Let's Get Real: Six Social Media Trends to Watch for in 2012
Every year for the last five years, social media pundits have written posts about “what’s going to happen” in the next year. Specific mergers and acquisitions are predicted, the rise and fall of technologies are predicted, and improbable future trends are hyped ad nauseum.
Rather than focusing in on a granular level (which is often wildly incorrect), it’s more realistic for small, medium, and enterprise companies to examine high-level trends and apply them in a sensible manner to their businesses. Goodbye “shiny new object,” hello balanced perspective. In that spirit, here are some macro developments to plan for in 2012:
1. Social customer relationship management becomes the norm for medium and large companies. Last year’s Salesforce commercials during the Super Bowl were a watershed moment in social customer relationship management. Sure, software commercials have run during the Super Bowl before, but million–dollars–per–minute commercials on social CRM software have never been seen in this venue before. For social CRM, the 2011 Super Bowl was the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” moment—from that point forward, the game had changed. In 2012, look for all of the large CRM vendors like Salesforce, Oracle and SAP, to be making a massive push to convert their existing clients to cloud-based, social offerings (it’s not just good for the customers, it’s good for vendor lock-in). Additionally, look for further acquisitions of social platforms by CRM vendors, similar to Salesforce’s acquisition of radian6. In 2012, CRM companies realize that social is “table stakes.”
2. Social marketing automation becomes tangible and inexpensive. Nearly all enterprise class social platforms now feature some sort of automation, and nearly all of them can be linked—either through some sort of out-of-the-box integration, or via an API—to customer relationship management systems. This gives birth to a whole new class of services that is incredibly valuable to marketing, sales, and customer service functions of medium and large businesses. This space is called social marketing automation, and it’s a mixture of CRM software, social media software, and customer service software. Savvy companies will maximize this technology for up-sell, cross-sell and customer retention.
3. Most social media platforms adopt robust analytics. Obviously, it’s been a good year for gigantic social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. As companies at the top of the social sphere saw enterprise brands and very large advertising agencies using enterprise class tools to manage social content, they realized that the only way to crank more ad dollars out of their prospective customers was to begin including robust analytics, at no charge. Google did this with its AdWords service nearly five years ago, and now the social companies realize they need to do this in order to fill their dance card. The last few weeks of 2011 alone have shown vast improvements in analytics from YouTube and Facebook. Expect to see more in 2012, as social businesses have come to expect a “near-Google-Analytics-like” experience from the social platforms in terms of assessment and ROI.
4. Outsourced social media management becomes commoditized. Two different types of social media management outsourcing will become prevalent in the 2012 business environment. The first one is domestic. In addition to PR firms and integrated marketing communications firms offering a social media “menu item” to their clients, look for social media management agencies (GhostPost is a recent example), staffed largely by writers. For a nominal fee, these agencies will write and manage a company’s social media content. Internationally, look for cut-rate services in nations like India, the Philippines, Vietnam and Europe. While the social media firms are sorely lacking in creative, they’re inexpensive moderation and management services may be a fit for larger companies that don’t have a desire to run a social media help desk.
5. Completion of the Baby Boomers’ adoption of social technologies. As the Baby Boomers begin to leave the workforce—many of them are now in their mid-60s—they have a lot more time on their hands. Baby Boomer growth on social platforms began in 2008, and today, it’s an all-time high. The complication that this puts in place for marketing strategies in B2B environments is that the 62-year-old customer was not a target two years ago. Nor was this age bracket active in social media. Today, your social strategies will likely have to be adjusted to account for the Baby Boomers.
6. Rapid consolidation occurs in enterprise-level social media. This was the biggest year ever for acquisitions in the social media and social CRM space. Adobe finally became a big player in social, Facebook swallowed up a half-dozen other companies, and the big CRM players made social acquisitions. E-mail service providers (ESPs) like ConstantContact have even gotten the game, snatching up small social startups like NutshellMail. Look for continued consolidation in 2012, perhaps on a bigger level. Social business is in the fifth year of a 10-year growth curve.
Adam Metz is the VP of Business Development at Metz Consulting the social concept. Metz’s Social Customer Community, at http://metz.customerhub.net offers a no-cost 9-hour training course on social customer relationship management. Metz has consulted with nearly 100 companies on how to acquire, manage, monetize and retain customers from the social web. His first book, “There Is No Secret Sauce,” has sold or downloaded over 3000 copies, and is currently in its third printing. Metz’s second book, “The Social Customer,” was released on 9/16/11 and has hit #1 on the Amazon marketing charts. Metz lives in Oakland, California with his fiancee Susan.