It's clear social media has gone mainstream.
The explosion of social media platforms has given almost every business an opportunity to better engage its customers.
This year saw the rise of seamless sharing, in which friends can learn what we read, watch and listen to on Facebook without us having to take any additional steps.
What's coming next? As the year comes to a close, here are some trends that need to be on your organization's radar in 2013.
Mobile is now: We talked about mobile a couple of years ago, and it's happening now. While desktops and laptops remain the primary vehicles to connect to social networks, more and more people are using their smartphones.
The number of people using the mobile Web jumped 82 percent from July 2011 to July 2012, according to a recently released report by Nielsen. And mobile devices accounted for 63 percent of the year-over-year growth in time spent using social media.
Marc Girolimetti, founder of game developer Red Raider Studios, said he sees massive investments in mobile coming from all angles such as content, sales, communications, marketing and branding. Girolimetti said if organizations aren't investing in mobile, the world is going to whiz by them awfully fast.
We're an on-demand society now, and we gather and consume in real-time as opposed to a scheduled lifestyle. Girolimetti said he's personally shifted a lot of his work to mobile, as he manages roughly 80 percent of his social media on his smartphone and does lots of his Web browsing on it, too. And all of his game playing is mobile because of the accessibility and convenience.
Images as content: Mobile has truly made images into content.
People are growing weary of traditional content, said Maggie McGary, a digital content manager in Washington, D.C., who works with non-profits. The sheer amount of written content, or "information pollution," is overwhelming in terms of time and attention, she said.
That's why, she said, image-sharing sites such as Pinterest and Instagram will continue to grow in 2013.
McGary likens the phenomenon to paging through a magazine or coffee-table book as opposed to reading Moby Dick. Those platforms are easier for users to digest and fit into their lifestyles.
She cites an example from the American Speech-Language Hearing Association, an organization with which she has worked. Visits to the group's website and blog from users on Pinterest is now quadruple the amount from those on Facebook.
Last year, it was also predicted online video would play a greater role, and, along with photos, it has. Organizations need to look for ways to engage users on these visual platforms.
Proving the value of social media: Look for more in 2013 about how social networks can grow awareness and improve your company's bottom line, said Brian Carter, author of the best-selling book The Like Economy: How Businesses Make Money with Facebook.
The traditional view is a customer starts and finishes a transaction on a company's website. That's shifting, though, to an understanding that sales are more complex. Facebook, as well as other social networks, are where many sales begin because of product exposure. And, often, those sales continue with Google, which is the last click to the company's site.
Carter said organizations need to do a better job studying analytics and tracking how customers arrive at their sites.
Next year promises to be a year that social media become even more influential and more important to companies. Don't be left behind.
Ann Marie van den Hurk is an award-winning, accredited public relations professional specializing in small businesses and is principal of Mind the Gap Public Relations. She proudly called Lexington home but now lives in North Carolina. She is also the author of the upcoming book Social Media Crisis Communications: Preparing for, Preventing, and Surviving a Public Relations #FAIL. Email her at email@example.com, or follow her on Twitter at @amvandenhurk.