Posted January 9, 2012 by Eric Heilmeier 

Two Predictions and a Challenge

Like the popular icebreaker Two Truths and a Lie, I have "Two Predictions and a Challenge” for 2012. What does 2012 look like for popular social media sites as well as up-and-coming social media outlets? Honestly, I have no idea, but here are some of my predictions, along with a challenge for the new year.

First Prediction: Social media is now about telling “your story.”
Location-based services such as Foursquare and Gowalla have been usually regarded as a check-in service, but Gowalla tried to change that train of thought. Right around the time of South by Southwest 2011, Gowalla had completely revamped their entire application and made it truly a story telling program rather than a check-in and badge-winning-based service. Then, in September, Facebook announced their newest design—the Timeline. The Timeline is exactly what it says, a visual timeline of your life. Facebook added in all the important dates, pictures, posts, and events. It highlights when you started and left a job, when you got married, and so on.

In November, Facebook bought Gowalla, announcing that they would be shutting down the service in January. So if you are just going to close it down, why buy it? Well simply put, Gowalla had the talent to tell the stories. The “new” Gowalla was all about telling your story, and they did it quite well.

Other location-based services have come on board. One example is Path, an iPhone and Android app that allows you to visually share where you are, snap pictures of what you see, create video comments and written comments, share your mood through emoticons, and more. The really intriguing aspect of Path is that it only allows you to have 150 friends, capitalizing on the theory of Dunbar’s number.

Second Prediction: Social media will help you meet new people, not just connect with old high school friends.
While social media will always be a great way to stay connected with friends from high school or an old job, it’s becoming a way to meet new people. Platforms such as Hyphos or Spotflag allow you to enter your interests, and it will automatically find others in a nearby proximity that share the same interest. Applications like Sonar are similar, but also allow you to incorporate your existing social media platforms as a way to share your interests.

Another application that is available for Android or iPhone is Banjo, a social media platform, which you don’t really have to be in social media to use. When you start Banjo in a location, it will pull in public posts, check-ins, comments, reviews, etc. Fampus, which was created by a student at the University of Wisconsin—Madison, allows you to find out about events around your campus and share your experiences with your peers.

2012 Challenge: Use social media for more than just marketing.
In 2012, hopefully, we will look past social media being our solution for marketing or simply using it as a way to post. We will use it as a way to engage with students, build community amongst students and staff members, and, more importantly, as a student development tool!

How do you plan to use social media in the new year? How will it help you achieve your goals of engaging with new students?

Eric Heilmeier

Eric Heilmeier is the Director, Pierpont Commons & Associate Director, University Unions at University of Michigan–Ann Arbor.


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