The Future of Social Media Marketing: Content Marketing? Geo-location networks? Social Media Listening?

At Social Media Marketing 2010, taking place in London this Thurs (17th June), we’ll be having a discussion on the Future of Social Media Marketing. Our expert Panel, consisting of Tom Nixon (NixonMcInness), Neville Hobson (WCG), Murray Newlands (Influence People) and Richard Sedley (cScape), will be offering their predictions for the coming 12-18 months and I have to say I’m intrigued as to what they’ll highlight. Here are some suggestions…

Content Marketing

While agencies and brands have been embracing the power of content for several years, SME’s are just realising the value of sharing high quality content via social networks. The playing field has genuinely been levelled between the David’s and Goliaths of business, so expect to see the long tail of viral marketing extending during 2010/11 with some great hand-held videos, slide ware and doctored images designed to please the average Facebooker or Twitterer.

Being Everywhere

While businesses were quick to pick up on the million-niches offered by search marketing (SEO and SEM), they haven’t been as quick to adopt multiple channels in the sense of blogs, videos, bookmarks, articles, presentations, podcasts etc. As I said to a lawyer in a seminar on Friday, “How many people do you think blog about UK charity law?” I might equally have asked, how many UK charity lawyers post videos on YouTube each month? Or add presentations to Slideshare? All that’s going to change in the next couple of years.

Geo-location Viral Marketing

Unlike normal social networks, the real-world dimension of services like Foursquare and Gowalla greatly enhances the potential for sales, especially for shops, restaurants and event-based businesses. They won’t appeal to everyone, but even small numbers, when concentrated (flash-mob style), can be a great marketing stunt. There’s still lots of room for creativity here, so expect regular press coverage of these services – including some privacy scare stories.

Integrated Marketing Campaigns

This is already happening, but it’s going to happen more. The “be everywhere” mantra of my earlier point applies to offline media too. As companies embrace user engagement, viral marketing and recommendations over traditional advertising, we can expect to see campaigns coming at us from all directions – including our friends.

Social Media Listening

I think it’s safe to say the web analytics gold rush of ten years ago is now happening in social media. There are over 200 suppliers vying to provide the best quality data, accurate sentiment detection, influencer analysis and (crucially) an easy-to-use interface. For marketing agencies and brands it’s a confusing market – but the potential benefits are terrific. With real-time customer feedback, you can hone campaigns on the fly. It’s a marketing dream.

Well, there are 5 suggestions… but perhaps these are rather general and obvious trends? I’d be interested to hear your feedback, especially any specific changes you see on the near horizon. The next Twitter? A privacy backlash for Facebook? The arrival of the long-promised mobile social media revolution? You tell me.