The digitally social world is moving so fast that as spring shows itself, it's time to smell the roses. Here are five trends to get excited about right now, with five more coming soon.
1) Group Buying
Why does it matter? When these deals are truly social, there are countless opportunities to reach audiences and grow sales far beyond the initial audiences.
Who it impacts: Anyone with something to sell online can take part, such as retail, consumer packaged goods (CPG), travel, automotive, and many others.
How big is it? Needham & Co. pegs the local daily deals sector at $1.9 billion in the U.S., $3.7 billion globally this year, and forecasts it will grow to $4.5 billion here and $10.3 billion globally in 2015.
Watch out: Sometimes merchants must break the bank to woo customers. Certain sites like Scoutmob allow deal size-caps.
Best in class: LivingSocial is one daily deal site that is still social in name as well as deed, given that deals are free if three of your friends buy them.
2) Social Shopping
Why does it matter? Social shopping is especially exciting now as consumers can solicit instant feedback via mobile devices, and this can change the entire purchase process.
Who it impacts: Retailers and those in the fashion and apparel industries will be most affected, but a range of product marketers can tap into the trend.
How big is it? JP Morgan reported that 30% of U.S. internet users ages 18-34 have bought from a social shopping site. The trend is much bigger when you factor all those who have made a purchase due to social recommendations.
Watch out: Some social shopping apps have small audiences, so find out about reach, the demographic makeup, and their momentum.
Best in class: Go Try It On offers one of the better user experiences, with popular outfits (and models) getting hundreds of votes.
Why does it matter? Giving consumers a sense of ownership in the product research, development, marketing, and sales processes can generate long-term loyalty and advocacy.
Who it impacts: Just about any marketer willing to give consumers a stake in their product launches should explore this.
How big is it? Numbers are harder to come by here, but more than $20 million has been pledged to Kickstarter projects as of October 2010, according to Silicon Alley Insider.
Watch out: Participants have a way of taking such projects in unexpected directions, so be prepared, and set fair boundaries.
Best in class: Quirky participants can contribute to various stages of product development and get rewarded accordingly.
4) Social Optimization
Why does it matter? New technologies optimize marketers' paid and earned media campaigns so they can be more strategic with the approach and content.
Who it impacts: Here's a trend that will affect anyone doing any kind of social marketing.
How big is it? Forrester Research reports that 82% of U.S. adult internet users are active in social media, so there's that universe for starters.
Watch out: These technologies hold promise, but most are less than a year old, so prepare to test and learn.
Best in class: For earned media, check out SocialFlow which times posts to when your audience should be most responsive. For paid media, there's Taykey which aims to find more people who are especially likely to become fans or followers.
Why does it matter? A new age of check-ins has dawned where it's less about finding friends near you (which relatively few people seemed to do) and more about finding deals and recommended locations.
Who it impacts: It's helpful for marketers that have their own locations, such as retail and travel brands, but creative options abound for just about anyone.
How big is it? Foursquare had 380 million check-ins in 2010. That's a decent start. Estimates for Facebook Places are in the tens of millions of users, but it's questionable how frequently most use it.
Watch out: If you're focused on a certain venue, find out how many people have ever checked in there, as the long tail gets long fast.
Best in class: Kudos to Foursquare being the most improved service in the past year, rendering many others irrelevant. You can find further inspiration from the new gallery of marketers using the service.
That's enough for this round. You'll find five more in an upcoming edition, so stay tuned.