As the end of the year draws near, it’s time to start looking at social media trends for 2012. Businesses should get ready for seismic shifts on the digital landscape. Competition will intensify as the rules of marketing are further altered by social media, mobile web and all in real-time.  For businesses that don’t start embracing social media, 2012 may mark the beginning of their declining growth and profit.According to Nielsen’s “The Social Media Report,” social media use is commonplace, with over 4 to 5 Internet users engaging in social activity across a wide variety of platforms.  Social networks and blogs are the top online destinations, accounting for 23% of time Americans spend online. Pew Internet and American Life Project’s August 2011 report states that nearly two-thirds (65%) of all adult Internet users now use social networks. The skyrocketing growth of social media has broad implications–beyond consumer behavior. While some businesses are evolving or even transforming how they buy and sell products, many are fast becoming social businesses.  In a Fast Company article by Drew Neisser, “Move Over Social Media; Here Comes Social Business he explains the reasons why every company should be thinking about becoming a social business.  According to Neisser, IBM is moving themselves and their clients “well beyond social media into a new era of collaboration, insight sharing and lead generation it calls social business”. One of the hottest business social trends in 2011, leveraged by both large and small size businesses, has been social commerce.  Social Commerce is essentially word-of-mouth applied to e-commerce.  According to Brian Solis, “Social Commerce is rising quickly, but this isn’t a story about technology, it’s a story about how and why people make decisions.” Take a look at this amazing Infographic Social Commerce Timeline created by Useful Social Media that depicts the evolution of this new process. Social Commerce is redefining the way brands and consumers interact. One of the best examples of Social Commerce is the mobile YP.com app which lets you share deals with family and friends via Facebook, Twitter, email and SMS.  According to David Williams, vice-president of product management at AT&T Interactive, “Gas is just one of many everyday essentials where a few simple factors: location, price and brand, brought together in a thoughtful design can help direct users toward smarter choices and quicker decisions.” The process for migrating from social media to social business will vary depending on the nature, size and strategy of your business.  But you should be aware of some of these emerging social trends and tools as you consider how to capitalize on opportunities and achieve your business goals.

So what are the social media trends for business in 2012 for….[building communities, brands, mobile, etc.]?

I posed this question to several industry experts (crowdsourced the community) and here is what they had to say:

….for building communities?

Jason Falls (@JasonFalls), author of No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing and CEO of Social Media Explorer. “Businesses are more and more looking at social media marketing as a strategic business driver now, so you’ll see a lot more insistence on accountability, measurement and quantification of what social media means for companies. From a community building standpoint, that means community managers are going to be challenged to delineate the value of those community members versus non-community members, make logical arguments for why and how a community’s growth is positive for the business and illustrate how they affect the bottom line revenue of a company. It’s going to challenge many to think beyond the comment, like and fan. But it will make us all better.”

…for brands?

Simon Mainwaring (@simonmainwaring), Founder of We First and Author We First “2012 will be characterized by a far greater number of brands embracing purpose as a strategy to be meaningful to their media savvy and connected customer communities. The most sophisticated brands will focus their attention on increased transparency and accountability inspiring their community to see themselves as partners in the brand’s success and positive social impact. Those that continue to resist the business implications of social technology will quickly lose market share and disappear as the same dynamics playing out in the political sphere around the world become commonplace in the private sector.”

…for mobile?

Chuck Martin, (@ChuckMartin1) CEO, Mobile Future Institute and Director, Center for Media Research, MediaPost.  Author of the Third Screen: Marketing to Your Customers in a World Gone Mobile “In 2012, mobile will move to center stage in social, as everyone has a phone, with close to a majority of those being smartphones. Location-based messaging between people, and especially between people and businesses of all sizes, will increasingly be initiated by individuals as they tap into their personal networks and networks of those around them to seek and share information. Besides being highly personal, mobile will become the social conduit.”

…for customer service?

Porter Gale, (@portergale), Marketing Consultant “In 2012, more companies will consider use of social monitoring and analytics to help them understand sentiment, key influencers and the types of people chatting about their brand. In addition, growth of the social space will raise the importance of dialog between customer service groups and social media teams.  This improved collaboration can lead to an integrated plan to better handle inquiries via the various channels.”

…for crowdsourcing?

Peter H. LaMotte, President, GeniusRocket, Inc. “2012 will be the year that “Crowdsourcing” stops becoming a buzzword and starts becoming one of the most cost effective ways for small to medium sized business to engage their stakeholders.  The term too often associated with contests, is actually a reliable means of message virality and real-time engagement.   Marketing, customer service, sales, and PR can all be given a huge boost through the use of their crowd, especially via their social media platforms.”

…for small businesses?

Jim Joseph (@JimJosephExp), President of Lippe Taylor, Author of The Experience Effect for Small Business “Biggest trend in social media for small business?  One that has already started but now many are getting the fruits of their labor:  networking. Finding each other to share stories and learning. Finding talent to join the business. Finding prospects to try to convert to customers. For networking, social media is the small business owners’ best friend.”

…for retail?

Doug Stephens ( @RetailProphet) President, Retail Prophet “With the advent of in-network apps like Spotify, Hulu and Netflix directly within Facebook, users are going to rapidly gain a sense of comfort with the idea of Facebook as a marketplace.  In 2012, the trend will be toward the addition of other non-digital shopping apps on Facebook, allowing consumers to literally buy goods and services directly from their Facebook Timeline.  Things like gym memberships, vacations, cleaning services and more will become available on Facebook.”

…for B2B?

Billy Mitchell (@BillyMitchell1)  Billy Mitchell- MLT Creative, Partner/Senior Creative Director “2012 will further separate the pretenders from the purposeful. B2B marketers that don’t take ownership of social media as part of a strategic inbound engine will be an endangered species by the end of 2012. Small businesses will realize Social Media is far from free and the trend will be serious budget increases for creating content, automating tools, and the human resources to sufficiently scale engagement with their marketplace.”

…for technology?

Scott Brinker, President and CTO of Ion – Author of Chief Marketing Technologist blog “In 2012, marketing technology will continue to converge.  We’ll see social media features embedded into more products, from CRMs and marketing automation systems to web content management and landing page optimization platforms. These technologies that reach deeper into the customer experience lifecycle will reveal more nuanced metrics for tying social influence to business value. Likes, follows, and +1′s will be more meaningful in the context of specific customer experiences rather than an abstract performance measurement unto themselves.”

…for marketing?

Michael Brenner (@BrennerMichael) – Sr. Director, SAP Global Integrated MarketingCo-Founder of Business 2 Community “’The social media trend for business in 2012 will be less media or marketing and more social. Social media will move beyond marketing, PR and customer service and will become an extension of an entire businesses employee, customer and partner base. Real-time response management, tracking and alerts will be the tools of choice. Response managers will be on the hiring plans of many more companies and social selling will begin to become a reality in many more organizations. In effect, we will start to see businesses truly engaging with the market in a people-to-people model.”

…for SEO?

Tom Pick (@TomPick) Online Marketing Executive - KC Associates.  Award Winning Blogger at Webbiquity One key trend for social media and SEO in 2012 will be resonance. A resonant piece of content (blog post, video, infographics, etc.) combines quality research and thought with an issue that prospective customers really care about (e.g., using technology to better engage buyers early in their buying process). Resonant content is more likely to be read, shared and commented upon. That sharing across social media sites and networks in turn will drive search traffic to the content, further increasing its reach and impact. Companies will need to do keyword research in addition to experimentation with different messages in order to determine which phrases and concepts truly resonate with their audiences.

…for advertising?

Michael Ancevic (@mancevic) Senior Vice President – Creative Director at Mullen “Social media is truly now the mainstream media. So one of the big trends next year is that social will continue to become nearly everyone’s primary source of content and interaction. Because of this, we will see early adopters who have learned along the way to make their advertising content relevant and interesting finding that it becomes easier and easier to ride this trend and get their customers to pass content along for them. Of course like any successful marketing campaign if that content accurately reflects the strategic business objective, it’s a huge win with positive long-term implications.”

…for PR?

Wendy Marx, (@WendyMarx) President – Marx Communications “Social Media for PR is evolving from a listening post and ratings game to a strategic tool that provides insight and analytics into customers, prospects, competitors and thought leaders. Never before have PR practitioners had the opportunity to gain real-time insight into customer, prospect and competitor behavior and be able to shape conversations based on that data. We will see more data crunching and analysis and more strategic and targeted responses. As more and more content moves to mobile, we will also see more creative uses of content, more app development and more use of the comment function for thought leadership. New forms of press releases optimized for mobile readers will evolve.  PR will also embrace new types of content marketing geared to mobile. All in all, it will be a productive time as PR rises to meet the technological opportunities.” Cheryl Burgess (@ckburgess) is a digital and social brand consultant, blogger, and speaker. Her knowledge of business strategy, passion for creative expression, and marketing technology helps businesses achieve the remarkable. AT&T has sponsored the following blog post.