2007 was widely touted as the year of social media, but analysts expect to see changes this year in the way social media is used and an increase in its effect on business.
The advent of the social web has created such online interaction between consumers that traditional models to research a product or service will change fundamentally.
Will Beresford, strategy director at Beyond Analysis, believes that traditional search engines will become increasingly less relevant to the consumer and that businesses will need to rethink their online strategies.
As a result, search engine providers will look to tiered services providing more accurate results to those willing to pay.
While this will begin with services to business, Beresford expects to see tiered search services bundled into ISP packages as value differentiators.
Traditional models for businesses to research their consumers are also expected to change. Customer information will be enriched by data found on the social web to supersede traditional research tools such as questionnaires and focus groups.
Feedback and influence from social networks will ultimately become more significant factors in the purchasing decision cycle.
Smaller, lesser known brands will begin to pick up loyal networks of customers who have come directly as a result of influence from within their network.
The data generated from web 2.0 will be increasingly important to all organisations, not just web-based businesses, enriching companies' understanding of their customer base.
Meanwhile, as social networking sites become ever more cluttered with advertising and branded applications, their popularity will decline.
Beresford expects the popularity of the monolithic social networking site to fall as consumers begin to realise that it is not such a great thing to bare all to the world, and is not half as much fun as everyone thought it was.
People will also look to their social networks to do much more for them, such as finding jobs, getting advice and even making specialist purchases such as niche travel destinations.
Forums and networks will bring common interests together to share advice and create purchasing power.
Other social media predictions include an expectation that official news will be increasingly contextualised by consumer opinion, making it harder to discern between real news and opinion.
And further lapses in data security within the public sector will see to it that the ID Card scheme will die a death this year.
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