Undoubtedly, social, mobile, and local technology will continue to transform the way businesses connect with their customers, prospects, and other stakeholders. Last year was a banner year for social because platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn experienced rapid growth. And as savvy marketers already know, consumers sit firmly in the driver's seat, controlling brand perception and shaping trends. Armies of happy or angry consumers have a direct financial impact on a company's top and bottom line.
Looking at the social media adoption bell curve last year, the "leaders" have advanced to second-generation platforms, processes, and people. Most companies in the middle of the bell curve have started experimenting with social, and the "laggards" have realized that they must catch up in short order. Most companies have invested in, or are considering an investment in, better social communication solutions. The year of recognition and experimentation in enterprise social media was 2011. In 2012, companies must focus on execution. Here are five predicted trends for enterprise social media in the year to come:
Social media will be legitimized as a channel for communications
Social Relationship Management (SRM) will be a line item in large enterprise marketing budgets. Moreover, if it is already a line item, the investment will scale significantly. Social will move from being tagged as "additional responsibilities" for marketers, call center workers, and customer service reps, to being managed by legitimate, full-time resources.
SRM will become mandatory
Consumers already expect brands to respond via the channel of their choice, which is increasingly Facebook or Twitter. Therefore, lacking an infrastructure to manage these social channels will become unacceptable.
Networked consumers will force brands to work across departmental silos
Businesses were built on inbound and outbound channels, with paper walls between teams such as customer service (inbound) and marketing (outbound). Now, a customer complaining on your Facebook page isn't only a customer service issue, it's also a marketing issue because it reduces the click-through rate of the coupon below the complaint. And as many enterprises experienced this year, it can be a public relations nightmare. By investing in cross-departmental workflows, creating a social media playbook, and securing people, processes, and technology to support SRM, enterprises can tear down these walls. The result is smarter and faster work done by sharing conversations, comments, and campaigns across the entire organization. In addition, enterprises need a framework of social governance to guide decision making.
Networked consumers will force brands to work across geographic silos
Since social technologies shrink time and space, people can convert any issue into a global crisis for a brand (The Wall Street Journal reported that Toyota's recall wiped out $13 billion in market capitalization). On the flip side, brands now have the ability to run global campaigns via social channels that drive business gains across countries and continents.
Social channels will fragment
While Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube are grabbing the headlines, there are many more social sites that deserve dollars and attention. Location-based services like Foursquare and game changers like Google+ need their own chapters in the strategy book. Especially Google+, as search drives traffic to social sites (most people still do a Google search to find Twitter and Facebook pages).
With the exploding influence of networked consumers, the critical need for cross-departmental SRM, and frontline community managers, I predict that 2012 will be the year of social @scale.
Let us know what your predictions are in the comments.
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