Top Online Trends for 2013 Businesses –

As the year winds down, new graduates, job seekers, and business professionals alike are all interested in emerging online business trends. Being aware of such trends will allow for business students to take courses which will make them more marketable to the workforce after graduation, while business owners can drive strategic advantages for their organizations by positioning themselves at the forefront of such trends.

Here’s a look at some of the top online trends identified for 2013 and how the business world can prepare for them.

Social Media

Social media has taken the world by storm in recent years, and if the past year is any indication, the trend will only continue to grow in 2013.

Prospective college students have already indicated that they prefer potential colleges to have a heavy social media presence, but what about businesses?

Recent studies have shown that a number of small businesses are investing more time and money into social media, which indicates they recognize its significance.

Mike Costigan, expert practitioner at Touro University Worldwide (TUW), doesn’t believe businesses can survive without an active social media presence.

“An active and vibrant social media presence is vital for every business in order to be successful,” Costigan said. “There may be a mom-and-pop business that has a son or daughter online every day communicating their brand. Guess what? That mom-and-pop business is going to kill your business.”

Costigan explained that Google has implemented numerous algorithm changes within the last year, increased focus on user-generated content, and increased attention to user reviews and behaviors, further integrating social media into its search results. He said consumers are becoming more powerful on the web through their behaviors, which include social media.

He used the younger generation as an example, whom he said does literally everything from their cell phones, including gathering information, engaging in social media, shopping, doing research, and doing homework.

“It’s all done on their phone, so if you don’t have a vibrant social presence, you’re not going to be part of that generation. You don’t even exist to them,” Costigan said. “I believe that in two years, if your business doesn’t have an active social presence or a fulltime person in-house working on social at least six hours a day, then your business is on its way to bankruptcy.”

Information Technology

Another emerging online trend is information technology, specifically mobile technology, business analytics, cloud computing, and social business. However, many businesses have reported a skill shortage among employees in these specific IT competencies.

“Just as the Blackberry captured the email market and made it mobile, high function smartphones and tablets combined with high-speed broadband have created a user demand to extend applications to a mobile format,” said David DeHaven, dean of Kaplan University’s School of Information Technology. “Many organizations are adopting a ‘BYOD’ (Bring Your Own Device) approach as the enterprise is consumerized at a rapid speed.”

The IT job market looks promising for recent grads in 2013. Graduates with bachelor’s degrees in computer and information science and management information systems are expected to be of particular interest to employers, as well as those with business and engineering degrees.

“As the demand for access continues to grow, there will be an increasing need for talented mobile developers, testers and support personnel, as well as security experts to help manage these mobile devices and secure enterprise and personal information,” DeHaven said. “At the same time, organizations are maturing in their ability to capture and use data about their consumers — their behaviors, buying and product-use habits, and their emerging needs. The age of ‘Big Data’ has arrived and the challenge is, again, to find talented personnel that can navigate and manipulate the data collected, as well as identify and communicate trends to businesses and consumers.”

Cyber Security

With the increased use of various technologies and social media, it should come as no surprise that business and consumer privacy online is becoming increasingly more important. About half of small and mid-sized businesses reported they were satisfied with their amount of cyber security for employees and customers.

“Cyber security is the process of securing IT infrastructures that contain data, as well as securing anything going in and out of it,” said Jeff Tjiputra, academic director for cyber security programs at University of Maryland University College (UMUC). “The cyber security field used to be called information assurance. More and more people realized it’s not just information, but the infrastructures themselves that are supposed to be secured.”

Tjiputra said, in this day and age, he doesn’t think any business can survive without a good IT infrastructure behind it.

“Companies that have websites, companies that take online orders, companies that use computers for their accounting – as IT becomes more prominent in businesses, there is an increased need to secure those infrastructures,” Tjiputra said. “Businesses need to realize there are bad groups out there who will try to steal your customers’ information.”

Hackers – a term which usually draws negative feelings – are actually important to businesses’ cyber security, according to Tjiputra. He explained there are “good hackers” – those who companies hire to test their networks.

“In order to have a good defense, you must understand the offense,” he said. “If you always depend on your IT department to tell you how to secure your infrastructure, you’ll never know what people outside of your company are able to do.”

The cyber security degree programs offered at UMUC focus on two sides of cyber security: the technical side and the policy side.

“One field that we cannot produce graduates fast enough right now is cyber security,” Tjiputra said. “We expect it to grow more as more businesses, especially small businesses, realize ‘hey, we need someone in cyber security on our payroll.’ It’s common now to see businesses with a Chief Information Security Officer. There are now executive level positions that focus on cyber security for the company.”

Related: Young Adult Workforce Has Strong Social Media Skills | Role of Social Media in Nonprofits | Schools: Top Online Business Degrees | Location Search Online Business Degrees By State

Follow Valerie Jones on Twitter @ValerieJ_tweets