The next important growth feature for social networks will be ubiquity. Social networks must be woven into everything we encounter and social media/marketing should be integrated into the fabric of all marketing channels, strategically managed from 360 perspective. Social Media is a platform... Social Marketing is how it is leveraged by a brand.
It may expand to the point where we choose to allow profiles to be shared among users of different social networks. I believe that even if we develop a portable profile that allows us to have a single access and to pick and choose where and when to share it on different social networks, we will want to have separate identities for different social networks. What will evolve is the ability to manage our identities in a unified manner and to have the kind of openness that would allow us to map our friend’s list across different services.
Another stage of evolutionary development will be the transformation of the communications layer embedded within social networks. The wall on Facebook has become a single messaging area of a user’s profile page, where other users can post comments. It is the wall that keeps users coming back to check for new messages again and again. Although there is a need for many compelling reasons to attract users, communications improvements, such as seamless widgets or video will be important to the social fabric. This goes beyond mere stickiness or growth through user-generated content. It becomes the future portal to every type of conceived, and yet-to-be-conceived communications technologies as they emerge including Twitter. Many misunderstand Twitter... it is not a broadcast tool and not a standalone for marketing, but an enhancement and extremely valuable networking, experimenting and seeding tool.
Nothing speaks to the opportunity of social networking more than the opportunity to leverage these relationship into online sales. The value of contacting me on the web within my contextual area of choice, provides a powerful means of monetizing my social interactions. Much as Google now uses my contextual online search experiences to target advertising to me based on that context, each person’s social profile will carry a CPI, Cost per Individual that will far outperform any CPM or CPA basis for valuation. Businesses that integrate with social networks could activate better recommendations from the group dynamic and generate more revenue. But more importantly they will also be able to target, cherry-pick and activate valuable members and fans.