Top Social Media Trends for 2012

Social media played a huge part in many people's lives in 2011, and was put to purposes both meaningful (the pro-democracy protests across the Arab world, as seen on YouTube or Twitter) and frivolous (Cow Clicker, anyone?). Here are a few social media trends we think will capture our attention in the year ahead:

Social media as portal. Facebook is already many people's homepage, and Twitter has taken the place of RSS feeds as a central location for breaking updates from favorite sites. The notion of logging into a single news site to find out what's happening in the world now seems quaint. Expect this trend to continue as people rely more on their social network, and less on content providers, to tell them what's important.

The gamification of everything. Apps like Foursquare have made it clear how much people love to make everyday life into a game—and how well they respond to structured incentive systems. More small businesses will start using social media tools like points systems, badges, rewards and, of course, spreading the word about a great product or service in order to reward loyalty and find new customers.

The year privacy is taken seriously. If you think it's still too difficult to protect your privacy on sites like Facebook, think of how much harder it was even a year or two ago. As more businesses and users wise up to the real-world consequences of having information made public for all to see, expect privacy to become more of the rule rather than the exception.

Social media goes corporate. We don't mean to suggest that every business is going to have a Twitter account or a Facebook page—or that every business should. But many businesses will, in the year ahead, allow for more reviews and user-generated content on their sites, and they'll make it easier for customers to share their opinions with the world at large.

As you go forth into this brave new world of social media, protect yourself from the same old threats—malware, spammers, and phishers, we're looking at you—by investing in security software that automatically scans your wall and identifies safe and malicious links so you know it's safe before you click. Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security fits the bill.

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