Magic 2008-Ball

Open any newspaper in the English-speaking world at the threshold of a new year and, invariably, you'll find loads of predictions for what's to come. In my view, it's wise to keep a couple of things in mind when it comes to predictions.

The first is that they tend to be either so vague that, while correct, they lack any real prognosticative power, or so precise that they have little chance of accuracy. The second is that they tend to say more about the person making the predictions than they say about the future. For example, a pessimist is likely to see dire outcomes. An optimist is likely to see positive things coming up. But this is as it should be.

And with those two caveats out of the way, this blogger will make some of his own predictions about brands and social marketing:

1. Most business models based around social marketing platforms that do not yet exist will be a tough sell. This is simply because of human behaviour — how many social networks can you really be a part of? With one in four (!) Canadians on Facebook - and so many of those Canadians spending A LOT of time on Facebook - you tell me how easy it will be to convince them of another, better social network (this year, anyway).

2. My parents' generation is about to start finding old classmates from the fifties and sixties through Facebook. That means baby boomers will soon be swarming all over Facebook if they aren't there already.

3. Products and brands will start to sponsor successful Facebook apps, and even start coming up with some of their own. There are two business plans to look out for in 2008. The first involves those savvy marketing departments (and their savvy agencies) leveraging the fun and sometimes silly apps that make Facebook what it is. The second is the makers of said apps going after cool sponsorship opportunities.

4. A fourth prediction far away from Facebook is that more brands will get busted for "greenwashing" (greenwashing is when you try to paint your brand green without actually doing anything for the environment), and yet more brands will start to get green product development right. Is the latter my hope for 2008? It is decidedly so.

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