2011: New Ways to Buy and Sell

When WomenEntrepreneur.comasked me to write an article on trends for 2011, I thought: What? I'm trying to survive 2010 at this point. But the fact is, you really can't figure out where you're going if you can't put together a game plan. And it's kind of hard to come up with a plan if you haven't thought about the next thing that's going to be big. So together we'll look at how we might be able to start our action plan for 2011 before the year starts.

Making Money From Social Media 

I think our buying dollars will be more powerful than ever. Think about it: In the "old days" advertisers courted men and women 25 to 54. Well, with baby boomers getting older and women controlling the purse strings, corporate America is broadening its advertising horizons to survive. What does that mean to us, as women? In 2011, I think we'll become less of a "niche market" and more of a global player. From all the numbers I've seen, we make or influence 75% to 85% of all purchasing decisions. (If you doubt the experts, just ask the husbands of the world, and I bet they'll agree.) Girlfriends, that means you and I can use this power to our advantage.

I see advertisers looking for more ways to tap into our "Girlfriend Network" in 2011. I believe more and more corporations will make plans to work with mom bloggers, for instance, to help them promote products. To me, that's a no-brainer. For years, we've gotten our best buying advice from our girlfriends. Whether it's using an iPhone when you have nails or which jeans won't show a little too much when you're playing with the kids -- we've always passed along our best tips to our peeps. So the idea of sending out free products or paying for women to blog about their fave things is a win/win all the way around. We get to reap the financial rewards of what we do naturally, and companies can get authentic word-of-mouth advertising that produces results. Why do you think stars get swag bags? We see a star carrying that "it" bag or sporting the latest headband, and suddenly we have to have it. In 2011, that star power will take to the streets of America with grassroots marketing at its best.

But it's not just blogs. I think all social media will be a hot commodity. For instance, when I Facebook, tweet and use LinkedIn, I hit about 20,000 people. That, dear ladies, is valuable real estate. No, you can't physically see it. But it's powerful nonetheless. I networked to sell 1,000 pre-release copies of my book the first month I had it in my hot little hands. That is what advertisers hope to tap. While we've seen blogs monetized with sponsors and freebies, I think we'll see this trend continue across the board with women who have a big sphere of social media influence. Our Girlfriend Network has gone global as companies begin to figure out that social media is capable of driving commerce.

Check In For the Best Bargains 

I've said for two years now that social media is not a trend. MySpace, Facebook and Twitter might be the vehicles of the moment, but the idea of everyone having a free platform to market a message, blow off steam or build a circle of influence is here to stay. So even if you might be a little late getting your surfboard, the social media wave hasn't passed you yet.

We've seen services like Foursquare and Facebook Places really take off in 2010, and I think that climb will only continue. In fact, competitors are popping up fast and furiously: Google Latitude, Whrrl, Brightkite and Yelp. Why? All of this is about more than local: This is about advertising that finds you no matter your locale. Basically, you "check in" at locations (an airport, for example) or a business (your hair salon) and update your status. But it's about more than creepy stalking or a silly Facebook farming game because marketers are jumping on this bandwagon to offer you location-based coupons, discounts and exclusive deals. This happened to me during a recent speaking engagement. I had a layover at DFW and decided to "check in" on Foursquare. I "unlocked" a giveaway at a restaurant in the airport. Ooooh, goodie! I was a captive audience, I was hungry, and my layover was just long enough for me to take the restaurant up on its free offer -- and spend extra money. Would I have picked that restaurant without a freebie? Nope! But I felt like that restaurant was reaching out and handing me a good deal right there at my airport computer station. Brilliant!

Foursquare has already partnered with businesses from CNN to Six Flags. The idea is not only to reach you when you're vulnerable and bored at the airport, but to make you a repeat customer. After all, if you "check in" at a business meeting and find out there's free coffee right around the corner, you might just become a repeat customer. Who needs coupon clipping when the coupons come right to you on that fabulous little mini computer in your pocket? So even if you don't buy into location-based social networking yet, you probably will. I think the deals offered through these services will force you to join in and reap the rewards.

Women Entrepreneurs Just Say 'Charge It'

2011 is not just about making money from our sphere of influence or getting immediate discounts when you're in the neighborhood. It's about cashing in now. One of the best investments I've made? Taking credit cards on my iPhone. It all started when I bought my Mac computer at the local Apple store. Upon checkout, the salesperson whipped out an iTouch to swipe my card. I was amazed. Although that application isn't available yet, the salesperson showed me the latest accessory for the iPhone -- an appliance by Intuit that allows iPhone users to swipe credit cards on their iPhones. Now, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool BlackBerry user, but I suddenly began to have second thoughts. Visions of me filling dozens of book orders quickly after a speech plagued me for days. And that's what sold me on my iPhone -- and the appliance that allows me to take credit cards at an event as quickly as I can take cash. Since then, other vendors have constantly come by to ask me about my magical credit card abilities.

We're somewhere close to 1 billion mobile web users this year, a number that's only going to increase as more folks upgrade to smartphones and our kids grow up. Intuit isn't the only one offering this technology these days. My girlfriend Tory Johnson from Good Morning America just did a story on howIntuit andSquared Up are working to fill this niche. It's actually cheaper in many cases than your website shopping cart because you physically have the card to swipe. Any time a credit card number has to be entered manually, there's a chance of fraud, so the interest rates and/or charges increase. Having experienced this "one swipe and done" philosophy, I think it's only a taste of things to come. Whether you're a major retailer or a startup, 2011 is the paradigm shift where we throw out bulk credit card machines with carbon copies and switch to mobile credit card swipers.

So whether you want to make money, save money or accept money, there are exciting things to look forward to in 2011. As I said in the beginning, to know where you're going, you need a plan. If you believe in social media, that coupons will find you and credit card transactions are just a swipe away, then I think you'll embrace what lies ahead.