OK, so I'm hardly Mystic Meg and I've not really got a track record for predictions of this nature but nonetheless, I'm going to stick my two pennies worth in and talk a little bit about what I think is going to happen in 2010 - a year that will go down in my life story as one of intense activity, personal development and growth (I think I'm maxxed-out at 6'2", so I mean networking growth).

LinkedIn & Twitter

Since I quit my job in November and launched a social media offensive, well, not all that offensive - more mild intrigue, I have managed to convince over 500 people to listen to my personal tweets (@r3trosteve) and about 2000 people to read the tweets of a community obsessed by adventure (@fidgetstick). My Linked In Account has gone from 0 to 150-ish fantastically experienced, high quality professionals from which I have great aspirations for the potential opportunities for collaboration that will arise next year. Rest assured both of these channels will continue to be pressed, pulled, pushed and tested by me in my pursuit of a killer network of like-minded, interesting and often humorous people. 

Next year, I think we'll see these two sites crush it. Yes, I just said crush it. LinkedIn has impressed me a lot as a really valuable professional service with interesting social features being released more and more, and especially with the opening up of the API. I think that as trends suggest social media uptake is growing faster in the older generations, one network which must benefit from this will be LinkedIn. I mean, LinkedIn will mean 1. death of crappy recruitment sites, 2. death of the paper CV, and 3. professionals have NO excuse for not developing their network and personal brand to safeguard their future.

Twitter will be mainstream, no doubt. We'll see member numbers continue to increase exponentially and app developers will continue to create new and intriguing "real time search" apps. The biggest problem will be filtering the hobbyist apps (not saying all are bad) from the one's with a real purpose and a real value. API integration into larger containers will be more prevalent, and maybe they'll regain ground on Facebook connect as the 3rd party user ID system of choice.

Facebook

Facebook's growth will slow throughout 2010. As the behemoth that it has become, this will cause outrage amongst the tweeters and bloggers and they will be signalling the fall of an empire. Especially as Facebook continue to fall foul of suspected mal-treatment of members with the implementation of more initiatives that compromise member security and trust, whilst in the pursuit of all conquering growth and distribution.

Facebook will be the 3rd party ID of choice, why wouldn't they be, as nearly every user of any web site will already have Facebook ID. This in turn will lead to more and more cross platform integration with Facebook, with sites leveraging the Facebook platform, the social graph and other social media technologies to grow their own user base. Less and less activity will actually take place on www.facebook.com and it is this activity that will ensure that the doom mongers eat their apple mouse mats.

Social Media & Retail

Social media will go from a "nice to have" or "really should do but don't have time/don't get it/don't want it" to a "must have" and an integral part of the marketing mix. I came from an industry that for years talked about Point of Purchase being the most successful sales converting advertising medium, way better than the results and ROI obtained from ATL marketing, in particular. We've all heard it: "70% of purchasing decisions are made in-store". Well, this assumes;

1. That purchases are being made in store and;

2. That this isn't changing

In 2010, the consumer will have an idea about what they want to purchase, they'll get a referral or series of referrals from a friend or someone in their network who they trust. They'll go to a store to "feel" the product, play with it, hold it, use it. If they are not sold on service & price (value) there and then and both will have to be damn good to achieve it, the consumer knows they can just go home, hit the web and probably find it for a better price and get it with free delivery to the door anyway.

Well, this is a whole new ball game and Point of Purchase will now become dependant on the integration with social media; in-store collateral referring to fan page polls on Facebook, special interest or niche communities that rate and review products where the members are considered experts. If this is communicated in store and stores get their service levels/pricing mix right, then they could win. So long as they or the brands have continued to invest in live product display and security.

Social Networks

Some large niche social networks are going to crush it next year. 2009  saw the launch of GDGT and that network is going to grow and own the tech gadget community space. Fidgetstick/ with a fair wind and a whole load of game is going to do everything I want it to achieve in connecting adventurous people and helping them get off their backsides and onto the trails, rivers, mountains, beaches and waters around the world. We will see other social networks that will be launched, will grow and succeed in lower tier niches than the really big boys - they will leverage API integration and cross platform connectivity and exploit the social graph to co-exist harmoniously in the land of the giants.

Content

We are going to have content coming out of our ears, it will be produced in droves and we will struggle for a while to cope with the noise and diversity of quality. Social bookmarking will come into it's own, with Digg continuing to grow and cement themselves as the generic bookmarking leader. Entering the circle of value in 2010, will be the niche communities that will assist in the content filtering, sifting through the noise their specific category and enabling the cream to rise to the top. Video will be bigger than ever.

Others to Watch

ODesk - as the message of outsourcing continues to reach farther and farther a field and the providers of these services, especially in the Phillipines and Vietnam, but also India, China and Russia develop their technical, communication and customer service skills, more people will delve in. ODesk will be the platform that continues to lead the way.

Google Wave - so much has been said about the Wave throughout 2009. Far from evolving into the Tsunami we were expecting, Google Wave commentators have been vocal in their scepticism and dissapointment of this revolutionary platform. Well, I think that this could change in 2010. At Fidgetstick/ we're already seeing the value of the collaborative tool that GW represents, allowing us to work as a team with ease from all parts of the world. GW relies on mass participation to be truely valuable. Before this can happen, people need to figure out its value for themselves and Google need to get to work sorting out the bugs and illogical UI features. I have high hopes for this puppy and we will be working on Wave API integration in 2010. 

I am so excited about what 2010 will bring, and this post barely scratches the surface of what I think will be the comings and goings of the world I know over the next 12 months. Please feel free to comment on any of my predictions/insights or feel free to leave your own below. 

Thanks to you all for following my stuff, I really appreciate it and I look forward to sharing an awesome 2010 with you.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!