Time once again for all those predictions for the coming year.  You know what I mean.  What celebrities will get married or divorced?  What movies will be big hits or flops?  Hit albums, hot trends, and the list goes on.

Here’s one you probably didn’t pick up.  A survey by eMarketer predicts that 80% of businesses with more than 100 employees will adopt social media for marketing purposes in the coming year. That’s four out of five businesses.  eMarketer also surveyed companies and found that while social media was definitely in the plans for the coming year, search ads and website creation/traffic conversion were higher priorities than social media.

The takeaway seems to be that while businesses recognize social media as important, many companies still aren’t certain what to make of social media.  Advertisements and even websites are more tangible, more well-known and widely accepted in the business world.  They are in our comfort zone.

But, if there is anything I have learned in my new career in PR, it’s the same lessons I followed in my previous career in TV news.  Copy is king.  We need to put as much thought into a social media campaign as we do into a website, press release or news story.

But unlike in news or even a press release, social media isn’t just about TELLING the audience something.  The days of “shouting” our message are over.  The beauty of online media is that we can engage in a conversation and make a connection.  We invite thoughts and feedback.   Companies can have a relationship with their customers, thanks to social networks.   Companies are starting to grasp this, and that’s why we’re seeing numbers like the ones from eMarketer.

But the big unknown for most companies still is how to track ROI on social media.

So, if what eMarketer suggests is true, that 80% of businesses with 100+ employees will include social media in their marketing plans in 2011, then my humble prediction is that this will also be the year that organizations get serious on how to put a numerical value on our online relationships.  Companies who’ve hired interns and entry-level employees to “tweet for them all day” (yes, we’ve actually heard respected executives use this term) may start replacing those positions with people who have more sophisticated marketing or PR backgrounds.  We’ll see even bigger sales of books like this one from the authors of from Marketing Profs on How to Make Money With Social Media.    Organizations are more likely to adopt tracking tools like Argyle Social or Sprout Social at faster rates, too.

In summary, we’ll see less talk and more action when it comes to social media.  What do you think? Are we right?  What are your big predictions for social media in 2011?