Crys­tal Ball

Fu­ture of So­cial Me­dia

Enterprise - - Contents -

Almost any­thing in life that is new can be ex­cit­ing sim­ply be­cause it is new. This can be seen in a new re­la­tion­ship, a new tele­vi­sion se­ries, a new mu­si­cal group, a new job, or even a new line of shoes. Peo­ple love to jump on band­wag­ons and get hyped up about the lat­est cool thing. How­ever, even­tu­ally the nov­elty wears off and the true merit -- or lack thereof -- of some­thing will emerge.

So­cial me­dia is grow­ing up

When so­cial me­dia ar­rived on the scene, it was all the rage with tech­nol­ogy early adopters and Mil­len­ni­als. To­day, even grand­par­ents are us­ing cer­tain plat­forms reg­u­larly. The im­por­tance of so­cial me­dia to­day by no means can be dis­puted. But, that im­por­tance is no longer sim­ply be­cause it is new. Rather, it is be­cause so­cial me­dia of­fers some­thing truly use­ful to the world. This move from nov­elty to pur­pose will trans­port so­cial me­dia to a whole new place in so­ci­ety and in mar­ket­ing cam­paigns over the next few years.

We have al­ready seen so­cial me­dia change in many ways. The move away from fo­cus­ing on “go­ing vi­ral” to cre­at­ing mean­ing­ful en­gage­ment (even if with a smaller au­di­ence), the shift away from a seem­ingly sole re­liance on Face­book as the cor­ner­stone of so­cial me­dia mar­ket­ing, the re­al­iza­tion that “just be­ing there” isn’t enough, and the aware­ness that con­tent is more than just words have all set the stage for what is to come next.

To­day’s con­sumers see so­cial me­dia in a new light. While it started with young gen­er­a­tions with per­sonal up­dates, we’ve seen new and ex­cit­ing ap­pli­ca­tions like a way to add di­men­sions of en­gage­ment with tele­vi­sion or ra­dio to mul­ti­ple business ap­pli­ca­tions. Con­sumers are us­ing so­cial me­dia chan­nels to am­plify their voices to their own net­works.

So­cial me­dia 2020: What will it look like?

While purely spec­u­la­tive, it is fun to an­tic­i­pate how mar­ket­ing tools will evolve in the fu­ture. In look­ing at the evo­lu­tion of so­cial me­dia to this point and the cur­rent land­scape of in­ter­net mar­ket­ing, we can get a sense of the tra­jec­tory of some big themes emerg­ing. The fol­low­ing are five pre­dic­tions for how this once fu­tur­is­tic ex­per­i­ment will weave into to­mor­row’s world of mar­ket­ing.

So­cial me­dia makes big data even big­ger

Big data es­sen­tially refers to the con­glom­er­a­tion of as much cus­tomer-re­lated in­for­ma­tion you can get your hands on. The con­cept be­hind its im­por­tance is that the more you know about your cus­tomers, the more you can con­nect with them -- and there­fore make them more loyal cus­tomers. For ex­am­ple, if we can com­bine prox­im­ity data with search his­tory and pur­chase his­tory with so­cial me­dia com­ments or dis­cus­sions, we might be able to or­ches­trate ad­dress­able mes­sag­ing to drive a prospect into a store or click and call with­out be­ing “in­ter­rup­tive” to that con­sumer. It’s the ul­ti­mate mar­ket­ing par­a­digm where we are able to mes­sage as an on­go­ing dis­cus­sion, in a per­sonal way.

The key word here is “con­nect.” What else is so­cial me­dia about if not con­nect­ing? By mar­ry­ing per­son­al­ized cus­tomer in­for­ma­tion with the power of so­cial me­dia, you can cre­ate in­cred­i­bly tar­geted and ro­bust data-driven mar­ket­ing in­ter­ac­tions in real time. Imag­ine tak­ing a cus­tomer call where you can of­fer bet­ter help in less time be­cause of the wealth of in­for­ma­tion avail­able at your fin­ger­tips via your CRM. Or, imag­ine walk­ing by a Star­bucks and re­ceiv­ing a tweet with an of­fer for your fa­vorite latte!

Right now, much of the in­ter­ac­tion data in so­cial me­dia plat­forms are closed, not able to be mashed up in or­der to get a more com­plete pic­ture

of a cus­tomer. This data silo-ing that ex­ists to­day will change over time, pre­dicts Dev Basu, founder and CEO of Pow­ered by Search. “As data be­comes more com­modi­tized, plat­forms will open their data. That will cre­ate huge new op­por­tu­ni­ties for so­cial mar­ket­ing.” In fact, au­thor and so­cial me­dia writer Mark Schae­fer es­ti­mates that by 2020, data will in­crease 600 per­cent, 75 per­cent of which will be cre­ated by cus­tomers, not busi­nesses. Find­ing ways to mash up and use th­ese data will cre­ate huge op­por­tu­nity.

Mo­bile and en­ter­tain­ment will morph

You al­ready know that mo­bile is set to over­take desk­top as the pri­mary means of ac­cess­ing the in­ter­net this year. The move­ment will not stop there. We’ve moved beyond smart­phones and con­nected tablets to cars. Imag­ine your car dash­board with a touch­screen browser. Imag­ine no longer. The Tesla Model S is just the first gen­er­a­tion of mo­bile in­ter­net in your ve­hi­cle. But don’t stop there. Wear­able tech­nol­ogy, like Google Glass, changes the way we think about con­stant con­nec­tiv­ity. In fact, they just an­nounced broader dis­tri­bu­tion and sales chan­nels of Google Glass, and it will not be long be­fore ma­jor eyewear brands li­cense the tech­nol­ogy.

In this, you have your march­ing or­ders -- make sure all of your con­tent, all of your sites, and cer­tainly all of your so­cial me­dia plat­forms are ready to take ad­van­tage of this shift. For so­cial me­dia, this means not just post­ing text heavy con­tent, for ex­am­ple, but uti­liz­ing video, tap­pable post el­e­ments, and other tools to in­crease the rich­ness of the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence and in­ter­ac­tion with you. In fact, you should look beyond text fo­cused so­cial me­dia plat­forms and con­sider adding some that are more vis­ually cen­tered to the mix. Your com­plete strat­egy should en­gage users in the mo­bile ex­pe­ri­ence and en­cour­age them to gen­er­ate user con­tent (pic­tures, videos, and reviews) and to share it.

Mar­ket­ing pro­grams will rein­te­grate

Smart mar­keters have long worked to in­te­grate mar­ket­ing ef­forts across me­dia ve­hi­cles and chan­nels. Through the early years of so­cial me­dia, its in­clu­sion as a mar­ket­ing tool was most fre­quently an aside or an af­ter­thought. Long gone are the days of “Oh, hey, I guess we should have a Face­book page.” So­cial me­dia (and by that I mean far more than just Face­book) will be a crit­i­cal el­e­ment to con­tent-based mar­ket­ing strate­gies and pro­grams.

Brands will fo­cus on mo­bile in­ter­ac­tiv­ity be­cause that is where con­sumers spend more of their time. The key change I see com­ing is chang­ing ex­pec­ta­tions of what con­sumers want from so­cial me­dia. So­cial me­dia an­a­lyst and en­tre­pre­neur Bob Zukis says so­cial me­dia needs to serve a broader pur­pose than just net­work­ing. Where is this go­ing? So­cial is a layer of a cam­paign ver­sus a sep­a­rate chan­nel. “Mark-up” data around user gen­er­ated con­tent will be­come im­por­tant for both plat­forms and brands that want to make this con­tent more vis­i­ble.

Let’s put it this way -- in­stead of look­ing at so­cial me­dia as sim­ply a way to com­mu­ni­cate and sell to your cus­tomers, you should look at it as a valu­able way to con­nect and build loy­alty with your cus­tomers. Do­ing this within the con­text of a layer on top of all your mar­ket­ing ef­forts (on­line, off­line, in-store) makes so­cial mar­ket­ing cen­tral, not sep­a­rate to your brand com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Stop pro­mot­ing to them and start re­lat­ing with them lever­ag­ing your mar­ket­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions ef­forts all the while. What bet­ter way to do this than via so­cial me­dia?

Con­tent mar­ket­ing will grow -with help

It is no se­cret to­day that con­tent is the cur­rency of vis­i­bil­ity. It is through rel­e­vant, use­ful, and in­for­ma­tive con­tent that com­pa­nies can reach cus­tomers and even in­crease SEO re­sults. How­ever, the chal­lenge for many busi­nesses -- es­pe­cially small busi­nesses -- is band­width. The abil­ity to eas­ily and ef­fi­ciently cre­ate and publish con­tent has tra­di­tion­ally been a big stum­bling block to con­tent mar­ket­ing.

Tech­nol­ogy can help busi­nesses fac­ing this chal­lenge in the form of mod­ern con­tent man­age­ment sys­tems. Yes­ter­day’s CMS tools were large, cum­ber­some, and ex­pen­sive -- and only for the big guys. To­day’s (and to­mor­row’s) CMS tools, on the other hand, of­fer a va­ri­ety of sleeker, sim­pler, and eas­ier-to-use op­tions, mak­ing them vi­able for any company se­ri­ous about pro­duc­ing and uti­liz­ing so­cial con­tent for mar­ket­ing pur­poses.

Even bet­ter, new tech­nolo­gies will emerge that will help busi­nesses au­to­mate con­tent cre­ation tasks by em­pow­er­ing and equip­ping em­ploy­ees and other cus­tomer fac­ing en­ti­ties to eas­ily cre­ate/ac­quire, for­mat, and

publish con­tent ac­tors plat­forms. This leads us to the last con­cept...

The power of your net­work will de­liver

Brands that win in the fu­ture will be able to “power up” their net­work of em­ploy­ees, fran­chis­ers, or deal­ers to in­crease vis­i­bil­ity and sales. We will move from the “wis­dom of the crowd” to “the power of the crowd.” As the in­ter­net be­comes a crowded, con­tent filled place, it will be in­creas­ingly hard for busi­nesses to be vis­i­ble on so­cial me­dia. Co­or­di­nated strate­gies, par­tic­u­larly na­tional to lo­cal mar­ket­ing, will pro­vide an ad­van­tage to busi­nesses that can mo­bi­lize their net­works first.

An­drew Shot­land, founder of Lo­cal SEO Guide warns “that while the majority of con­sumers will ig­nore pri­vacy is­sues in ex­change for prod­uct and ser­vice ben­e­fits, a valu­able, vo­cal mi­nor­ity will flock to busi­nesses that proac­tively re­spect and pro­tect their pri­vacy.” As you power up your net­work, brands will have to make im­por­tant de­ci­sions on where they will stand on pri­vacy and how they want to use it as a mar­ket­ing dif­fer­en­tia­tor.

Th­ese changes are not re­ally rad­i­cal so much as they are a log­i­cal evo­lu­tion of so­cial me­dia to­day. They are hap­pen­ing in part be­cause fads come and go but also largely be­cause so­cial me­dia has fi­nally found its place in the smart mar­keter’s tool belt. What does this mean for you? There are two things that any company that wants to take ad­van­tage of th­ese changes should do. First, make sure your business is “in the game.” Do not wait un­til you feel like you know all the an­swers be­fore you al­lo­cate bud­get. Get a head start on your com­peti­tors by in­creas­ing your in­vest­ment in both mo­bile and so­cial to­day. This will give you time to learn more and master your skills and abil­ity to im­ple­ment pro­grams that re­ally work.

The sec­ond thing you should do is de­velop a process for cap­tur­ing met­rics, re­view­ing them, and us­ing them. All three of th­ese el­e­ments must be in­cluded. Met­rics are of no use to you if you do not act on them. You must know what is and is not work­ing so that you can ad­just your ef­forts and get the max­i­mum re­turn on your in­vest­ment.

I have one ad­di­tional sur­prise that is a lit­tle more “macro” view. In the “at­om­ized web,” with ev­ery­one liv­ing in close-knit com­mu­ni­ties, ev­ery­one be­comes an en­tre­pre­neur. Walk into any Star­bucks and you will see a high per­cent­age of the peo­ple run­ning their lit­tle en­ter­prises out of the cof­fee shop. Of­fice space is chang­ing to ac­com­mo­date com­pletely new work­place so­lu­tions. With so­cial me­dia, what was big (big box) be­comes small. The “lo­cal” store is back, but it is not based on prox­im­ity; it’s based on com­mu­nity and con­nec­tions.

The time is ripe -- go forth and con­nect

The great par­a­digm shift of so­cial me­dia is well un­der­way. Mar­keters ev­ery­where can ex­pect so­cial mar­ket­ing to be­come cen­tral to their over­all mar­ket­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions ef­fort. Smart mar­keters will be learn­ing how to get the most from th­ese new tools to give them a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage.

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