Here are some of the trends I will be watching in 2013 as they relate to technology and business. If your business isn't already thinking about these things, you may be missing some key opportunities.
The continued rise of social media
Social media has exploded in the last few years, and companies are starting to understand the shift from paid to earned media. We will continue to see more social media platforms developed while Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and YouTube continue to tweak and expand. Google+ is the platform to watch for businesses, and there will be more adoption of Google Hangouts for sharing video content and collaboration.
There will be more "social media experts" starting businesses, and those who are truly experts will differentiate themselves from the growing number of self-declared gurus by delivering results for their clients.
Systems that help to automate and aggregate content like Hootsuite, Rebelmouse and Paper.li will continue to expand and become more popular as businesses and individuals struggle with lack of time and resources to participate in all the various channels.
Mobile devices and their use in business
In my TedX talk in 2011, I quoted a statistic that by 2014, more people globally will be surfing the Internet through mobile devices than their desktop computers. This has already happened in China with its 538 million internet users.
According to the China Internet Network Information Center: "In the first half of 2012, Internet surfers using desktop computers accounted for 70.7% of the total, 2.7% less than that in the second half of 2011 while the percentage of mobile Internet users increased to 72.2%, surpassing that of desktop users."
There's also the much quoted statistic that there are 6.8 billion people on the planet and 4.0 billion of them own a mobile phone while only 3.5 billion of them own a toothbrush. Companies will scramble to build an app or to get their traditional websites to fit the variety of mobile phones and tablet sizes. There will be a dramatic rise in "m-Commerce" and virtual wallets. Deals and coupons sent to mobile devices get a 10% higher adoption rate, so marketers will start to catch on to this.
This stuff keeps me up at night and gives me nightmares. Read the November Wired.com cover story "Kill the Pa55WØrD" for a horrifying account of how a hacker destroyed one man's entire digital life in an hour, and even wiped out all his photographs of his daughter.
Arstechnica.com recently reported that a PC running a single AMD Radeon HD7970 GPU can on average try an astounding 8.2 billion password combinations each second. With the numerous accounts each person maintains these days and the fact many people share the same password across multiple accounts, even if one company has strict security standards, if another company gets hacked, the resulting domino effect can be far reaching.
Password security is no longer the answer, and I look forward to new innovations that will solve this huge global pain point that affects each of us.
Gamification for increased engagement and retention
Gamification uses gaming concepts and mechanics to increase user retention and engagement. It has been used to improve employee engagement and learning as well as new customer acquisition and driving sales.
The idea is simple in that making something fun and repetitive means people are more likely to come back to learn or buy and retain the information while playing the game. Companies like PunchTab enable businesses to easily and affordably implement campaigns to reward people for social sharing or to gamify a product or company.
With venture capital money lacking for startups in the past few years, a new kind of fundraising has been on the rise. Crowdfunding employs online campaigns to raise awareness about new startups or projects (films, music videos for example) and solicit funds from individual investors. Sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are cropping up all over the world, and, according to Forbes, crowdfunding sites are expected to raise more than $2.8 billion by end of 2012.
In April 2012, U.S. President Barack Obama signed the Jumpstart Our Business Start ups (JOBS) Act. It allows businesses to raise up to $1 million and caps personal investments in crowdfunded ventures based on an individual's net worth or annual income.
In Canada it is illegal to offer equity in a company. You can offer rewards or advanced release of products but not equity.
There are already petitions to the Canadian government to change the rules, so I expect continued lobbying for legislative change or startups moving to the U.S. to gain access to this type of funding.