Social media does not make marketing any easier. Although it is a powerful tool for marketers to reinforce their brands, energize advocates and strengthen relationships, it is also yet another marketing channel that requires attention, investment and innovation. And much like the Web 15 years earlier, this is a channel that challenges the status quo and defies easy metrics.

In 2011, social media marketing doesn’t get any easier. Although the medium is maturing, that maturity brings with it a host of new challenges for marketers. Primary among those challenges is that social media is becoming an awfully cluttered and noisy space.  As more people adopt social behaviors and more marketers increase their social media budgets, it is tougher than ever to cut through the noise, reach an audience and make an impression. In addition, Forrester is seeing a marked increase in the number of people worried about privacy in social channels, and this concern is growing most significantly in boomers and seniors.

In our latest report, “2011: Now Social Media Marketing Gets Tough,” the entire Forrester Interactive Marketing team (plus a number of professionals who contributed in the Forrester Community) came together to predict the future and guide marketers on what these changes mean.  The report includes predictions such as:

  • New social spam filters will stop many of your tweets and status updates from reaching consumers. Social networks, in an effort to keep the signal-to-noise ratio manageable, will implement and tighten social spam filters.  These won’t just filter marketer-to-consumer messaging but also marketing messages passed peer-to-peer.  Those check-ins, hashtag sweepstakes and other low-value tweets and status updates won’t cut it in 2011.
  • Growing mistrust will make it harder to gather friends and followers or get them engaged in your social programs. With concerns growing about privacy and companies’ access to personally identifiable data, marketers will have to work harder to earn confidence, follows and involvement from consumers.  It will take more than a “Like” or “Follow Us” button on a website to get consumers involved in brands’ social programs this next year.
  • The most successful marketing programs won’t be contained within Facebook.  Facebook doesn’t own social media in 2011. Sure, the Facebook juggernaut will grind on, surpassing 600 million users in early 2011, but successful marketers will “think outside the Facebox.” Next year, winning social media programs won’t be on Facebook, at least not exclusively.

If you are a Forrester subscriber, you can read the entire report  along with recommendations.