As 2010 comes to a close, Smart Brief on Social Media reached out to social-media strategy consultant and author Jay Baer for insights into how social-media will evolve — both tactically and strategically — in the coming year. You can read more of Baer’s work at Convince & Convert.
What social-media trends or tools will you be watching in 2011?
2011 will be the year of convergence and integration. Fueled partially by consolidation, mergers and acquisitions, and partially by API mashups, we’ll see huge progress in unifying social communication. We’ve been talking about “one-to-one marketing” for 20 years, but in 2011 we’ll finally start to see it become a reality.
Nearly every major announcement and R&D trend in the social industry revolves around adding data or layers of connectivity. Just in the past few weeks you have Facebook integrating e-mail, PostRank integrating Facebook data, Bing integrating Facebook data, Cotweet integrating with ExactTarget (they’re clients of mine), and several others.
Soon, we’ll be able to send an e-mail just to customers that clicked a particular bit.ly link on Twitter. We’ll be able to send a Facebook status message just to customers who visited a particular page on our website. By combining what we know about our customers and prospects and friends across multiple social outposts, we’ll end up with a centralized view of each of our connections. This finally will give us the ability to in a meaningful way segment our social communication. Today, Twitter is the same as the “batch and blast” e-mail campaigns of the past, when every subscriber got the same message, regardless of their preferences and purchase history. It’s going to change.
Social media will become targetable.
What will a state-of-the-art social media program for a business look like in 2011?
When social media becomes targetable, results will become easier to identify and track. This will accelerate companies’ participation, and they’ll be more willing to devote resources to social communication. As we talk about in “The NOW Revolution,” a state-of-the art program will include these shifts:
- A corporate culture that values being social, not just doing social media. If your C-suite doesn’t really care about being open and social with your customers, your company will struggle to be great at social media. You can’t fake caring.
- Thinking differently about social roles and responsibilities. The fact is, everyone in your company is potentially in marketing, whether they are or not. Everyone is potentially the first point of contact for a prospective customer. Why would I call a switchboard or 800 number, when I can find a live body that works at the company on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin or elsewhere? Consequently, companies serious about social move sociability outward, dispersing it more widely across the organization. Sure, you’ll still have your “official” social media channels for the company, but smart businesses will encourage — rather than forbid — a large number of employees to participate in social media. Zappos figured this out years ago. More companies will get on board with this approach in 2011.
- Internal social media. Once you have a broad social program where you’re adding social frosting to all of the cake you already own, coordinating all of that activity becomes critical. We’ll see a lot more companies adopting (and talking about) internal social media next year.
- Decentralized listening. Having one or more official social media listeners (or possibly outsourcing that task to an agency), won’t be enough for top-tier social programs. Instead, listening will become a departmental program, rather than company-wide. Especially for larger companies with multiple products, divisions, and locations, centralized listening is the post-modern equivalent of the mail room — an inefficient bottleneck. Each product, business unit, and location will have its own listening software and team.
- Broad engagement. Smart companies will move along the Humanization Highway, and interact with customers and prospects in ways that go beyond answering direct questions. Content marketing, storytelling, and understanding that “the difference between helping and selling is just two letters” are hallmarks of this approach.
A handful of major social networks dominated the conversation in 2010. Will 2011 see more competition? If so, where and how?
We find ourselves repeating history. Instead of ABC, NBC, CBS — we have Facebook, Twitter, YouTube.
Certainly, the major social networks are massively utilized, but does anyone really love them? It’s to the point where they succeed because of their scale as much as because of their functionality. We’ll see a lot more challengers in 2011, because as you get bigger, so does your Achilles heel. Recently, we saw the release of Path, a social network that limits your connections to 50, defying the assumption that more friends = better online relationships. That’s a good example of a challenger trying to do more by doing less.
I’m not sure any of these Davids will be able to put a dent in the Goliaths, but our choices for social connectivity (especially in location-based apps and social commerce) will become plentiful.
What will we be saying goodbye to in 2011? What ideas/arguments/technologies do you think will go the way of the dodo next year?
The most important question we’ll put to bed next year is “Should my company be active in social media?” Every company will have to be social eventually, whether they like it or not. Our customers will demand that they be allowed to interact with businesses in this way — the same way they demanded that we connect via websites and e-mail. The new question will be “How do I know what resources to devote to social media?” That’s a sign of real progress.