As the year comes to a close, we see Mark Zuckerberg selected as Time’s Man of the Year. This did not come without controversy. Other names were mentioned including another front runner Julian Assange (WikiLeaks). Yes, I think Zuckerberg deserves it for several reasons. First because of the way Facebook has changed the world. Secondly, how many people had a movie made about them (even if it is most fictitious). And finally he set a great example by joining The Giving Pledge and donating half of his wealth to charity.
But from my perspective, I really don’t care. What matters to me is that 2010 was the year for social media. I have been involved in this industry since 2007, and without doubt, this is the year it took off. In 2010, I have witnessed the change from debate over social media value to mass acceptance. Now the discussions are more about figuring out how to use social media, and looking at social media shaping world events. Not so long ago, we witnessed how broadcast media redefined exposure of news with 24 x 7 coverage. Now social media provides a 24 hour open communication platform for these issues to be broadcasted, shared, and discussed – sometimes even in countries where it has been difficult for people’s voices to be heard.
So yes, 2010 is the year of social media and I have a few observations about the past and expectations on the future.
The End of the Social Media Expert
I am happy to report that I think we have finally seen the end of self professed social media experts. Most proclaimed social media experts were bombarded with comments and insults doubting their knowledge and being labeled as scam artists or snake oil sales people. This is a good thing because I don’t think there are any experts. Social media is emerging, growing, and changing and how can a sector witnessing such change have any experts. What are they experts of? Something that morphs and is not quite what it was six months ago.
In 2010, I went to a number of social media conferences. But I will tell you, there was only one where I got bang for the buck. I heard the same thing in most of them and to be honest, I could get the same information by continuing to do my daily perusal of information on the web and newsletters I receive. Yes, it was good to meet people and network, but as far as learning about social media success, much more came from active participation running strategy and execution for a number of brands.
So still … there is much to be learned for me and all of you.
How Social Media Strategy and Execution Come Together
When asked about running successful social media endeavors, I always answer the same way – get in the water, get wet, and swim. If you want to learn how to use a social platform, find a kid. If you want to learn how a platform can help your business, YOU need to get involved or place this in the hands of someone responsible for both your business strategy and execution.
I think we’ll see greater executive ownership of social strategy, plan, and execution in 2011. Up until now, many business owners and stakeholders have been frightened by the new little social media beast and simply handed it off to sharp, young, web-savvy individuals that lack business experience. The right mix of a combination of business expertise and creative social media intelligence will prove to be most valuable going forward.
4 Key Social Plays
Everyone involved and writing about social media will have their list of emerging trends or key takeaways for 2010. For me, I notice a couple things taking off and other things that started that did not blossom to the extent required to yield true success.
Let’s start with the easy one – video. Video consumption continues massive growth. Approximately 70% of global online consumers watch online video. Many companies augmented or replaced TV ads with viral videos. So think about video production for your brand. Something entertaining, compelling, quirky … think about interactive possibilities and how sharing can be promoted. But a word to the wise – “It’s not viral unless it is.” (@JayBaer)
2) Social Media Listening
Listening tools became big with many technology companies providing solutions to generate statistics and report on who is saying what about your brand. (See “A Wiki of Social Media Monitoring Solutions.”) Nice start, but things need to get better – a) with the technology to generate meaningful, accurate, vetted information on brands, and b) organizational commitment to listening to what is being said and proactively using this information for product/service road mapping, capturing advocates and catering to them, and responding to customer service issues. I have personally witnessed the blurring of the lines between PR and customer support. (See my story “’People Have the Power’ – a Social Media Story.”)
3) Social Media Measurement
There is an old saying, “that which is not measured does not get done.” You must measure social media against objectives. This means you must have social media objectives and attributes to measure. (You might want to check out “Defining Social Media Success“ and “Measuring the Value of Social Media.” Measurement is still confusing to so many, but it really should not be. First, what is the objective of social media? Awareness and lead generation. More and deeper relationships. Does anyone think these are not important things for their brand? If you agree, how do you measure these things? Don’t be stuck on ROI debates. Look at parameters that drive these KPIs. Check the two suggested articles.
4) Location Based Services (LBS)
Facebook growth is not a surprise. Twitter continues to emerge as an important platform. But LBS (foursquare, gowalla, SCVNGR, Facebook Places) are still more hype than power. So many are missing a major opportunity here. How could you not want to track an audience and as I have suggested in the past – seed where you want your traffic to go. In 2010, I’ve heard way too many people say “I don’t want people to know everywhere I go.” Works for some, not for others. I really could care less. But brands showing up at places and communicating this to their audience is the golden opportunity so many are not seizing. Think about LBS this way and tie a marketing program to it from this perspective.
The Year of Mobile
The over used cliché – “the year of mobile.” I think I’ve heard this for the past 10 years. But you know what. I think it is justified. The definition of mobile continues to change. It is about providing people the convenience and capabilities while they are on the run – everywhere. First, mobile was just about talking. Then unified messaging emerged and we had mobile texting and email. Now technology should provide us all the conveniences we can get online, plus. Look at smart phones today. Embedded in the device are a telephone, email, camera, application platform, social platforms, GPS, and other technologies. Solution providers need to look beyond these amazing technologies and define use cases that deliver increased value. It really needs to be about the integration of white spaces between the technologies. So yes, 2010 was the year in mobile and I think 2011, 2012, etc will also be the year of mobile. Strap on your seatbelt and enjoy the ride.
Many will have their predictions for 2011. I’m going to keep it simple and merely suggest that in 2011 the social media focus needs to be on content and publishing, and IP (integration and publishing).
1) Content and Publishing
At the end of the day you must have compelling content and healthy stream of it. But Content is not King, Conversation around content is King. (Always loved this quote I picked up from @johnhutson.) Brands need to have content – something that starts the conversation. So marketing departments of brands begin to feel more like a media company. They have two choices – partner with some form of content company or produce their own content (need the right resources to do so.) As we begin to see this evolution, publishing becomes cumbersome and a solution is needed to help manage the content and its distribution. We will see more need of this given the ramifications of stuff like Open Graph and the need to produce content to multiple social channels. As we saw in 2010 that listening and measurement tools were important technologies that need to be part of the social media, we will see that in 2011, there will be a great reliance on technology providers to have social media publishing and management tools. (I can tell you that this is very important to my efforts.)
2) IP (Integration and Packaging)
Yes, IP has been very important for the past number of years – Intellectual Property, Internet Protocol. But I am talking about another kind of IP – integration and packaging. As I mentioned in a handful of past articles, social media needs to be completely integrated into all other business functions and not just a last minute add on – “oh we need a social element” as I have seen so many times. It should be part of the product/service definition, part of the marketing communication, part of customer service. Social media should be part of the packaging of your product or service. When you design your offering, you should think about how the product will be shared, talked about, word of mouth referencing and bake that into the actual design and user experience. I think we will see a significant number of winning case studies where brands do integrate and package social media into their offering and these efforts will yield winning, measurable results.
For me, 2010 has been very much about evangelizing social media and its value. 2011 will be more about marketing as a whole and leveraging the power of social media.
In closing, I want to say it has been truly exciting connecting with a number of you. I appreciate your shout outs, comments, and interests. Let me know your perspective on the past year. Have a fabulous holiday and a grand New Year. Onward to 2011 …
Make It Happen,