5 forecasts for Facebook 2012?

Last year at this time, I risked my honors with five bold predictions for 2011. It’s now time to evaluate how well I hit – and throw out a handful of new predictions for 2012.

2011: Growth, growth and growth

Overall, 2011 was another terrific year for Facebook.The service currently has over 3 million active Danish users, out of which approx. 72% log in daily. Equally interesting is the fact that 1 million Danes access the service from mobile phones. These are the conclusions of a new infographic from Facebook with the latest figures from the Danish market.

The commercial use of Facebook has also grown more professional in 2011, which we can clearly feel in Komfo, where we in 2011 rolled out our new Facebook Management System Komfo platform with great success. Today over 90% of our revenue comes from license sales for the platform. Our director Rasmus Møller-Nielsen tells more about this in a note at Komfo’s Facebook Page .

No doubt, 2011 was a year with great enthusiasm and growth, both in Komfo and at Facebook. But what were my predictions exactly?

Still undisputedly the largest

A year ago I made the following five predictions:

  1. Product launches as Places, Deals and Messages will confirm Facebook’s role as the world’s largest social network and the de facto social operating system of the Internet.
  2. Google will fail to challenge Facebook’s dominance with the launch of Google Me (Google+, ed.).
  3. During the first half of 2011, Facebook will launch a telephone service that lets you call all your friends without charge.
  4. Customer service and local marketing becomes key words for Danish companies on Facebook in 2011.
  5. Facebook will play a key role in the outcome of the Danish general election to be held later in November.

Did I get my predictions right?

Danes send 81 million Messages and make 839,000 checkins on Facebook every month. Furthermore we publish over 200 million monthly Wall Posts, likes and comments. The trend is similar in the rest of the world and underlines Facebook’s position as the world’s absolutely greatest social service. Add to this the recent launches of Timeline, improved Facebook mobile apps and new sharing features, and we’re fired up for yet another year of Facebook growth.

Although Google’s new social service, Google + has launched nicely with approx. 60 million profiles, they are still far from Facebook and their growth cannot be traced in Facebook’s user reach. The position as the Internet’s de facto social operating system has certainly been maintained – and the question is also whether Google is at all interested in that fight?

Free telephone and local marketing

On July 7th 2011, Facebook introduced free Skype video calls to all our friends directly on the website, with the blog post “Call your friends right from Facebook“, and thus my third prediction also came through, although a week late for it to match my expectation that it would occur during the first six months.

The Danish launch of Facebook Places in January 2011 also kickstarted the whole debate about local marketing. However the launch of Deals seemed heavily delayed – in fact, all the way to to October 2011 – and perhaps therefore the development of local marketing strategies in Denmark have not gone reached the level I expected.

The Facebook election

The Danish general election on September 15th 2011, famously resulting in the first leftwing-government in 10 years, became the first Danish election where all parties worked professionally with Facebook campaigning. The Social Democrats hired Komfo as application developers and campaign advisors, which meant that I temporarily relocated to the Party Headquarters as head of a Facebook campaign during the election.

The Social Democrats’ Facebook application had over 130,000 active users just during the 3 weeks of election and was accompanied by an iPhone little-brother. Prime Minister candidate Helle Thorning-Schmidt hosted a live Town Hall meeting with fans, won the Facebook election and was generally praised by the web environment – and yes, eventually Thorning also became prime minister.

Of course, the specific impact of Facebook to the election results – positive as well as negative – is hard to assess. But among the Social Democrats’ post-electional internal evaluations, there were certainly no doubt of the digital campaign had contributed positively to the end result.

What happens in 2012?

So it seems that all of my predictions for 2011 more or less came true. Therefore I wont hesitate with five new predictions for 2012:

  1. Facebook Pages will get Timeline design in February.
  2. Social apps will revolutionize the TV industry.
  3. Apple and Facebook will finally reconcile.
  4. Facebook IPO will valuate the company over $100 billion.
  5. ROI becomes this year’s buzzword for Danish companies.

Pages to get Timeline design in February

Rumors indicate that during February, Facebook Pages will be upgraded to the new Timeline design that private profiles received shortly before Christmas. My guess is that at that point all personal profiles will be automatically upgraded to the Timeline, if they haven’t already done so manually.

This update will be one of the biggest changes that businesses on Facebook has yet been exposed to, and several unknowns still remain. First and foremost, many people ask themselves what will happen to Page tabs, as it seems that Timeline doesn’t support those design wise.

The answer is yet to come. But it most likely that the tabs will be moved to the even more prominent position just below the profile name, where the private profiles show friends, pictures, likes, etc. Also they will probably gain increased visibility as “Edges”, located in the top area of the Timeline, telling about recent activity.

Social apps will revolutionize TV

Since the October 12th 2011, Danes have been able to share Spotify listening activity with all Facebook friends and after just one and a half months, the service has been extremely popular in Denmark. But what many people still don’t realize is that Facebook is currently beta testing a major update to their API, that lets any web service ask their users for permission to post their consumption to the Timeline. In the near future, we won’t be limited to sharing Spotify music experiences, but also which news we read, where we run – or which movies and shows we are watching.

During recent years, both Google, Microsoft and Apple have tried to innovate the TV platform, but so far with no luck. With the new API’s though, I think that Facebook has cracked the code so now it’s simply a matter of time from they take the new functionality out of Beta before we see large Danish and international media providers offering a whole new generation of TV experiences.

To innovate the viewing experience in 2012, you must think beyond logistics, which no providers have done so far. Our TV experience is only marginally improved by a wider and faster selection of movies and shows. The big challenge is to make media consumption more social and more entertaining – and the answer to this Facebook’s new API’s.

Imagine turning on your TV, and the first thing you’ll see is not the classic TV Guide where you must flip through channels to find something you fancy. Instead you’ll be told what shows your friends are currently watching and which movies match their Likes and interests. That’s how media consumption should be in 2012: TV consumption should be organized around the viewers – not the providers.

Apple and Facebook will reconcile

The development of a more social TV experience will also cause a more friendly atmosphere between companies Apple and Facebook. Just as well as Apple has always been to create beautiful and accessible products that live up to expectations, just as bad have they been at making social products. Just think of experiments such as Ping, Game Center, Find my Friends and FaceTime.

On the other hand, Facebook also needs more goodwill from Apple. The iOS platform is by far the platform with the worst Facebook integration of them all. In fact, the iOS has virtually no social integration – not even Twitter works well. And Facebook really to be the Social standard for iPhone users.

For years, the air has been cold between the two giants, and my assessment is that to a large extend this was due to the sometimes very edgy personality of Steve Jobs. However, in 2012 the tracks are layed out for a fresh start and I expect that with the launch of an iPhone 5 in the autumn, the world will see a much more social iOS than we have been accustomed to so far.

Facebook IPO, $100 billion valuation

Virtually all international analysts are expecting Facebook to go public in 2012, and considering the trends of private Facebook stock-trading in 2011, they can expect a valuation topping $100 billion.

The question however is how the company will restructure and whether Facebook can continue to maintain the momentum after the IPO. For me, the momentum depends on a structure, where a small base of private owners still have an absolute majority of the share capital. If not, I think that the surrounding pressure fore quick monetization from new shareholders may end up being too big.

ROI becomes this year’s Danish buzzword

The last months of 2011, the biggest debate in Denmark has concerned ROI-measurement on Facebook. I myself have contributed at several occasions (1 , 2 , 3 ) with the overall message that too many businesses have absolutely no idea how to benchmark their campaigns, and therefore erroneously assumes that their number of fans reflect their relative success.

Some have scolded me for the very mathematical approach to a subject that has historically been characterized by very soft values. Others have praised me for bringing more measurability and realism into the debate. No matter the conclusion, the debate will continue in 2012 and rise as more and more companies look for a more professional management of their Facebook budgets.

The need for a more professional approach to Facebook will also increase demand for professionals Facebook Management Systems such as as Komfo Platform. Therefore, 2012 will also offers enhanced further for us in Komfo. Partly due to these expectations, next week we will welcome three new colleagues while posting several other vacancies in our job section.

Are you a sales manager, office manager, consultant or account manager – or do you want to become so? Then take a look at our job descriptions and contact us if you would like to become my new colleague.

What do you think?

The track is laid before us and the bets are placed. These 5 predictions are my bets 2012-prophecies. But what do you think will happen? Am I wrong or right? Or is there something I completely missed? Drop a comment below and tell me your own predictions!

4. januar 2012