Reputation and relationship management skills are foundational to architecting an effective customer development strategy for both B2B and B2C enterprises; this will be acutely true in 2011. No longer just the responsibility of a community manager, social communication will be integrated into service and support experiences, product, point of sale, and commerce solutions. Because official spokespeople are no longer the sole purveyors of your company's message, social channels can be counted on to accelerate and amplify the conversation between customers and brands. Look for the following trends to drive changes to integrated marketing plans in the year ahead:
1.Status updates, videos, tweets, infographics, and other social objects gain importance as recurring elements of the cross-channel marketing mix.
Pressure to monetize microblogging spawns micro-marketing, demanding discipline to deconstruct big campaign ideas into smaller, digestible messages. The increasing adoption of smartphones -- Nielsen reports 30 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers own one -- will continue to drive more accesses that will, on average, occur for shorter duration. "Content snacking" will force a change to the format and cadence of outbound marketing communication. As a result, social media dashboards will become as ubiquitous as website analytics tools to track the distribution of social objects as well as the frequency, content, and amplitude of conversational messages.
2. Conversational platforms define brands by generating more transparent moments of truth that drive loyalty and promote advocacy.
Last year, nothing illustrated this point better than BP's handling of its real-time updates on Twitter, which Newsweek called "tone deaf." Real-time content streams continue to challenge brands to keep up with online conversations, driving marketers to regularly align to potential customers' definition of relevancy. With more than one-third of Americans on social networking sites, and one-quarter of online mobile owners now logging onto the mobile internet, the court of public opinion is a 24/7 operation. Reputation management is no longer simply about crisis management.
3. Hyper-personalization becomes the most effective way to discover content on connected devices.
The myriad of sources, formats, and access points for content (broadcast, user-generated, streamed, downloaded, local, and cloud-based) has inexorably changed the consumption experience on new device platforms, impacting the flow of traffic to -- and the monetization of -- destination websites. Applications will continue to adapt to user behavior, making the apps more relevant and useful. While hyper-personalized content creates new targeting and segmentation opportunities for marketers, not all of them will be of equivalent value.
4. Social platforms, with their embedded trust and admiration networks, displace search sites and portals as discovery engines for relevant content.
User-generated content increasingly appears in the gap between a brand's premise and whether it keeps its promise, changing the definition of relevancy in search engine result pages. The fact that anyone can publish on the internet amplifies marketers' needs to measure their performance in influential communities of interest. While Google properties, including YouTube, drive approximately 88 billion searches per month, Twitter has moved in to second place with 19 million searches conducted per month -- more than Yahoo and Bing combined. Although Facebook lags behind all of the other platforms for onsite searches, it still represents a healthy 647 million searches in the U.S. alone.
5. The web retains its role as a decision engine, and communities of interest are at the heart of the action.
While this appears contrary to the belief that the world is now all about apps and, therefore, the web is dead, the fact remains that websites can be published without requiring an understanding of even basic HTML. This has changed our understanding of what a website is. Is a YouTube channel with a million subscribers a website? Is my profile, my Twitter timeline, or Facebook news feed a website? @Raywj has more than 270,000 Twitter followers and more than 2.5 million YouTube subscribers to his channel, but he doesn't have a "business email" because he doesn't "take business offers." YouTube beauty vlogger @juicystar007 has 165,000 followers and a half a million subscribers to her shopping videos and beauty tips. New media influencers are emerging from every corner of the internet and aggregating audiences around a variety of platforms and niche topics to express their unique points of view.
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