By Aaron Everson, COO and President, Shoutlet
After Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the latest rollouts at f8, there was a flurry of discussion by advertisers and marketers who are clamoring to make sense of it all. Such a major announcement often shakes up social programs, causing marketers to suddenly question the direction of their own social media activities.
While the Facebook rollouts are significant, it’s important for marketers to view these announcements in terms of how they fit into the social landscape as a whole. Looking at both the short and long term opportunities in social, smart marketers look at social marketing from an all-encompassing point of view, taking into account not just Facebook, but all the popular platforms, such as Google+, YouTube and Twitter. Maintaining a high-level view of the social network options will allow you to adapt quickly – no matter what changes lie ahead on any platform.
There’s no question the new Facebook Timeline, Open Graph apps, and the coming “read,” “watch,” “listen,” options are exciting. But Facebook frequently makes changes to its interface that affect marketers. While it’s easy to get nervous about changes, it’s more important to be clear on your brand’s vision and social marketing strategy and then adapt the Facebook changes to add to those initiatives. While Facebook often serves as the barometer of social media success, social is so much more than just Facebook.
There will come a day when Google+, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook will be consolidated. Whether that means a new platform that replaces all of the above or interesting market collaborations is yet to be seen. Speculation abounds that network announcements have been aimed at their rival platforms. Facebook’s new Smart List feature, which bundles groups of friends together, mimics Google+ Circles, and the new Subscription feature has been compared to both Twitter and Google+. Even Google+’s user profiles looked unabashedly similar to the Facebook profile when they were unveiled. (Brand pages on Google+ haven’t been announced yet, but marketers should be ready to move when that time comes.) We’re starting to see early signs of that now as there are those that feel that, aesthetically, social networks look and feel different to the user, but the baseline functionality closely mirrors each other.
When viewed together, there’s much to be learned from the most popular social networks. Each centers around the idea of the “social profile.” User activity across all networks can and should educate a brand about preferences, loyalty, and even alert marketers to a drop off in consumer interest. For marketers, data about how users on any network interact informs marketers about how to use the information available to them. The idea of tapping into users’ social graphs can be tricky; marketers must strike a balance between collecting information and using it in a way that doesn’t turn off their customers.
Another way to stay ahead of the changes and lay a solid foundation for success on any network is subscribing to the idea that relationships are more important than revenue. It seems counterintuitive, but if you don’t invest in your social media base, you won’t have as many channels to drive revenue. Every move you make should address the needs of users. Truly understand your fans, and only then will you be able to deliver the content that drives engagement and purchases, building loyalty.
The changes that came out of f8 should be viewed as a glimpse into what’s to come – there are tremendous opportunities to leverage these changes to educate your brand on what your fans think of you and their level of commitment and loyalty. However, it’s chiefly important to remain focused on your marketing vision and using social tools to your advantage, not building your business around any one platform. The future is uncertain when it comes to the evolution of social networks, but it’s also very bright when it comes to opportunities for marketers. Keep your eyes open for how social tools can add to your business and be willing – and ready – to evolve with them.
COO and president of Shoutlet, Aaron has spent most of his career growing small companies with his extensive background in sales, marketing, operations, product development, and strategy. Aaron joined the Shoutlet board in January 2009, and began employment at Shoutlet in August 2009. Shoutlet provides enterprise social management software for companies to engage consumers online and monetize their social media communication. It includes Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube management, social CRM, a contest platform, HTML5 web app building, email and mobile marketing, social commerce, and real-time analytics in one easy-to-use interface. Prior to joining Shoutlet, Aaron spent nearly two years as a business development manager at Microsoft Corp., which he joined through the acquisition of Jellyfish.com, a company he co-founded.