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5 social network predictions for 2012 Here's are five ways social networking is likely to play out in the coming year.1. Mobile social networking means good news for new social startupsIn the U.S., themajority of consumers will soon have smartphones (Neilsen puts the figure at 44% today). Smartphones are about the most important thing to happen to social networking since Harvard sent its acceptance letter to Mark Zuckerberg.Smartphones know where you are, who your friends are, who's nearby, and soon thanks to NFC, they'll know what you're buying and where. They are the key element of the next, mobile phase is social networking.Facebook is serious about mobile social networking, but it is not the leader in this space in terms of design or technology. Smaller companies, like Path and Milk (with its first app, Oink) are coming out with new takes on mobile interaction. Square could play in this economy as well. All these services will likely use Facebook's network to put people or businesses or in touch with each other in new ways. More specialized mobile networks (really riders on top of Facebook) will appear next year.2. Twitter makes big impact with brand marketersWhile Twitter's new brand pages won't eat into big advertising or marketing budgets in 2012, the new business-friendly features will make an impact. Twitter is a highly effective platform for spreading brand messages via consumer/fans, and it doesn't take much to create an effective Twitter-based campaign.While Facebook is still the most important and best social vehicle for marketing, Twitter will matter a lot in 2012 due to its simplicity and effectiveness. You won't see a Super Bowl ad in 2012 without a Twitter tag on it.3. Social Networking will tell the tale for the 2012 presidential electionWe have seen how social feedback and link-sharing can bomb a presidential campaign: the YouTube and Web reaction to Rick Perry's "Strong" ad. And in 2008 the MoveOn group might have made the criticaldifference in the Obama campaign.In 2012, the major political campaigns will be even more dependent on social networks, possibly to the extent that effective social campaigns will be more important than broad-stroke and increasingly expensive TV ads. Certainly, no candidate will be able to succeed without a strong following on each of the major social networks.4. Google+ remains a critical success but a consumer flopGoogle+ has a lot of good features, but it needs much more than that to take on Facebook and Twitter. Even Google's tacit promotion of Google+ on its other services and toolbars won't be enough to make it part of the daily diet of social networks for the hundreds of millions of users that Facebook has in its thrall.Google+ also doesn't have enough muscle to be a big player as a branding tool, compared to Facebook and Twitter.Even inside Google, we hear, employees don't use it very much.So, the prediction? Google won't kill Google+, not after its failures with Orkut, Buzz, and Wave. The company will continue to blend Google+ into its other offerings, in particular GMail, Picasa Web, and its search result pages. But few people in the real world, if any, will switch over from Facebook to Google+. The smart thing for Google? Buy Pinterest. But this is a predictions story, not an advice column.5. Facebook and Yelp: Social network IPOs do wellFor all the bad-mouthing of the Zynga IPO, it's not doing all that badly. As of this writing, it's down 5% from its offering price, and the stock has only be trading since December 16.In other words, the stock wasn't priced crazy-high nor crazy-low, and if it doesn't drop much further, its middling out-of-the-gate performance will be unlikely to cool the ardor for social network stock offerings in 2012. Facebook and Zynga are two sides of a coin in the social network business. The one's success fortifies the other. 2012 will be a watershed year for startup IPOs. Facebook is set to go public in 2012, as is Yelp.Interest in Facebook stock will be high as the company nears its IPO. The fire for this one will be stoked by the press, by politicians holding it up as an example of American technological and economic prowess, and of course by underwriters.From a financial perspective, it's far too early to tell if the IPO itself will be aptly priced. But Facebook's influence is growing, the company is making a lot of money, and a successful IPO will be good news for every social company out there. The forces are lining up to make sure this IPO is incredibly well-orchestrated, and successful in the right ways: that is, it pops when it goes public, but not too much.5 things Marissa Mayer will change about Yahoo Now we know why Yahoo chose not to appoint interim CEO Ross Levinsohn as its full-time leader: the company got Marissa Mayer instead. Mayer, the head of the Google Search group and the 20th employee at the search company, will start immediately at Yahoo.Google and Yahoo started as similar companies. Both were search giants, but at different points in their respective histories they diverged. The subsequent tale of the tape shows that Google's direction -- guided by strong leaders -- was the more successful path.Here's what we can expect Mayer will bring to Yahoo.The engineering culture that Mayer helped build at Google. Google has historically been run with an engineering mindset. The best Google services are fast, functional, and continually tested and improved as time goes on. Mayer herself was proud of talking about how even a tiny change in the position of an item on the Google Search page would be tested and evaluated over and over again. The company's main products were driven by data, not art. Over time this has changed (see the Nexus Q, for example), but for its main products, Google is still driven by the numbers.Mayer will likely bring this same rigor to Yahoo's products, in particular, the home page, Yahoo's portal to the Web. Her expertise in relentlessly tweaking products to extract maximum utility out of them could also extend to Yahoo Mail, still one of the largest e-mail providers. Yahoo applies a lot of data tricks in delivering its home page to its vast audience, but the key will be extracting more dollar value from the billions of Yahoo pages viewed. Related storiesGoogle's Marissa Mayer becomes Yahoo CEOWhat hiring Marissa Mayer immediately does for YahooMayer has not run an entire company, though, so it may be a challenge for her to adjust the culture of Yahoo.And it is the organizational culture at Yahoo that needs to most help. "Yahoo takes too long to make decisions," says Salim Ismael, who ran the Brickhouse project at Yahoo -- a group set up outside the standard reporting structure at the company so it could innovate more quickly. "On the Internet you need speed, and you need to take risk. Yahoo accidentally adopted a matrix organization structure that's antithetical to both," he says.Yahoo could also use some of Google's ruthlessness in killing projects. The company gleefully reported on its 2012 spring cleaning project (which, for all we know, is ongoing). In a large, interlinked structure, which Yahoo apparently has, it's difficult to make the right decisions about killing products.Google, though, maintains an optimism about its direction even as it chops down its underperformers. That's due, in part, to its capability to learn from its mistakes and not punish people involved in them. Even though Google killed social experiments like Buzz and Wave, it forged ahead with Google+. Even though its structured knowledge product Knol died, Google Search inherited a lot from the project.And this points to another big strength of Google: the company is very good at working on long-term visions. Social has become key to the company's growth despite early failures. Google is also becoming a media company, throwing big money into hardware initiatives like Google TV and the Nexus Q media streamer, products that, in their initial incarnations, are not going to be remembered as successes. Google is also pushing to take a few market share points from Apple and Amazon in the media sales market. It's much easier for a company that has resources like Google to play the long game, but a new CEO with Mayer's background and energy should be able to divert some funds to play some long-range bets and recruit some top talent back into the Yahoo fold.Finally, there's the engineering-friendly culture of experimentation, or to put it in more shareholder-friendly terms, an R&D focus. Google is doing original research in areas that appear to be orthogonal to its mission -- self-driving cars, augmented-reality eyeglasses, and even energy. But these projects can pay off in numerous ways and their value can (but not always) feed back to the mainline business. On the other hand, Yahoo doesn't have the resources today to focus much beyond fixing what is broken at the company.Can a media company be successfully run as an engineering company? Google, it needs to be said, actually is a media operation. It makes its money selling media advertising, and gathers 72 hours a minute of video on YouTube.  Can the same discipline work at Yahoo? There's probably no one better to give it a shot than Marissa Mayer.This content is rated TV-MA, and is for viewers 18 years or older. Are you of age?YesNoSorry, you are not old enough to view this content.Play