It was a great year for social media. A number of changes have been made in order for social platforms to improve and enhance their services for users. Aside from that they’re monetizing their services through paid social advertising like Twitter’s Promoted Tweets. Monetizing social platform services is crucial due to the fact that social networks are now becoming a marketplace and need funding to sustain their free services.

Social ads are also overwhelming Mark Zuckerberg’s social network. Facebook is considered a destination-location for marketers and customers. Heck, Facebook is the “Internet” for some people, I heard some people are typing queries directly into Google’s Facebook page. Funny, but true. It makes me wonder how social search will improve next year. Social media and SEO shouldn’t go against each other after all, both could work in synergy.

And with the increasing use of social media, some improvements were made to enhance the functionality of each social platform. I’ve rounded up a few notable changes in the social media landscape this year which I’m sure will determine how social platforms will be used to enhance marketing campaigns and brand awareness. And of course, increase ROI as well.

The Rise of Mobile Sites

We live in a world of “instant”. When people want instant information then they’ll access the Web using smartphones and other mobile devices. The solution? Create mobile sites to establish a online mobile presence. But don’t just make one, we all know that creating mobile sites is still a work in progress yet it’ll grow fast! According to Gartner, more users will turn to their mobile devices for online purposes rather than using their PCs in 2013. It’s already happening because this year saw consumers using their smartphones than laptops and desktops.

So if your company or product has a mobile site, then you exist. It’s a must-have because people think that owning a smartphone is a necessity. and this is why Google launched the GoMo initiative to help local businesses create their own mobile sites. Mobile sites will absolutely help SMEs increase ROI. With mobile sites, there’s a bonus because whenever people check-in to your physical store then it’s instant PR for you! Mobile is now the latest destination-location for businesses and potential customers. If you have a mobile site then your business exists.

UGC Will Pave The Way For Social SEO

Social SEO won’t be a buzzword for long. It’s starting to be realized with the help of Google Places, Yelp, and Zagat. So how is it helping businesses and pave the way for Social SEO? Reviews and ratings.

User-generated content is arguably the biggest asset of any social platform. Every platform thrives on UGC which fuels interaction. When people are talking about your product or service through reviews, it increases your SEO in a “social” way. We all know that review sites aren’t new, but as the world becomes more social people will most likely to listen to what other customers will say rather than be mesmerized by fancy ads.

Aside from reviews, location marketing vital to Social SEO and vice versa. A recent eye-tracking study by Mediative showed that people who search for business information using Google have paid more attention to the results that have a Google Places listing. Users tend to check out the sites that carry social content like user reviews and feedbacks aside from the description provided by a business. So what does this suggest? People will notice ads but will pay more attention to customer reviews. The age of user-generated content is here.

If You Have An App, Then You Exist

Mobile is the future and your product needs to have an app to establish itself to more mobile users. Every year there’s an increase in Android users, and we all know Google continues to augment the Android platform with its Motorola acquisition. It’s more than a complementary product and an enhancement to your mobile website. Having an app broadens the marketing reach of your product or service.

Aside from mobile, it’s also a must to provide an app for tablets because people are most likely to access the Web and search for content using an iPad or an Android tab nowadays. A study from the Pew Research Center and The Economist Group shows that 77% of tablet owners use their devices daily with an average of 90 minutes per day. If you have a firm presence on one of the most-widely used devices today then you increase brand awareness.

So how does an app enhance a product? It’s simple, not everyone is tech-savvy and will need the most basic and useful app to mess with. Key is to always update an app to enhance the product and vice versa, just like Facebook is launching a Timeline app on the iPad for users to get acquainted with Facebook’s new Timeline features.

Real-Time Social Advertising

Let’s face it. Everyone hates interruptions which makes us hate pesky ads. Good thing people are spending an ubiquitous amount of time when it comes to social networking. People are browsing Internet rather than watching TV nowadays. And Facebook is the “Internet” for most people. I reckon that Internet users increase as Facebook’s numbers grew. So even if the Facebook launches the Ticker and Timeline feature for them to launched real-time ads, people can’t do anything about it because Facebook is free.

For marketers, it’s an opportunity spend some budget on social ads because Facebook’s ad targeting will give your marketing campaign a boost. And with the launch of the Facebook’s Ticker, Twitter’s Promoted Tweets, and Google’s YouTube ads, 2012 will show how social platforms capitalize on their biggest asset which is user data. Social platforms need to monetize their services to make it free, so real-time ads like it or not will invade your regular social networking habits.