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It was certainly an exciting year in social media for brands in 2012, with many intriguing industry developments. Given that the pace of innovation in social will only increase this year, what will 2013 hold for brand marketers as they seek to capitalize on today’s trends? From my discussions, I find that CMOs in particular are facing a major test this year as external digital engagement has moved to the top of the corporate priority list in a way we haven’t seen since well, the first Internet boom.
Not that there also isn’t a lot of “novelty fatigue” as technology change — particularly with the endless parade of new mobile technologies and the unfolding evolution of the major social networks — takes a toll on companies as they strain to keep up.
For its part, big data is another quite promising, yet challenging new area for social marketers. As a leading buzzphrase and industry darling of last year — and no doubt again this year — it’s an exciting and compelling topic, yet it’s also a rigorous and technical discipline that’s not always well-aligned with the more creative aspects of the marketing world.
Social Media Marketing in 2013: A Confluence of Related Trends
What do all these developments mean? A number of important things: Digital is clearly top priority again, while social media is now an established reality most organizations. New channels like mobile are all the rage as well, yet clearly disrupting the marketing landscape as apps become a critical new marketing channel. We’re also finally learning to optimize for social media ROI using analytics to turn, tweak, and guide our efforts directly at the maximum possible business value. Or least, this is the pure vision, though often sidelined by the vagaries, complexities, and distractions of the day-to-day aspects of actually running our companies.
But there’s no doubt about it: 2013 will see the transition from old media based engagement to new as a full contact sport in our companies like never before. The social media arms race between companies — and fueled by the need to establish larger network effects first — is gearing up as well: To do this, many organizations around the world are busy preparing to upscale their social media operations. They’re building bigger social media command centers, reorganizing their social teams, investing in customer communities, crafting larger cross-channel social marketing campaigns, and deploying social analytics all in an increasingly mature fashion.
Additional Reading: Connecting Digital Strategy with Social Business and Next-Gen Mobility
And, while maturity may be too strong a word at times, we at least now have social media marketing fundamentals established in most large organizations. We’re also seeing the emerging edge evolve as well as provocative new techniques and ideas take hold.
So, if all these trends hold true, what then will 2013 in hold for marketers?
Six Social Media Marketing Predictions:
The real customer journey, data science, & glocalism
In all, I’ve prepared twelve social media marketing predictions for 2013 that I believe 1) have a reasonable chance of coming to pass, and 2) are germane and useful to the majority of companies today. The first six are presented below. The remainder will be posted in an companion post next week.
- The marketing funnel will increasingly support the natural customer journey across all touchpoints, instead of focusing on content types, channel silos, or other artificial constructs. We’ve long discussed the difference between traditional and social media. More recently, we’ve talked about paid, owned, and earned content. But these are actually ways of fragmenting what our customers really do with us via a set of connected activities (see diagram above.) These isolated views don’t take the full context of how customers actually behave into account. Perhaps Nate Elliot said it best recently in Ad Age, “Each set of channels — reach and depth and relationship –takes the lead at a different stage of the customer life cycle. If you focus just on one part of the model, you’ll be less able to guide your customers through their journey.” This means that for the best result, we’ve learned the hard way that social media can’t be treated in a vacuum. Although our customers are taking increasingly social journeys with our brands, the most effective marketing strategies this year will use an updated, more complete, and well-balanced cross-channel model of their funnel.
- The rise of data science as a strategic social media marketing discipline. 2013 will be a banner year for the discipline of data science in general. Marketers are getting on board too and are serious about increasing their spend on big data this year, with 68% of planning significant or major investments, according to recent data. The technologies and techniques of big data, will be applied in earnest this year to social marketing, enabling real-time understanding of digital customer engagement, the pinpoint identification of advocates and influencers, the isolation of results, and the consequent optimization of what’s working. While the trough of disillusionment is no doubt in front of us as some corporate experiments fall victim of hype and inexperience, the promise in the combination of big data and social is already producing results in many industries today.
- A corresponding scarcity of data scientists. Put simply, there won’t be enough available talent to take marketing into the realm of big data this year. The International Institute for Analytics is already suggesting that organizations may have to largely give up looking for trained marketing scientists from external sources, at least for now. Instead, companies can nurture the talent they require internally, all the while accelerating their efforts via proactive experimentation by acquiring tools and services that provide data-driven marketing capabilities “in a box.” Meanwhile, the so-called data artisans that marketing departments will increasingly need in a social media-drenched world can instead come from employees in other positions that already have strong analytic or business intelligence backgrounds.
- Although marketers will use analytics and measurement in their social media efforts more than ever before, they will struggle to determine the right metrics to use. Perhaps the biggest question we get about social media listening and measurement, is what should marketers measure for? While this is often business and industry-specific, one of the biggest industry challenges at the moment is in effectively measuring engagement. That’s because there is no universal currency for social media engagement across social media channels. Channel fragmentation is a big part of the problem. Although many brands monitor the major social networks, some of the most important and useful engagement happens in the nooks and crannies of customer communities, blogs, niche social sites, and even old-school discussion forums. How to listen to, evaluate, and rank engagement to understand brand sentiment, have meaningful situational awareness, and maintain reasonably useful objective measures will be a vital topic this year. I’ll be exploring this subject in more detail soon, as usable and widely-recognized common measures of engagement will be sought after by brands so that data-driven social marketing can reach its full potential.
- The emerging glocalism trend will be amplified by social media. Many companies won’t be adequately prepared. We’re seeing amongst our clients that consumers are increasingly self-organizing in one geographic region via social media, and then driving changes across a company’s global presence. The most recent example from today’s headlines was when 15-year-old Sarah Kavanagh, mobilized over 200,000 people through Change.org in order to persuade Gatorade to remove a controversial ingredient from its drinks. A growing number of such social media sites for product activism — combined with the realization by the general public that they can indeed effect major change in brands — will lead to more such events this year and beyond. Smart marketers will prepare for these eventualities and plan to make the most of them as major opportunities in disguise. Marketers that are prepared for glocalism will better engage with the marketplace and forge stronger overall brand sentiment long term.
- Customer communities turn into a strategic marketing asset as turnkey services for managing them get better. Conventional wisdom says it’s 5 times more expensive to replace a dissatisfied customer as to retain an existing customer. Yet, while customer communities make it quite cost-effective to support our customers at scale via social media, many marketing efforts continue to neglect this aspect of the social customer journey. In fact, most marketing initiatives today are disconnected from CRM and customer care altogether. Unfortunately, the reality is that unaddressed negative customer experiences are now broadcast in social media millions of times a week. This creates a growing marketing headwind for organizations that don’t address public customer care issues proactively. Fortunately, relatively straightforward solutions to this problem have emerged in the last couple of years and are just now hitting critical mass. Emerging social CRM platforms such as GetSatisfaction, Lithium, Nimble, and others that foster communities focus on the customer experience can help companies get ahead and turn customers and their problems into advocates, instead of marketing liabilities. Unlike the years it can take for companies to organically grow communities from the ground up, these services are maturing to the point where they can become a rapid and effective antidote to unaddressed social marketing headwinds. In 2013, many companies will realize the importance of proactively managing their existing customers in the social realm as a high impact marketing activity.
Next week, we’ll take a look at predictions related to evolution of social brand advocacy, content strategy, and one of my favorites — and probably the most important social marketing trend of all at the moment — engagement at scale.
For a broader look at what’s in store in enterprise social media in general, you can also read my Social Business Predictions for 2013. In the meantime, add your own social media marketing predictions below in comments.