Social media continues its hot streak

Many social media platforms will continue to gain favor in 2012 within the contracting community, but some will begin to fall out of favor. What are the pluses and minus of each?

A few nights ago I was at a high school band performance, and before the event there was a cluster of what looked to be younger girls, probably middle school age. Each had a hand-held device of some sort, tablet and phone. They were together, but each was involved in her own communication device. A eureka moment: Mobile is coming with a vengeance!

While I am by no means a techie, I do employ various Web 2.0 tools and social networking sites. So for what it is worth, here are my predictions on what will happen with a few of them in 2012.

First, the social networks:

LinkedIn, the social network for business professionals, continues to grow in popularity. It continues to add new features, and more importantly, remains simple to use. It certainly is the most user-friendly of the social networks that I use.

As the only "all business all the time" major social network, more and more professionals will continue to join and use it to attract business partners, do some market research, look for clients and employees, search for jobs, and generally network and share opinions and information with peers. The Washington Technology Top 100 largest federal contractors are represennted in force, as are thousands of other contractors. Feds, line managers and senior managers, are becoming more active on LinkedIn as well. It’s where critical connections can be made.

The more savvy users will grow much more visible in their respective niches. The less active users will get a little more active, but those who join and just sit and wait will continue to sit and wait. I expect LinkedIn, which currently numbers 135 million members, will pass 175 million later in 2012, and will continue to grow in importance to the government contracting community.

Facebook will continue to try to appeal to a business audience with continued mixed results. I think there are too many "personal" aspects of FB for it to be successful as a business-to-business professional networking tool. That may be different for those under 30, but I try not to mix business with my personal life and Facebook is my “personal” network, when I remember to go there. For those in the government market, Facebook will be secondary or tertiary at best.

Google+ is late into the game and slow to catch on. While it will grow in 2012, it will not have a significant impact on the government contracting market. The jury is out on whether or not Google+ will be attractive to and useful for either B2B or B2G because it has lots of ground to make up.

GovLoop continues to grow and attract the younger federal audience, as well as many contractors. Steve Ressler started GovLoop as a network “by, for and about Feds.” And with more than 50,000 members, you cannot ignore it. Like The Federal Contractor Network (TFCN), it is built on the Ning platform, which I find more difficult to navigate. GovLoop, which wisely maintains an active group on LinkedIn, also has a daily email that sparks conversations germane to a federal employee and manager audience, but not necessarily a contractor audience.

TFCN got its start on LinkedIn, where it still hosts several groups under the TFCN banner. I am not certain the many feds join this group, but it has more than 20,000 contractors.

Other Social Media Tools:

Video use will continue to expand for personal and business uses. More government contractors will develop video content, and many will use YouTube, one of the most popular sites in the world.

Mobile computing will be hotter than ever. Mobile apps for government and contractors will grow exponentially for the foreseeable future. Niche apps will be the major growth area.

Despite some predictions to the contrary, email will not disappear.

Twitter will continue to be hot, but again, for many in B2B it just is not a viable tool for maintaining relationships. I think Twitter may be dead and gone in 36 months, or perhaps on an evolutionary path that will make it unrecognizable from what it is now. It seems to be better for pushing information than having conversations. Government agencies use it to push out information and they do it quite well. But I am not certain what the overall value of Twitter is for contractors.

Webinars. Distance learning platforms will grow in use and continue to evolve and become more interactive. The growth will be significant. Watch AdobeConnect for the growth in our community. It is useful, easy to use, and has expanded capabilities. Citrix is a close second, and WebEx is simply difficult to use.