainless of “social media gurus” could tell you this one. With the surging popularity and newfound accessibility and affordability of smartphones — thanks in large part to the growth of the Android platform — we’ve had to optimize for the mobile web and learn about mobile applications a lot in the past year in particular.

Now, as tablets begin to creep into the market, we’re having to craft new experiences for those, as well. We’re constantly forced to consider form factor when creating new sites and apps. Will it run Flash? What about screen resolution? Font size?

Almost every developer worth his or her salt will have to become increasingly adept at developing for the myriad form factors set to dominate the gadget market in 2011.

2. There Will Be Breakout, Cross-Platform Mobile Development Tools

With all the mobile growth that’s been occurring, especially given the current state of the iOS/Android market shares, the time has never been riper for a great mobile framework, SDK or IDE to enter the arena.

Hopefully, sometime in 2011, we’ll see a new group of flexible and robust tools that can facilitate app development for any number of operating systems — including tablet-specific or forked OSes. We’re talking more than WYSIWYG, DIY app-builders and more than iPhone-to-Android porting tools; we want to see serious, mobile-centric power tools in 2011.

3. Investment in Cloud-Based, Collaborative Development Tools

We’ve seen some interesting starts in community-based, online coding. There are a few collaborative code editing apps, some of them with real-time capabilities.

We’re looking forward to seeing more and better apps for cloud-based, collaborative coding in 2011 — something like a better Wave, created specifically with hackers in mind. This will allow for better and faster work to be generated by an increasingly decentralized hacker community. It’ll also pave the way for improved on-the-job learning and open-source hacking.

4. WYSIWYG Tools Get Better and Grow

While WYSIWYG tools of the past — and, who are we kidding, the present — often lead to spaghetti code of the ugliest variety, we just keep seeing more and more of them.

We’re going out on a limb and predicting (or hoping) that WYSIWYG and split-screen (WYSIWYG and code) developer tools become more sophisticated. Whether they get better or not, they’re definitely going to continue to proliferate, especially for the novice coder and the DIY non-coder markets. Still, we’re being told the code on the other side of the GUIs is getting better all the time.

Who knows? 2011 could be the year WYSIWYGs stop sucking.

5. We’ll Keep Building “Touchable,” App-like UIs

Facebook Mobile Privacy

All that stuff we said earlier about form factors kind of applies here, too, but in reverse. Your sites will have to look better on mobile devices and tablets, yes; but also, they’ll continue to natively look and feel more like mobile and tablet apps.

Some folks, a couple of Mashable staffers included, aren’t happy about the app-itization of the entire Internet. Call us old-fashioned, but we like our websites to be websites and our mobile apps to be mobile apps.

The average consumer, however, seems to delight in the shiny, touchable, magazine-like interfaces taking over the iPad and similar devices. Expect to be asked to make more and more app-like sites in 2011.

6. There Will Be a Higher Standard for Web and Mobile Security

The past year has been a bit of a horror show when it comes to web security. There have been a handful of high-profile hacks that exposed user data to the world; there was also much confusion on the user’s side of the screen as to how security works on a personal level.

We predict — nay, we dream — that in 2011, developers of consumer-facing apps will be extra careful with things like data encryption, user privacy controls and other security issues.

7. Third-Party App Development Will Plateau

Building a Facebook app or a Twitter app was all the rage in 2009, but something shifted in 2010, right around the time of Twitter’s Chirp developer conference: Developers found out that building on someone else’s platform was a good way to set yourself up for failure, especially when the platform decides to shift direction, change its APIs, acquire a competitor, or simply change its terms of use.

We predict that developing these kinds of apps will plateau and even taper off in 2011. The web is glutted with third-party social media tools; many devs are beginning to realize there’s more money and more interesting challenges elsewhere. In the end, social networks will be more interesting to advertisers large and small than to independent and third-party developers.

8. Ruby Will Get Some Cool Optimizations and Tools

We’ve seen lots of cool tricks and optimization tweaks around Python and PHP; 2011, however, will be the year for better Ruby tools.

The Ruby language is becoming extremely popular in developing consumer-facing web apps, and we’re sure to see some big-name companies release open-source tools and even improvements to the Ruby core — think along the lines of what Facebook did last year with HipHop or Google’s Unladen Swallow project.

9. NoSQL Technologies Will Stake Their Ground

We’ve seen and heard interesting things from the NoSQL corners of the web this year… and by “interesting,” we don’t necessarily mean “good.”

NoSQL technologies have had some high-profile hiccups this year (remember that MongoDB/Foursquare disaster?), but we’ve been assured that what doesn’t kill NoSQL only makes it stronger and more stable.

That being said, we’re not predicting the demise of MySQL any time soon. As one astute Twitter friend wrote, “Relational databases have their place, as do NoSQL solutions. To blindly choose one over the other is shortsighted.”

10. Open-Source Software Will See Unprecedented Growth

Open-sourcing interesting or unused tech is a trend we like to see from companies like Google and Facebook. In fact, we hope to see even more open-source contributions from proprietary software giants in 2011.

It’s not just the big players who are writing great open-source code. We know a lot of web startups are working on internal tools that’ll also be open-sourced in 2011. There are more youngsters (and not-so-youngsters) joining the ranks of hackers every year; many of them are being encouraged by sites like this one to make valuable contributions to the open-source community.

We predict more awesome open-source software than ever in 2011. Will it be a victory by Stallman’s standards? Probably not, as it won’t be exclusive of proprietary software creation, sale and licensing. But the trend toward more FOSS is a good one, and one that we’ll continue to report on in the year to come.

What Are Your Predictions?

In the comments, let us know your predictions for what 2011 may bring to the world of web and mobile development. And if you disagree with our predictions, let us know. They’re only educated guesses, after all; join the conversation.

More Dev & Design Resources from Mashable:

- HOW TO: Make the Most of TextMate
- Hacker Web Design: Words of Wisdom for Building Great Apps
- 5 Better Ways to Read “Hacker News”
- A Beginner’s Guide to Integrated Development Environments
- 10 Chrome Web Apps to Check Out

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, loops7

More About: app development, coding, developers, development, hack, hacking, List, Lists, predictions, predictions-2011, web design, Web Development

For more Dev & Design coverage:

December 26 2010

7 Predictions for the Gaming Industry in 2011

The video gaming industry made great strides this year. What’s next? Here are my predictions for 2011.

It’s been a hell of a year. In 2010, motion hardware such as Microsoft Kinect and PlayStation Move made their debuts, the Nintendo Wii stayed put but still held its own, and the first 3D handheld gaming system was introduced. And let’s forget that smartphone gaming took the market by storm.

Against that promising backdrop, let’s polish up the old crystal ball and take a look at some predictions for 2011. My projections for the next year are based on news I’ve seen recently, gut feelings and even some wishful thinking. You’re invited to add your own predictions in the comments. Let’s take a look at what I think the new year will have in store for the gaming industry.

1. On the Road Again

Mobile gaming for smartphones and handheld devices will continue its explosive growth in 2011. Adding fuel to the Apple App Store fire will be Windows Phone 7, hitched up to Xbox Live and packing plenty of graphics punch. While Microsoft’s nascent platform won’t be able to hold a candle to the App Store yet, its inauspicious beginning is not going to predict what will happen in the long run.

2. Backfield in Motion

Motion gaming hardware will continue to fly off store shelves, but I’m not sure if the titles will be able to keep up. Meanwhile, the porn industry will continue parrying with Microsoft, trying to slip in racy games to the consternation of the Redmond giant (it has already started). It’s hard to hold back the pornmeisters, though, bellwethers of technology since VHS tapes.

3. Flash Crash

Developers of HTML5 will make great inroads in 2010, continuing its rise into eventual domination of browser-based gaming. Of course, Flash and Silverlight will still have a place in the online gaming universe, but HTML5 will continue its onslaught, especially into the mobile arena (new game engines like Impact are already leading the way). Hate HTML5 but love Flash? Thanks to Apple and its unstoppable power in the mobile marketplace, you might be standing on the wrong side of history.

4. Wii Want HD

Even though Nintendo emphasizes the quality of its gaming experience over the technical quality of its graphics, an HD gaming platform from the company is long overdue. Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata said that a Wii successor wasn’t in the offing yet, declaring last June that the company would announce a new console when it runs “out of ideas with the current hardware and cannot give users any more meaningful surprises with the technology we have.” In my opinion, one of the last surprises remaining is that Nintendo’s flagship gaming console is still running standard-definition video.

5. Bringing the Pain

Gears of War 3 will finally be released, but too bad it’s been pushed back from its originally announced spring 2011 release date (although there will be a beta version available in April). Now we’ll have to wait until at least September to play the real thing on the Xbox 360. Fenix, Dominic, Cole and Baird will bring the pain once again, maybe even eclipsing the grand debut of Portal 2, winner of a 2010 Spike Video Gaming Award for the most anticipated game to be released next year. Nevertheless, the Gears of War franchise is so valuable right now, its hoards of fans have enormous pent-up demand for the new first-person shooter. Its sales are practically guaranteed to break all records.

6. Apple Console

Apple will make an entry into the console market. The Cupertino company has nearly cornered the handheld market with its iPhone, iPod touch and iPad iOS-powered platforms. Why not parlay that dominance into a gaming platform that might be a simple evolution of its Apple TV “hobby?” How hard could it be to take a Mac Mini, install a serious graphics chip, get Apple’s ace iPhone/iPad designer Jonathan Ive to create the most beautiful handheld controllers in history, package the whole thing up with iOS and profit? For Apple, this should be easy.

7. Avian Anger

Those Angry Birds aren’t finished yet, even after continuing their steamrolling dominance over the App Store and Android Market with seasonal updates for Halloween and Christmas. Expect even more of those holiday refreshes with extra levels, taking on a love-dovey theme for Valentine’s Day and, of course, jumping all over that egg-strewn Easter holiday for all it’s worth.

More Gaming Resources from Mashable:

- 5 Predictions for Game Mechanics in 2011
- 5 Fantastic Web Games We Can’t Stop Playing
- Why You Need an Xbox 360 With Kinect This Holiday Season
- Cracking the Mainstream: Why Social Gaming Is More Than Just a Fad
- 4 Frighteningly Fun Zombie iPhone Games

Reviews: Android Market, Angry Birds, App Store, iPhone

More About: angry birds, apple, Console Games, games, gaming, List, Lists, microsoft, mobile gaming, nindento wii, Nintendo, op-ed, Opinion, playstation, playstation move, predictions-2011, video games, Xbox 360, Xbox Kinect

For more Entertainment coverage:

December 25 2010

5 Predictions for Mobile in 2011

Mobile really exploded in 2010, thanks to a surge in smartphone sales, the rise of the iPad, and of course the iPhone. Mobile devices are getting more powerful, data connections are getting faster and developers are really pushing the boundaries of how we define a “mobile app.”

It’s always tough to make predictions about technology because of the speed of innovation. This is especially true for mobile technology, where the landscape can change in a period of six months, let alone in a year.

These are five of my predictions for what we will see happen in mobile in 2011.

1. Tablet Mania Hits a Fever Pitch

Mark Zuckerberg might not think that the iPad is mobile, but I respectfully disagree. I define mobility more in terms of being portable, not pocketable.

Many people predicted that 2010 would be the year of the tablet, but in actuality, it was the year of one tablet, the iPad. I fully expect the iPad to continue to succeed but in 2011, it will finally get some competition.

The most important lesson that tablet makers can take away from the iPad is that user experience matters. We’re already seeing that in the early demos of the BlackBerry PlayBook and in teasers from Motorola.

We might also see HP use its purchase of Palm to bring some webOS tablets to the market.

2. Photo Sharing Will Expand to Video

The mobile photo sharing boom, led by apps like Instagram and PicPlz was a nice surprise in 2010. Fusing the improvements in camera phones with the ability to seamlessly share photos across social networks is something that just really clicks with users all over the world.

Smartphones have had the capability to record video for a very long time — and the hottest phones on the market all include the ability to record and upload HD footage. Still, we haven’t seen mobile video take off quite the same way as photographs.

This is in part because, though improving, the quality of a smartphone video camera isn’t a “real” replacement for a camcorder, and more importantly, the bandwidth needed to upload video just isn’t widely available.

As the major wireless providers across the world prepare or continue their 4G rollouts, the bandwidth issue has the potential to get a lot better.

Moreover, compression technologies with video make it possible to send video from a device more quickly, without sacrificing tons of quality. The companies that make the image sensors in smartphones are also introducing models that support 1080p video, which means full HD on a mobile phone is on the horizon.

We might not see the ease of sharing movies as we do with photos, but I expect mobile video to get bigger and better in 2011.

3. HTML5 App Explosion

Lots of app developers — or people hiring app developers — debated the merits of native versus web apps on mobile platforms.

Native apps can take advantage of more hardware capabilities of a device and have tighter integration with some of the key components of a mobile OS, but web apps can be more easily ported to other types of devices and can really be beneficial in areas like iterative updates and user testing.

With HTML5 however, many of the system-level and device specific features can still be harnessed by a web app. Moreover, developers can build a base application in HTML5, yet still put it in a native wrapper so that it can take advantage of some native device capabilities.

When comparing some of the Chrome web apps with their iPad counterparts, it was easy to see how a base HTML5 implementation could be ported to a straight web app.

This has been the idea behind development toolkits like Appcelerator’s Titanium, and with more and more devices of varying screen size and processor speed hitting the market, targeting the browser and then making modifications for the specific device will become more and more popular.

4. Flash Still Won’t Matter on Mobile Devices

It’s been an interesting year for Adobe Flash. The technology has withstood criticisms from Steve Jobs, has been heralded by RIM and is now available on Android handsets.

Adobe is doing a lot of work to help make Flash more suitable for mobile platforms; the problem is for Flash to really work well on these devices, existing Flash content needs to be reoptimized. For many developers or companies, if a site has to be retooled anyway, it is simply more pragmatic to adopt a solution like HTML5 that will work on a wider variety of mobile platforms.

Flash 10.1 was a big improvement, and I expect that Flash 10.2 will be even better, but I still don’t think Flash is going to become a massively adopted mobile technology.

That isn’t to say that Flash is dead — or that on the right platform (like the BlackBerry PlayBook), Adobe Air runtimes won’t be perfectly suitable. On the whole, I still think that the momentum that HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript and native libraries have in the smartphone and tablet space is unlikely to be usurped by Flash.

5. We Will See a Verizon iPhone

Even though Apple’s exclusivity agreement with AT&T for the iPhone is supposed to extend until 2012, I’ll go on record as saying I’m convinced we’ll see a Verizon iPhone in 2011. If I’m wrong, I’ll gladly take my lumps, but the signs and the rumors are just too great to ignore.

First, Verizon is rolling out its LTE network. That removes one of the technical barriers of a Verizon iPhone, the CDMA factor.

Second, is the fact that Verizon is already carrying the iPad, albeit a Wi-Fi version with a MiFi plan and adaptor — but hey, they are running ads.

Finally, Verizon has made it very clear that it wants the iPhone, and AT&T has made it clear it knows its days of exclusivity are waning. With AT&T being a major factor with consumers who decide not to buy an iPhone, Apple has to want to break off that exclusivity agreement too.

Share Your Thoughts

Those are my top predictions for mobile in 2011, but we want to hear yours. Let us know what trends, devices and technologies you expect to see take hold in the mobile space in the new year. Also weigh in on the probability of a Verizon iPhone.

More Tech Resources from Mashable:

- 4 Predictions for Connected Devices in 2011
- HOW TO: Get Started With Your New Roku Player
- HOW TO: Get Started With Your New Wi-Fi Router
- 5 Unusual Ways to Use Dropbox You Might Not Have Thought Of
- 5 Predictions for Game Mechanics in 2011

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, daboost

More About: android, HTML5, ipad, Mobile 2.0, predictions, predictions-2011, tablets, Verizon iPhone

For more Mobile coverage:

December 23 2010

5 Predictions for the Public Relations Industry in 2011

Leyl Master Black is a managing director at Sparkpr, one of the world’s top independent PR agencies. Leyl has more than 15 years experience driving high-impact communications programs for emerging technology companies.

The past decade has been rough on the media industry. As media consumption has shifted online, many print publications have struggled to adjust their editorial approach, advertising infrastructure and revenue models to accommodate a rapidly changing readership. During this time, quite a few online-only news sites also entered the market. With no legacy advertising infrastructure to deal with, lower overhead costs and startup agility, these new competitors began to attract viewers — and ad dollars — from traditional publications. Many publications have had to downsize, and reporters must now cover more beats and file more stories than ever before.

The recent social revolution changed the game again. Our social networks have taken on the role of crowdsourced news editors. Instead of going directly to websites to scan for news, we frequently only see bite-sized news headlines that have been posted or retweeted by our trusted sources. When we do go directly to a site, we’re now relying more on news aggregators such as TechMeme, or getting the scoop on what’s trending from sites such as Tweetbeat.

Today, mobile devices are sparking another big shift in media infrastructure, with the iPad in particular set to become the centerpiece of media strategies for top print publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today.

As the media changes, so too must the practice of public relations. In light of these evolving dynamics, what should savvy PR practitioners be thinking about as they’re building plans for 2011? Here are a few trends to watch in the coming year.

1. Social Sharing of News

In a recent article on Forbes.com, entrepreneur Dan Greenberg asserted that the web has evolved from a network of sites to a network of people. And because you can’t put ads on people, you must now focus on creating content that people will want to consume and share. The same holds true for PR, and next year, we will see more PR strategies that put social sharing at the forefront.

News releases will have more attention-grabbing or controversial headlines to drive more retweets. We’ll see more pitches that seek to seed a contrarian view or spark controversy, both of which will have a better chance of being shared than straight news. There will be more aggressive outreach to influencers on Twitter to ask them to tweet about news, and more strategies to provide incentives to tweet or post to Facebook. And PR professionals will be under more pressure to measure program success using social sharing metrics.

2. Increase in “Direct Editorial”

As media companies overhaul their revenue models, many have moved beyond straightforward banner-style advertising to offer new types of content-driven ad experiences, sponsored content and creative syndication partnerships. This means that the need for content has never been greater. But with staffing levels still low, there will be even more opportunities in the coming year for company execs to contribute their own thought leadership pieces and educational articles to prominent publications.

We can also expect to see more corporate blogging in 2011. While just a few years ago, many companies shied away from blogging because it was so difficult to promote the content and actually get people to read it, it’s now easier than ever to promote blog content to a targeted audience through social media. And, the shake-up in the media industry has produced a large number of talented freelance writers to support these efforts.

3. Greater Demand for Exclusives

With breaking news now posting almost instantaneously online, straight news coverage has become a commodity. When Facebook announces a redesign, you can expect to read similar stories about it on dozens of news sites the minute it hits. Many publications, as well as journalists, are now grappling with how to differentiate their coverage in this environment. Watch closely for publications shifting their editorial approach to find the right niche next year, and adjust your engagement accordingly.

Also look for increasing value being placed on exclusives as a way for journalists to offer a differentiated and unique news product. As more publications request (and even require) exclusive content, reporters will be able to invest more time in doing a “deep dive” for stories, and we’ll likely see an increase in longer, more insightful pieces.

4. Growth in Multimedia

Another point of differentiation for publications will be the use of use podcasts and video interviews to complement their print and online stories. Where appropriate, PR professionals should begin to build ideas for podcasts into their pitches to paint a more complete picture of how a story could be rolled out.

Video is also becoming a critical part of many news sites and an important asset for PR to provide to busy reporters, particularly as publications focus on creating visually rich content for devices such as the iPad. In 2011, expect to see more stories that include individual videos or even curated video in a slideshow or mosaic layout, such as this New York Times story about Tufts University applicants submitting YouTube videos as part of the application process.

5. Data, Graphics and Apps

Relevant stats have always been critical for validating trend stories, and with online survey tools making data gathering easier than ever, many PR pitches are now already accompanied by original research. In 2011, with news outlets hungry for visuals but short on resources, look for the presentation of this data to become more sophisticated, with PR teams working to develop infographics and other visuals to make their data pop. And in our app-happy world, also expect to see a slew of interactive applications to supplement stories, such as this texting and driving game that accompanied a New York Times article on the topic.

More Marketing Resources from Mashable:

- 6 Predictions for Digital Advertising in 2011
- 5 Predictions for Small Business in 2011
- HOW TO: Make a Successful Marketing Video for the Web
- 10 Customizable Holiday Gifts for Your Tech-Savvy Office
- How Social Media is Changing the Business of Television

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Yuri_Arcurs

More About: business, facebook, List, Lists, MARKETING, media, pr, predictions-2011, PUBLIC RELATIONS, social media, twitter

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4 Predictions for Connected Devices in 2011

Brian David Johnson is a futurist and the director of Future Casting at the Intel Corporation. He is also the author of Screen Future: The Future of Entertainment, Computing and the Devices We Love, out in paperback January 2011.

As a futurist at Intel, it’s my job to come up with an actionable vision for computing in the year 2020. Now, that might sound like science fiction, but really it’s pretty pragmatic. To make the chips that power all of these really cool connected devices takes about five to ten years. I’m tasked with figuring out what people will want to do and what they will be able to do with connected devices in the future, so that we can begin building those capabilities into the microprocessors today.

After a talk I gave in Stockholm to a gathering of broadcasters and service providers, a woman came up to me with a perplexed look on her face. She asked, “You live in the future don’t you?”

“I spend most of my time thinking and talking to people about the future,” I replied. “So, yeah, I guess I do.”

Pulling together some predictions for 2011 feels a bit like looking backward from 2020, but here goes.

1. It’s All About Screen, Screens, Screens

This is an easy one. For the last five years or so we have seen the emergence of the screen. We have thinner and thinner laptops, smarter and smarter phones and TVs, more connected PCs, and super cool tablets. And now all of these devices can also be connected to the Internet. Because of all of these devices and gadgets, consumers are beginning to simply see all of our devices as just screens. It’s not about what device will win over all the other devices; it’s about the device and screen that you have handy — it’s the screen that best fits what we want to do and where we are.

2. The Next Computing Environment: The Bed

With the evolution of the smartphone into a powerful and personal computing device, we have become comfortable with the smartphone as a computing device that we carry in our pockets. You can also see tablets as mobile computing devices that people are growing comfortable with carrying in their handbags and backpacks. In fact, the tablet form factor is beginning to boldly go where few computers have comfortably and intuitively gone before — the bed.

Some of you might find this shocking, while others may find it laughable, but it’s true. Our ethnographers and social scientists have begun to see an interesting habit emerging: the mobile computing device you take to bed. Let’s face it, tablets really are a great way to watch TV in bed or play games and not disturb the person sleeping next to you.

3. Cars: The Mobile Device That Carries You

Now that people are comfortable with connected devices they can take to bed and mobile devices they can carry with them, in 2011 we’ll see the continued growth of the car as a mobile device that carries you. Cars will only get smarter, more connected, easier to use and just generally much more awesome, as computational devices make our days easier and our rides to work or the supermarket more safe.

4. People Will Still Love TV

Well, people don’t just love TV. They love TV, movies, games, books, comics, apps and music. Everything that’s old is new again. These traditional forms of entertainment aren’t going anywhere. They are one of the main reasons we buy all these new zippy connected devices. And the main reason they won’t be going anywhere is because we all love them and we don’t want them to go away.

Now certainly 2011 will see the continued evolution of how entertainment is delivered and paid for, but with all of this talk of change and innovation, we should remember that it’s really all about us — the consumers — and what we love. Regardless of what changes in 2011, the things we really love aren’t going anywhere.

More Tech Resources from Mashable:

- 5 Predictions for Online Data in 2011
- Constantly Changing Technologies: What’s a Software Developer To Do?
- Tough Tech: 10 Rugged Gadgets That Will Go the Distance
- 5 Predictions for Game Mechanics in 2011
- 5 Great Gadgets for Reinventing Your Road Trips

Reviews: Internet

More About: connected car, connected devices, connected tv, gadgets, List, Lists, Mobile 2.0, predictions-2011, tablets, tech

For more Tech coverage:

December 22 2010

3 Predictions for Social Good in 2011

Geoff Livingston co-founded Zoetica to focus on cause-related work, and released an award-winning book on new media, Now is Gone, in 2007.

The end of the year brings the wrapping up of crucial fundraising drives for many organizations. Looking back at events, several exciting developments occurred in the non-profit social media space. Consider the rise of mobile as a valid giving platform, the great debate about slacktivism and widespread industry belief that social media is moving the needle, crowdsourcing social good hit unprecedented levels, and several new tools arrived that offer grassroots activism and online fundraising.

Moving forward, there are still many online challenges for the social good space. The coming year will see more developments as technologists, activists and online communicators work together to try to address issues such as cause fatigue, delivering return on investment and harnessing new and challenging media forms. Here are three social good trends to watch in 2011.

1. Social Middleware Will Make Causes More Fun

Cause fatigue hit an all time high in 2010, in large part because of over communication of vote-for-me contests, an unusually high amount of natural and manmade disasters, and poorly executed social media. More non-profits will turn to social middleware platforms like Crowdrise, Jumo, and a soon-to-emerge next generation Causes to reinvigorate their online efforts and create more fluid grassroots activism and fundraising.

These middleware solutions leverage people’s inherent networks in Facebook and Twitter and add new functionality to them so causes can better develop campaigns and platforms. New, layered functionality not only engages stakeholders in conversations, but it empowers individuals to create their own social good campaigns and initiatives as free agents. Expect non-profits and individuals who are suffering from cause fatigue and low return on investment from traditional social media tools to seek these more sophisticated answers.

The big question is which of these platforms will emerge as social good industry leaders. The race will be to see which platform can get the most causes and active users and may even feature competitive price wars on percentages taken from donations.

2. Causes Will Keep Tinkering With Mobile

Mobile became very interesting in 2010. Haiti fundraising was astounding. Smartphone applications were developed for canvassing and activism. Geosocial networks garnered enough subscribers to merit experimentation with projects that included homeless shelter checkins and museum mayorship battles.

At the same time, industry voices raised reasonable criticism about mobile as a valid platform for social good. These concerns range from return on investment with applications to questions about Foursquare’s long-term validity as a geosocial network. The critiques are reminiscent of the social media adoption curve in 2007.

The reality of mobile Internet usage shows only an increased year-over-year use by citizens with more affordable and powerful smartphones. This creates an inescapable media platform for non-profits. Look for more experimentation and adoption, and with it the emergence of mobile social good best practices.

3. Improved Corporate Social Good

Thanks to social media, the number of campaigns that joined brands with causes to donate a portion of proceeds hit a new high in 2010. At the same time, companies and their non-profit affiliates started to receive push back from online citizens about the value of such efforts, whether their social good efforts had any significant impact and how they related to the brand.

As the social web brought new levels of authenticity to general intra-company and personal communications, this new level of online accountability will require a more authentic corporate social responsibility. Look for more core value ties between cause marketing efforts and actual causes in 2011.

More Social Good Resources from Mashable:

- 4 Innovative Social Good Campaigns for Education
- 3 Ways to Empower Social Media Giving This Holiday Season
- 5 Creative Social Good Campaigns for the Holiday Season
- How Social Media Is Making Veteran Service Organizations Better
- 10 Inspiring “Buy One Give One” Projects

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, oonal

More About: charity, List, Lists, non-profit, Opinion, predictions-2011, social good

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5 Predictions for the Music Industry in 2011

The music industry continued suffering its hardcore identity crisis in 2010, buffeted by the languishing major labels, continued leaks/file-sharing and that most confusing of conundrums: How to get music to fans in a way that makes sense — without losing money.

Still, despite the industry’s continuing difficulty to adapt to the digital age in a truly profitable way, we have seen some stirrings of change: the expansion of the online music video oeuvre, more creative and diverse methods of releasing albums (via Ping, Facebook and even mobile apps), and more mainstream, established publications and institutions embracing social media all the more.

There’s a lot of noise out there in the music world — and we’re not just talking about the genre — and we’re all hoping that out of that tangle of ideas and sounds comes the antidote that will fix a system that is so obviously in flux. Although I don’t quite see that antidote being concocted this coming year, I do see more trial and error and creativity brewing that could, in the end, lead to the music industry’s eventual rebirth. Either that or it will all implode and we’ll live in eternal silence, but somehow I doubt it.

And with that I bring you my predictions for 2011.

1. Subscription Services Will Be Popular, But Not Profitable


If Spotify’s $26.7 million loss in 2009 is any indication, subscription services still have a ways to go before they’ll actually become profitable. Hell, Last.fm isn’t even turning a profit yet — although it could be getting close.

Still, this year and the end of last year saw services gaining even more steam — MOG launched its all-you-can-eat service in December, followed by Android and iPhone apps, and, most recently, an app in the Chrome Web Store. Rdio also launched to much excitement, and Slacker Radio announced that it would be launching an on-demand offering as well (possibly across a variety of devices to be unveiled at CES).

Yes, streaming music services have been around for a while now, but what’s changed in the past year is the number of devices you can access them on — everything from the iPad to Roku to the Xbox Kinect to the upcoming Chrome OS devices. The ability to listen to music on-demand across a variety of devices is sure to be a hit among consumers — it just remains to be seen how these services will monetize.

2. More Artists Will Finally Get Social

You know your friend in that band that never gets gigs? The guy who basically has no idea how to use Twitter and thinks Foursquare is a playground game? Well, even that guy is going to start realizing in the coming year that he can’t just keeping sticking his head in the sand where social media is concerned.

I mean, Billboard recently tapped Next Big Sound to gather stats for its “Social 50″ Chart; we’re talking about a publication that’s been around since 1894 paying attention to social metrics where artist popularity is concerned. Let’s hear that date again: 1894. So basically the fact that you’re over 30 is no excuse for not having a social media presence.

Add to that MTV’s burgeoning interest in the social space — its assignation of a Twitter DJ and the launch of its new music discovery tool — and you’ve got a lot of eyes on the digital sphere.

In the coming year, I see more artists following in the footsteps of socially savvy bands like Kanye West (for better or worse), Ben Folds and Pomplamoose, and learning how to use social tools to their advantage.

3. Music Videos Will Continue Their Renaissance Online

This past year, a very sizable player entered the online music video space: Vevo, which launched at the end of 2009. In just one year, Vevo has become a very worthy adversary to sites like MTV.com when it comes to hosting music videos, and MTV, for its part, has started amping up its online/on-air video output as well.

Now, we’re not saying Vevo has single-handedly sparked the renaissance of the music video, but it has helped give the format a kick in the you-know-what. That platform, coupled with the growing ability of artists like OK Go, Arcade Fire and Kanye West (he’s everywhere on this list) to create true cinematic, and sometimes interactive masterpieces — which are the bread and butter of the viral web — have ensured that online music videos will continue to be eminently shareable in the coming year.

4. Ping Will Never Take Off — Never

Apple’s new social network, Ping, launched to much excitement this year, only to disappoint those of us in the media who were keen on replacing MySpace with a new locale for music discovery. Why? Well, there were scant few bands on the site at launch, and two months out of the gate, the site boasted only 2,000 artists. (The process to get an account on Ping is not as simple as creating a username and logging in; Apple needs to vet bands before granting them access.)

In the ensuing months, Ping has made an effort to become more social, adding Twitter integration and social playlists, but the site’s focus — predictably — seems to be more on commerce than social. For example: Yes, you can create and share playlists, but you can’t use your own songs to build said playlists — you must assemble them from iTune’s song previews. So, basically, by sharing playlists users are creating free advertising for iTunes rather than trading tunes.

Yes, MySpace may be suffering some financial woes (and a bit of an identity crisis), but it’s obviously a much more social sphere than a place for commerce (which may explain the financial woes). Case in point: It just added a suite of fan management tools for artists. Ping may not die this year — Apple is a tenacious beast — but I don’t see it gaining any traction either.

5. Music Piracy Will Not Die

Despite the looming spectre of the COICA Internet Censorship and Copyright Bill, people will continue to file share and steal music. They’ve been doing it for 10-plus years and they’re not stopping now.

Unfortunately, artists will continue to have to find creative ways to take advantage of the leaky nature of the web by adopting pay-what-you-wish models (a la Girl Talk and Trent Reznor) and taking advantage of the buzz that a leak builds (a la The National).

That’s not to say that matters are looking sunny for artists. It’s likely they will have to continue to diversify their methods of garnering cash by ramping up touring and licensing deals.

More Social Music Resources from Mashable:

- How To Make Your Music Video Go Viral: 10 Tips From Cee-Lo, OK Go & More
- 4 Ways Bands Can Cash in Online Without a Label
- Top 10 Twitter Tips for Bands, By Bands
- 5 Great Ways to Find Music That Suits Your Mood
- 5 Free Ways to Identify that Song Stuck in Your Head

Images courtesy of iStockphoto, enot-poloskun, and Flickr, Hygiene Matters, Taylor Burnes, Robert Agthe, and ste3ve

More About: apple, arcade-fire, Billboard, facebook, kanye west, MARKETING, MOG, mtv, music, myspace, Ping, predictions-2011, social media, the-national, twitter, vevo

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December 21 2010

6 Predictions for Digital Advertising in 2011

Jesse Thomas is the CEO and Founder of JESS3, a Creative Interactive Agency. JESS3 designs products and experiences for brands like Google, Nike, Facebook, MySpace, C-SPAN, Microsoft and NASA.

“Likes,” views and followers were all the rage in 2010. Despite the social media community emphasizing engagement instead of reach, media agencies quickly learned that engagement doesn’t scale easily, making it difficult to sell. Enter Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. As consumer use of social media spiked, the leading social networks retooled their advertising products to satisfy the newfound demand from brands. Instead of fizzling out like the popular online communities of yesteryear, they are driving toward profitability after several years of trying to figure out what they wanted to be when they grew up.

On the flip side, as consumers incorporate social media more into their daily lives, alternatives to the “big three” in the form of niche and location-based social networks have increased in appeal. Advertisers willing to experiment with media campaigns on these networks will have a distinct advantage moving forward as consumers become desensitized to text, display and even rich media ads. Whether they choose to go big or small, the social web equips advertisers with significantly more consumer data points than ever before to improve the targeting and relevance of online advertising.

Below are six predictions for digital advertising in 2011.


1. Local Advertising Becomes Relevant Again With Location

Location-based advertising will continue to grow in 2011 as Facebook expands the technology with its location platform, Places. In addition to Facebook, many other players in the checkin space, including Foursquare, Yelp, Shopkick, and last but not least, Google, will condition shoppers to expect a deal or coupon for alerting friends of their whereabouts. Relevance will distinguish these services from each other as the two biggest players, Facebook and Google, have the most powerful social graph data to customize deals for consumers. Don’t count Groupon out, though. It more than makes up for its comparative lack of technology with brand equity and scale, as its massive sales force will remain dominant in 2011 by further monetizing local commerce beyond the recently launched self-service platform.

2. Silicon Valley Will Be the Next Madison Avenue

The coolest job in advertising used to be working for an agency in New York City or Chicago, but these days the dreams jobs are at Facebook and Twitter. Not unlike Mail.ru Group (formerly Digital Sky Technologies) attracting top bankers from Goldman Sachs, as Facebook and Twitter start generating more revenue, advertising and marketing talent will start heading West to cash in.

3. Influencers Will Be the Celebrities of the Social Web

Consumers are constantly scouring the social web to decide where to eat, shop and stay; so it comes as no surprise that brands are desperately analyzing Twitter, blog posts and reviews to understand not only who has the largest audience, but how much influence individuals have. YouTube’s Partner Program is being joined by new services such as Klout to create an official layer of social credibility.

Klout scores are being used by The Palms Hotel in Vegas to gauge discounts for hotel guests, including through the “Klout Klub,” which “will allow high-ranking influencers to experience Palms’ impressive set of amenities in hopes that these influencers will want to communicate their positive experience to their followers.” Creating thoughtful ways to leverage your influencers is the thing to focus on. People have always said it’s cheaper to keep and please the customers you have, than acquire new ones.

4. Small Will Be the New Big for Social Networks

Despite Mark Zuckerberg’s unwavering belief that an open and connected social web is best for society, early adopters are starting to experiment with new platforms designed to communicate and share media with smaller audiences. Path has shown us the potential of limiting our social networks to 50 people. Fast Society is a new iPhone communication service that allows the user to create small groups to text with on the fly, and the groups last for three days. Facebook also realizes some of us may prefer communicating with smaller networks. Facebook’s new Groups feature allows us to segment our friends into personal, professional and interest-based communities, and openly engage in conversations not meant for our mother or colleagues to hear. Watch for more of these smaller, closed networks to launch in 2011 as people seek deeper connections online.

5. Brands Will Become More Like Media Companies

Social media has empowered brands to break their own news instead of relying on advertising or PR to disseminate their message. As brands become increasingly comfortable with social media on the whole, more budget and attention will be focused on high quality content created specifically for the social web. We will see more Facebook Pages like Skittles that appear to employ comedy writers to keep the content fresh. It would seem that “a brand’s best bet in social media is randomness.”

6. Facebook “Likes” Will Be Important for Your Brand

While it’s still unclear exactly how much a Facebook “Like” is worth to a brand, the following video sums up why Facebook is so important.

Brands will be tripling down on Facebook advertising in 2011, and the process for acquiring Facebook “Likes” has evolved to accommodate this increase in demand. Instead of doing A/B testing between two photos to see which generates more Facebook “Likes,” the savvier brands and agencies are leveraging technology that can simultaneously deploy 10,000+ ad variations to yield the lowest CPA (cost per acquisition) of those “Likes.”

More Business Resources from Mashable:

6 Ways to Market on Foursquare Without a Location
HOW TO: Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile
5 New Online Services Perfect for Small Businesses
4 Top Employers for Social Media Professionals
What Does Web Design Say About Your Small Business?

More About: advertising, facebook, MARKETING, Opinion, predictions-2011, social media, social media marketing, twitter

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5 Predictions for Small Business in 2011

Over the course of 2010, Mashable has offered quite a few small business resources, ranging from tips on social media and marketing to resources for web design and development.

As this year wraps up, we’d like to look back at the technological advancements that small businesses have benefited from and predict how those technologies will affect entrepreneurs in 2011.

Here are my five predictions about how small businesses will continue to adapt to changing technologies as we move into the new year.

Read on and let us know what you’d add to the list in the comments below.

1. Increased Spending on Websites

Small businesses are predicted to increase online marketing spending, with websites taking the front seat, according to a recent survey. The survey found that 54% of respondents indicated that their businesses currently have websites. Unfortunately, most of those websites contain nothing more than general information, and less than half of them incorporate customer service features.

The importance of being easily findable on the Internet has still not been fully recognized by small businesses, but increasingly, smart entrepreneurs are taking notice. Next year will be marked with increased spending on website development, lifting small business sites from their current iterations as online brochures to more prominent positions as useful resources for customers.

Those making valuable upgrades to their online presences will increase functionalities revolving around e-commerce, reservation systems, corporate blogs and social media integration. Furthermore, we may see increased attention on better web design.

2. Smartphone Revolution

A whopping 49% of small business owners use smartphones, outpacing the rest of America in smartphone adoption, according to a recent Forrester study.

As more small business owners are exposed to smartphones on a daily basis, it’s inevitable that they will begin to innovate with mobile technologies. In 2010, business owners were tweeting on the go, using location-based services and investing in mobile advertising.

In 2011, the smartphone revolution will continue to ensue, with ever increasing smartphone adoption. Mobile devices will continue to change the way that companies of all sizes do business. With most business needs at the tips of their fingers, small business owners will experience more flexibility than ever before.

3. Social Shopping and E-Commerce Advancements

While a number of small businesses benefited from social shopping in 2010, others were left wondering if group buying was really worth the risk.

Regardless, it’s evident that e-commerce is a huge advantage for small businesses taking part in it. Offering their products online, businesses have widened their customer bases beyond their local markets.

While only 30% of small business websites currently incorporate e-commerce abilities, the increased buzz around online and social shopping will probably push more small business owners to experiment with the medium in 2011.

4. More Focused Social Media Efforts

This year was a time of social media experimentation for many small business owners. Testing many social media services in the past year, small businesses are becoming more knowledgeable about which platforms their customers use most and how their companies can benefit from staying connected on each platform.

It isn’t uncommon to visit a small business’s website to find a mass of social icons pointing to less-than-utilized profiles all across the web. It seems that anxious entrepreneurs have spread themselves thin in the social media realm this year, trying out every platform that got buzzed up.

The simple truth is that not every platform is right for every business — it’s all about where your customers are.

Having answered quite a few social media questions from small business owners this year, I have a feeling that next year is really going to be about paring down to the essentials based on proven successes and strong metrics.

5. Increased Adoption of Cloud Computing

Earlier this year, a group of Internet and tech experts and social analysts predicted that Internet users will “live mostly in the cloud” by 2020. While I don’t have the expertise to analyze that prediction, I can point to the fact that I and many of my friends and co-workers already do live and work mostly from web-based and mobile apps, relying less on software installed on our desktops.

Cloud services have already simplified many processes for businesses. Google Apps and Google Docs, for example, make hosting and collaborating on spreadsheets, presentations, forms and word processors much simpler. Box.net and Dropbox have also made online file sharing and collaboration much easier. Meanwhile, 37signals supports a full line of business tools for project management, CRM, internal communications and group chat.

In 2011, businesses will be increasingly exposed to cloud services as tech companies introduce more and more products geared toward moving our digital lives into the cloud.

More Small Business Resources from Mashable:

- 5 Essential Web Apps for the Lean Small Business
- 5 New Online Services Perfect for Small Businesses
- What Does Web Design Say About Your Small Business?
- 10 Customizable Holiday Gifts for Your Tech-Savvy Office
- 10 Ways Business Leaders Can Turn Ideas Into Execution

Images courtesy of Flickr: Horia Varlan, quinnanya, rishibando, turtlemom4bacon, laurajo

More About: business, cloud computing, e-commerce, List, Lists, Mobile 2.0, predictions-2011, small business, smartphones, social media, social shopping, websites

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December 20 2010

5 Predictions for Online Data in 2011

Josh Jones-Dilworth is the founder and CEO of Jones-Dilworth, Inc. a PR consultancy focused on bringing early stage technologies to market. He blogs at joshdilworth.com.

A lot has changed since this post’s forbearer last December, so much so that I think it’s safe to say that data, particularly as it relates to marketing and social media, is no longer an annual topic, but rather a daily one.

Below, I outline five data-driven trends that will shape our coming year.

1. “Data scientist” Is the New Community Manager

In 2011, data science job openings will see a rise in numbers similar to the gaggle of community management and social media marketing gigs that materialized out of the ether nearly three years ago. Data scientists are officially the hot new hire of choice even though their particular mix of formal skills is still rare.

Now, community managers will not become data scientists per se — true data science involves a heavy dose of machine learning, code skills, math chops and deep domain expertise.

But because demand for data knowledge and practicum will outpace supply for the foreseeable future, data science tutorials will be popular events, and lightweight data science skills will trickle down and meaningfully impact marketing roles everywhere.

Further, the very best data scientists and data-driven marketers will find themselves collaborating frequently, cross-pollinating best practices and earning a seat at most every table.

Some people have openly wondered whether the social media expert will go the way of the webmaster, as common social media skills spread horizontally across an organization.

Community managers and social media marketers, for their part, absolutely can make themselves more valuable and relevant despite commoditization by learning lightweight data science basics and forwarding clever, data-driven campaigns.

For all of us marketers, the newfound fame of data science should, regardless, be considered an opportunity, not a threat.

2. Data Management Will Become a Real Industry

Facebook’s highly publicized move to allow users to download their data in bulk is a stand-in for any kind of real change (with all due respect to Dave Recordon and others). It’s a gesture at best, far from any notion of true portability.

But, it’s still an indicator that we’re getting closer to our long-held vision of data that is accessible and transportable and managed by its rightful owner — you (whether “you” is an individual, a family, a group, or an organization).

Companies like Backupify speak to the same future. Backing up your data is just the first step, of course, a function that saves a seat for an entirely different function eventually.

When I am finally able to join my data from disparate services with a unified view and the right accompanying toolset, I’ll be able to do all kinds of derivation and detection. We’ll open up new fields and use cases ranging from personalized medicine to a new kind of data marketplace where I set my own price for those who want access to my history, preferences or predilections (something that Infochimps is already pioneering).

Jeremie Miller’s new vault-like open source project for collating, securing and sharing personal data is an especially promising new direction. More players will emerge in this space in the next year, and investors should look to place bets in the next six months, if they haven’t already.

Similarly, data availability and portability, done well, can bolster a brand and command new audiences. Helping this vision along is an investment of another kind.

Who will be the eTrade or the Google Health of my data? Will we have data advisors who look after our portfolio? Will we manage our data daily, weekly or monthly? Will it be exhilarating or more like cleaning out a closet?

Esther Dyson spoke to this idea back in 2008 in fact, remarking that “If you’d said 10 years ago that people are going to be managing data about themselves at a very granular level, people would have said ‘No, this is crazy.’”

Two years later, that vision is getting closer to reality, although only just.

3. The Floodgates Are Opening

Data has long been left abandoned in dark recesses and behind firewalls, either forgotten or hidden. The increasingly obvious value that can be gleaned from data is coaxing it back out into the open (thriving black markets not withstanding).

Bundle is one example of how major sources of data are starting to open. Born out of Citibank, Bundle has access to anonymized transaction records from more than 20 million people (compared to 3 million for Mint Data) that allows them to produce all kinds of useful magic for everyday people.

Bundle is, I think, exemplary, but there are plenty of other major corporations and data sources making their wares available in one form or another. I’d argue that the tide is shifting, dramatically. The question from large data producers is no longer “Why would I make my data available?” but rather, “How do I make my data available?” and “What do I need to know to do I do it right?”

In fact, the size of Factual’s recent $25 million venture round is as much a testament to its technical chops and high-fidelity data as it is a nod to the major brands it’s managed to get off the sidelines and into the game — something I admit I thought would take much, much longer.

80legs’ Shion Deysarkar on the other hand would argue that acquiring data via crawling and scraping (bottom up, instead of top down) is far more effective than waiting for someone to, at long last, provide it in bulk or via an API. The tension between data that is sold or bestowed and data that is found or acquired is, for now, a productive dynamic.

4. Big Data Will Become a Regulated Industry

This one is definitely happening — you can just feel it. You don’t spend this kind of money (ahem, Google) lobbying unless you’re worried about the cards falling the wrong way (Facebook, naturally).

I think that Better Advertising is actually a good idea because it will, at a minimum, take the online privacy conversation to everyday web users. But there’s no doubt that its critics are barking up the right tree — namely, that the group’s motives are potentially flawed (read: the advertising industry is regulating itself on its own terms in order to avoid being regulated by the government, under other auspices).

Several high profile screw-ups have led, for better or worse, to some vendetta-like muckraking and many millions of pageviews, not to mention an increasing fear of privacy erosion.

Whether that fear (and fear-mongering) is justified is grounds for another post, as is whether regulation is itself a good or bad idea.

But in 2011, the government will step in and start regulating the acquisition, use and distribution of data by Internet companies, starting with the low-hanging fruit, but quickly moving on to less obvious candidates.

Either Facebook or Google will be first, of course.

Facebook is a target because of its cultural prominence post-Sorkin, a widely perceived disregard for privacy, both in its features and policy and a certain inelegance that is a byproduct of its engineer-driven culture.

Google will be on the hook because of its insatiable hunger for more data — ITA being the latest target. That is, if you don’t count Groupon, which called off the proposed GOOG deal over purported regulatory fears and associated kill fee negotiations.

5. You’ll Be Sick of Hearing About Data (If You’re Not Already)

I have spoken to no fewer than three journalists in the past week who have complained of a recent deluge of data-related pitches full of jargon their senders don’t fully grasp. And those journalists are also getting savvier about examining the reality and assumptions behind those sexy infographics and the methodology of data capture in those pageview-grabbing studies.

Data is cool, people. Data is having its moment in the sun.

Data is also increasingly available (see number three, above). Growing numbers of us know how to play with data and bend it to our will. And as a result, 2011 will bring with it both good and bad effects of data’s newfound popularity.

Expect to see more data meetups and data conferences, more data-driven jobs and data-driven purchasing decisions. Expect more bloviating too, and a healthy dose of “the data told me to do it” excuse making.

We’ll see open data disrupt industries and verticals ranging from air travel to journalism to religion. We’ll see new kinds of museum displays, classrooms and advertisements, all moved and shaped by data. We’ll also see more data on lockdown, secreted away because of the competitive advantage it affords, and more lies and obfuscation.

Mark Zuckerberg said at the recent Web 2.0 Summit that “everything that can be social, will.” Much the same can be said of data — anything that can be data-driven will be.

But we’re likely heading for a data hangover, too. They might not even let me write this post again next year.


In the midst of all the data-driven innovation we are seeing, this will be also the year of separating the non-trivial from the trivial.

It’s one thing to acquire terabytes of data, and it’s quite another to cleanse, disambiguate and mobilize that data in service of real-time insights into markets young and old.

The intellectual and experiential barrier to entry in social media, I think it’s fair to argue, is relatively low. It’s therefore harder to distinguish oneself, but certainly easy to get started. That’s been the beauty of the experiment all along.

Until now, data science and data marketing have been relegated to the realm of a self-selecting and highly motivated few, but as new tools democratize access, we’ll start to see a different dynamic.

But with great power comes… well, the Mark Twain quote I used last time still applies: “There are three kinds of lies — lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

Data can create new insights and open new opportunities, but it can also be twisted to serve an agenda or simply tell us what we want to hear.

It’s all in there, though — there in the data somewhere, if you know what you’re doing and how to do it well. Data knows everything we know, everything we don’t know, and, as it turns out, even a few things we don’t know we don’t know.

Disclosure: 80legs, Infochimps and Bundle are clients of Jones-Dilworth, Inc.

More Data Resources from Mashable:

- Facebook vs. Google and the Battle for Identity on the Web [OP-ED]
- How a Physically Aware Internet Will Change the World
- What You Need To Know About Data Portability
- How Online Retailers Can Leverage Facebook’s Open Graph
- How Real-Time Data is Changing Business Optimization

Images courtesy of iStockphoto, rev606, Flickr, The Planet, Jon McGovern.

More About: data, data portability, facebook, Google, List, Lists, predictions-2011, privacy, social media

For more Tech coverage:

10 Predictions for the News Media in 2011

In many ways, 2010 was finally the year of mobile for news media, and especially so if you consider the iPad a mobile device. Many news organizations like The Washington Post and CNN included heavy social media integrations into their apps, opening the devices beyond news consumption.

In 2011, the focus on mobile will continue to grow with the launch of mobile- and iPad-only news products, but the greater focus for news media in 2011 will be on re-imagining its approach to the open social web. The focus will shift from searchable news to social and share-able news, as social media referrals close the gap on search traffic for more news organizations. In the coming year, news media’s focus will be affected by the personalization of news consumption and social media’s influence on journalism.

1. Leaks and Journalism: A New Kind of Media Entity

In 2010, we saw the rise of WikiLeaks through its many controversial leaks. With each leak, the organization learned and evolved its process in distributing sensitive classified information. In 2011, we’ll see several governments prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for his role in disseminating classified documents and some charges will have varying successes. But even if WikiLeaks itself gets shut down, we’re going to see the rise of “leakification” in journalism, and more importantly we’ll see a number of new media entities, not just mirror sites, that will model themselves to serve whistle blowers — WikiLeaks copycats of sorts. Toward the end of this year, we already saw Openleaks, Brusselsleaks, and Tradeleaks. There will be many more, some of which will be focused on niche topics.

Just like with other media entities, there will be a new competitive market and some will distinguish themselves and rise above the rest. So how will success be measured? The scale of the leak, the organization’s ability to distribute it and its ability or inability to partner with media organizations. Perhaps some will distinguish themselves by creating better distribution platforms through their own sites by focusing on the technology and, of course, the analysis of the leaks. The entities will still rely on partnerships with established media to distribute and analyze the information, but it may very well change the relationship whistleblowers have had with media organizations until now.

2. More Media Mergers and Acquisitions

At the tail end of 2010, we saw the acquisition of TechCrunch by AOL and the Newsweek merger with The Daily Beast. In some ways, these moves have been a validation in the value of new media companies and blogs that have built an audience and a business.

But as some established news companies’ traditional sources of revenue continue to decline, while new media companies grow, 2011 may bring more media mergers and acquisitions. The question isn’t if, but who? I think that just like this year, most will be surprises.

3. Tablet-Only and Mobile-First News Companies

In 2010, as news consumption began to shift to mobile devices, we saw news organizations take mobile seriously. Aside from launching mobile apps across various mobile platforms, perhaps the most notable example is News Corp’s plan to launch The Daily, an iPad-only news organization that is set to launch early 2011. Each new edition will cost $0.99 to download, though Apple will take 30%. But that’s not the only hurdle, as the publication relies on an iPad-owning audience. There will have been 15.7 million tablets sold worldwide in 2010, and the iPad represents roughly 85% of that. However, that number is expected to more than double in 2011. Despite a business gamble, this positions news organizations like The Daily for growth, and with little competition, besides news organizations that repurpose their web content. We’ve also seen the launch of an iPad-only magazine with Virgin’s Project and of course the soon-to-launch News.me social news iPad application from Betaworks.

But it’s not just an iPad-only approach, and some would argue that the iPad isn’t actually mobile; it’s leisurely (yes, Mark Zuckerberg). In 2011, we’ll see more news media startups take a mobile-first approach to launching their companies. This sets them up to be competitive by distributing on a completely new platform, where users are more comfortable with making purchases. We’re going to see more news companies that reverse the typical model of website first and mobile second.

4. Location-Based News Consumption

In 2010, we saw the growth of location-based services like Foursquare, Gowalla and SCVNGR. Even Facebook entered the location game by launching its Places product, and Google introduced HotPot, a recommendation engine for places and began testing it in Portland. The reality is that only 4% of online adults use such services on the go. My guess is that as the information users get on-the-go info from such services, they’ll becomes more valuable and these location-based platforms will attract more users.

Part of the missing piece is being able to easily get geo-tagged news content and information based on your GPS location. In 2011, with a continued shift toward mobile news consumption, we’re going to see news organizations implement location-based news features into their mobile apps. And of course if they do not, a startup will enter the market to create a solution to this problem or the likes of Foursquare or another company will begin to pull in geo-tagged content associated with locations as users check in.

5. Social vs. Search

In 2010, we saw social media usage continue to surge globally. Facebook alone gets 25% of all U.S. pageviews and roughly 10% of Internet visits. Instead of focusing on search engine optimization (SEO), in 2011 we’ll see social media optimization become a priority at many news organizations, as they continue to see social close the gap on referrals to their sites.

Ken Doctor, author of Newsonomics and news industry analyst at Outsell, recently pointed out that social networks have become the fastest growing source of traffic referrals for many news sites. For many, social sites like Facebook and Twitter only account for 10% to 15% of their overall referrals, but are number one in growth. For news startups, the results are even more heavy on social. And of course, the quality of these referrals is often better than readers who come from search. They generally yield more pageviews and represent a more loyal reader than the one-off visitors who stumble across the site from Google.

6. The Death of the ‘Foreign Correspondent’

What we’ve known as the role of the foreign correspondent will largely cease to exist in 2011. As a result of business pressures and the roles the citizenry now play in using digital technology to share and distribute news abroad, the role of a foreign correspondent reporting from an overseas bureau “may no longer be central to how we learn about the world,” according to a recent study by the Reuters Institute for the Study of of Journalism. The light in the gloomy assessment is that there is opportunity in other parts of the world, such as Asia and Africa, where media is expanding as a result of “economic and policy stability,” according to the report. In 2011, we’ll see more news organizations relying heavily on stringers and, in many cases, social content uploaded by the citizenry.

7. The Syndication Standard and the Ultimate Curators

Syndication models will be disrupted in 2011. As Clay Shirky recently predicted, more news outlets will get out of the business of re-running the same story on their site that appeared elsewhere. Though this is generally true, the approach to syndication will vary based on the outlet. The reality is that the content market has become highly fragmented, and if content is king, then niche is certainly queen. Niche outlets, which were once curators of original content produced by established organizations, will focus more on producing original content. While established news brands, still under pressure to produce a massive amount of content despite reduced staff numbers, will become the ultimate curators. This means they will feature just as much content, but instead through syndication partners.

You already see this taking place on sites like CNN.com or NYTimes.com, both of whose technology sections feature headlines and syndicated content from niche technology publications. In this case, it won’t only be the reader demand for original content that drives niche publications to produce more original content, but also its relationship with established organizations that strive to uphold the quality of their content and the credibility of their brand. Though original content will be rewarded, specialized, niche publications could benefit the most from the disruption.

8. Social Storytelling Becomes Reality

In 2010, we saw social content get weaved into storytelling, in some cases to tell the whole story and in other cases to contextualize news events with curation tools such as Storify. We also saw the rise of social news readers, such as Flipboard and Pulse mobile apps and others.

In 2011, we’ll not only see social curation as part of storytelling, but we’ll see social and technology companies getting involved in the content creation and curation business, helping to find the signal in the noise of information.

We’ve already heard that YouTube is in talks to buy a video production company, but it wouldn’t be a surprise for the likes of Twitter or Facebook to play a more pivotal role in harnessing its data to present relevant news and content to its users. What if Facebook had a news landing page of the trending news content that users are discussing? Or if Twitter filtered its content to bring you the most relevant and curated tweets around news events?

9. News Organizations Get Smarter With Social Media

In 2010, news organizations began to take social media more seriously and we saw many news organizations hire editors to oversee social media. USA Today recently appointed a social media editor, while The New York Times dropped the title, and handed off the ropes to Aron Pilhofer’s interactive news team.

The Times‘ move to restructure its social media strategy, by going from a centralized model to a decentralized one owned by multiple editors and content producers in the newsroom, shows us that news organizations are becoming more sophisticated and strategic with their approach to integrating social into the journalism process. In 2011, we’re going to see more news organizations decentralize their social media strategy from one person to multiple editors and journalists, which will create an integrated and more streamlined approach. It won’t just be one editor updating or managing a news organization’s process, but instead news organizations will work toward a model in which each journalist serves as his or her own community manager.

10. The Rise of Interactive TV

In 2010, many people were introduced to Internet TV for the first time, as buzz about the likes of Google TV, iTV, Boxee Box and others proliferated headlines across the web. In 2011, the accessibility to Internet TV will transform television as we know it in not only the way content is presented, but it will also disrupt the dominance traditional TV has had for years in capturing ad dollars.

Americans now spend as much time using the Internet as they do watching television, and the reality is that half are doing both at the same time. The problem of being able to have a conversation with others about a show you’re watching has existed for some time, and users have mostly reacted to the problem by hosting informal conversations via Facebook threads and Twitter hashtags. Companies like Twitter are recognizing the problem and finding ways to make the television experience interactive.

It’s not only the interaction, but the way we consume content. Internet TV will also create a transition for those used to consuming video content through TVs and bring them to the web. That doesn’t mean that flat screens are going away; instead, they will only become interconnected to the web and its many content offerings.

More Social Media Resources from Mashable:

- The Holiday Survival Guide for Social Media Professionals
- 5 Ways Cities Are Using Social Media to Reverse Economic Downturn
- Why More Health Experts Are Embracing the Social Web
- For Restaurants, Social Media Is About More Than Just Marketing
- 4 Effective Tools for Monitoring Your Child’s Online Safety

Images courtesy of iStockphoto, Goldmund, and Flickr, Laughing Squid, Ed Yourdon, U.S. Army

More About: journalism, List, Lists, news media, predictions, predictions-2011, reporters, social media

For more Social Media coverage:

December 17 2010

5 Predictions for Game Mechanics in 2011

joystick image

Gabe Zichermann is the author of the critically acclaimed book Game-Based Marketing (Wiley, 2010), the upcoming Gamification by Design (O’Reilly, 2011) and blogs at Gamification.co. He’s also the chair of the January Gamification Summit in San Francisco. Mashable Readers are invited to attend with a special discount by using the code GSMASH11 at GSummit.com.

This year was the first time most people heard the term “Gamification,” the process of using game thinking and game mechanics to solve problems and engage audiences. Although this strategy has always been around us, a combination of factors have made the topic explode onto the scene. These include the rise of Zynga and social games into the largest sector (by reach) of gaming, the demonstrable power of Foursquare’s badges and mayor mechanics to engage consumers in simple tasks, and 30+ years of video games everywhere.

But if 2010 was the year we make contact, 2011 promises to truly be the year when game mechanics take over: a potential roller coaster of exciting product, company and organizational launches. And so, here are my predictions for the breakthroughs we’ll see in game-powered enterprises.

1. Health Gets More Fun

wii fit image

Getting fit and staying healthy are some of the hardest things to do. Games like Brain Age and Wii Fit have emerged in the past few years, making headlines for their ability to turn exercise –- mental or physical –- into something fun. But while these games haven’t yet had much of an impact on our health, hundreds of startups and established companies are leveraging the lessons of those games to create real change.

In 2011, we’ll start to see the first successful examples of game mechanics used for health — largely around big data streams and mobile, building off Fitbit, Nike+ GPS and other monitoring and measurement ecosystems. “Gamified” health will look less like games, however, and more like apps that make fitness fun — for example, tying Xbox achievements to gym-based treadmills instead of creating virtual treadmills to run on.

2. Education Hears the Bell

mindsnacks image

Almost everyone agrees that education needs reform. But most efforts to use games to educate children have been failures, largely as a result of designers having to please parents and teachers before kids’ needs are served. With the advent of devices like the iPod touch and tablets however, a new generation of education companies can reach kids with less friction and more feedback.

I believe we’ll see the first “trans-institution” apps that connect students across different schools. We’ll see the first “gamified” textbooks from publishers while federal and state governments will continue to innovate and support initiatives in education. For adults, applications like MindSnacks, an iPhone app that makes learning languages more fun, will transform how we engage with continuing education. Expect an explosion in apps and services for language, food, finance and geo-location that manipulate game mechanics.

3. Blue Skies Ahead

recyclebank image

Although a number of games have been made to help people change their environmental behavior, few have had much long-term success. More subtle experiences, however, like the “health meters” in the Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf are proving to be a hit with drivers through ambient feedback, like a plant that grows when the car is driven in more environmentally friendly ways.

Companies like RecycleBank have had early success convincing customers to recycle by giving them rewards, and a whole host of electricity and carbon-offset startups are emerging to help consumers reduce their consumption. Big and small companies alike will continue to innovate here, with the support of energy companies and progressive governments; the stakes couldn’t be higher.

4. Loyalty Programs Get More Virtual

Airline frequent flyer programs are among the best examples of successful game systems. United Mileage Plus and American AAdvantage together count more than 100 million active “players.” Recently, these programs have become more game-like, adding progress bars and competition to their mix to improve user engagement.

At the same time, major online gamification players like Zynga and TopGuest have been striking deals to break down the walls between virtual activities (like checkins) and “real” rewards. From hotel chains to credit cards, reward programs will continue connecting with game-like experiences online. Plan to start earning points and miles in unexpected places and redeeming those points for virtual goods.

5. Big Brands Get Involved

Startups drive innovation, and game mechanics are ripe for exploration with exciting technology and service companies emerging almost weekly in the space. Big brands also understand the need for game-like connections. Traditional advertising continues to lose effectiveness with younger consumers, and customer acquisition costs remain stubbornly high.

Some of the world’s biggest brands have taken notice of how game mechanics can help their strategies. In 2011, we’ll be likely to see a handful of major media companies and consumer goods brands launch gamified experiences, with even more to follow in 2012. Expect to see the most innovation in finance, travel and TV.

Next year will be a very exciting year for gamification and customer engagement overall. From small startups working on energy consumption to the world’s biggest media properties, tools like points, badges, leaderboards and challenges will be increasingly deployed to create emotional and brand loyalty. That’s a fun future we can all look forward to!

More Gaming Resources from Mashable:

- HOW TO: Use Game Mechanics to Power Your Business
- 6 Reasons Why Social Games Are the Next Advertising Frontier
- 5 Fantastic Web Games We Can’t Stop Playing
- 6 Emerging Social Games Taking the Web by Storm
- How Social Gaming is Improving Education

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, DSGpro

More About: game mechanics, games, gamification, predictions, predictions-2011, rewards, social gaming, social media, video games

For more Tech coverage:

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