In short, over the last 12 months, social media has moved from an "end" to a "means." For most organizations, this meant a change in the standards used to evaluate their social strategies. Digital marketers could no longer flash auto-generated reports from their social dashboard of choice at weekly meetings, highlighting the psychographic buckets of their Facebook fans or the number of comments on their page or, yes, even the week-to-week increment in Facebook "likes."
A renewed focus on connecting social to other digital data touchpoints emerged, as evidenced by the number of startups and digital agencies rebranding and adopting social CRM as part of their value proposition, as well as the acquisition of social marketing platforms by CRM companies (i.e. Buddy Media by Salesforce and Vitrue by Oracle). The reconfiguration ultimately benefited the brands. But a new problem arose, namely understanding what exactly social CRM meant and how it tied to a sensible ROI metric -- if at all.
Thankfully, a few trends and best practices ultimately surfaced.
Social moves away from a mass media model to a more targetable medium
Two market winds propelled this new course. First, social CRM matured from solely customer relationship marketing on a Facebook or Twitter brand page, for instance, to customer intelligence informed by users' social profiles. Soon, the view through the social lens amplified, and the focus moved from broader conversations occurring on the brand and product level to more actionable customer-level analytics. Who is my customer online? What is the profile of my customer offline? What are their interests? Who are their friends?
Secondly, the release of social ad exchanges like FBX and Custom Audiences established social as a targetable medium on par with, if not stronger than, other ad exchanges on the web. Advertisers could retarget users with media enriched by the customer intelligence matched from both online social and offline profiles.
Social silos cease, as social teams within organizations begin integrating with digital and CRM teams
Intra-organizational walls between social, digital, and, even to a degree, CRM teams began to collapse. Here too, market advancements like FBX created incentives for organizations to "tear down these walls." Incentives came in the form of stronger prospecting and higher ROI on media spend, resulting from tying CRM profiles to the social and digital profiles of customers for retargeting them directly on Facebook.
The continuing convergence of earned and paid media through Facebook Sponsored Stories also brought together digital and social teams within organizations. A social marketer managing a brand's Facebook page now had to work directly with the digital media team in order to increase the viral reach (as opposed to organic reach) of the Facebook page's stories by buying sponsored ad inventory on Facebook. For retail companies, e-commerce managers suddenly had to justify the presence of "like" and "want" buttons on their product pages by working directly with their digital acquisition teams. Together, they forecasted the return on paid media Sponsored Stories. Budgets were spent on targeting friends of users who "liked" products on the e-commerce site using Facebook ads, in hopes of activating a word-of-mouth cascade.