There may be no area in interactive marketing that’s moving as quickly as Social Media Marketing. Facebook seems to launch new functionality and interfaces every couple of weeks, and niche social networks like Pinterest seemingly spring to prominence out of nowhere.
To get a sense of where we are and where social media is heading — both from the consumer behavior and the marketer side, we sought input from four different experts, all of whom come at social media from a different perspective.
Sree Sreenivasan, Dean of Student Affairs & Professor, Columbia Journalism School
It will be a critical year in the evolution of Google+ – whether consumers and brands flock to it and use it regularly in 2012 will determine its future. I expect G+ to come on strong and use its Google back-end to make a big run.
There will continue to be launches of niche social media services in various categories – we saw that in 2011 with photography (Instagram); music (Spotify); hobbies (Pinterest) – even as Facebook continues to dominate the online world.
People will continue to overshare online and get in various degrees of trouble.
Some, not all, marketers will finally understand that social media is about listening, not just broadcasting.
Peter Shankman, founder and CEO of The Geek Factory, a boutique Social Media, Marketing and PR Strategy firm
I expect mobile to be the clear breakout in 2012. If Facebook ever decides to put some marketing spend behind Places, it’s got 800,000,000 people to track as they hit the malls, bars, and movie theaters. That’s a lot of marketing power. It’ll be interesting to see who the winner is in the mobile/GPS/tracking space. It’s not clear as of yet, but expect it to be a highly watched and contested venue, from the grandma buying holiday gifts for Timmy, to the 200k mile per year business traveler being schmoozed to switch loyalties to another hotel chain, all through mobile, and all incredibly subtly.
I also expect to see gamification hit more aspects of marketing — with marketers turning marketing more into gaming platforms for brands (think badges, etc.) Will supermarkets give badges for healthy shopping? Creepy? Maybe, but hey, we once thought “checking in” was creepy. Will malls give points, redeemable for discounts, for multiple visits or purchases? Why not? It’s not a question of tracking the mobile phone through each store. The challenge will be be coming up with ways to make the consumer want to give you that information. Remember — when they want to give it to you, it’s not creepy in their eyes.
Jeremiah Owyang, Social Media Analyst, Altimeter Group
Social media is already mainstream, and that’s the problem. The proliferation of content created by both consumers –and now brands — has created an avalanche of tweets, pokes, messages, and comments.
First of all, companies trying to sort through the noise will continue to be inundated with a massive amount of content to sift through, and make sense. Hiring more data analysts won’t be sufficient. Expect companies to rely on software tools to parse, as well as use their agency friends to listen on their behalf. Large and savvy corporations will turn to their employees to help listen, and then triage the information to the right teams.
Secondly, companies are saddled with social media proliferation from their own employees — leaving them at risk. As business units within a company launch their own Facebook page, YouTube account, and Twitter profile, they often do so with short-term goals in mind. Many companies find these digital touch points abandoned — or worse yet, employees saying something out of line, and causing risk. As a result, expect companies to put a clamp down by putting in place strategy, process, workflow, and even social media management system tools like CoTweet, Sprinklr, Spredfast, and Expion to curb out of control growth.
In 2012, Social media is out of control — and companies will feel the strain.
Greg Finn, Social Media expert at Marketing Land and Search Engine Land
Niche social sites will rise. While Facebook and Twitter will remain the elite social networks, the continuation of smaller niche social sites will be even more prevalent in 2012. Sites like Polyvore (clothing), Pinterest (pin-boards), Instagram (photos) and Svpply (products) are a few examples of niche social sites. We are now really seeing some solid social ideas on top of pre-existing platforms and expect this to continually grow.
Facebook will continue to grow. While Google+ made a surprise entrance to the social space this year, Facebook is still King. Many of the open graph elements released at f8 are coming to fruition (ticker updates, achievements, etc) and I expect user retention to stay with Facebook. Google will continue to push Google+, but they have a long way to go to catch up and I expect this distance to grow in 2012.
Value will still be the most important element In social media. A company’s social media strategy lives or dies on the value their accounts can provide users. From customer support to deals/discounts to pertinent, accurate information; offering value is critical. From a content perspective, we have been recommending users invest in subscriptions, data or intell that can really make for great Tweets/posts/updates. For example, if you have a product helping people sell online, a subscription to emarketer.com might provide some amazing “shareable” content; if you are a sports blog, investing in a comprehensive database can let you answer social questions that nobody else could. Make sure that your accounts provide value to users in 2012.
Measure, analyze, adjust, repeat. In order to run a successful social campaign, you need to know what tactics work for your site. Take the time in 2012 to set up solid analytics and judge what works best for your company. Allocate your time in direct correlation with the effectiveness of each different social medium.
Don’t forget your site! While social is all the rage, your website should always be the number one priority! Create great content for your sites, create communities and give users a reason to come to your site. Facebook and Twitter are the shiny objects of the moment, but your website is your own property and is the most important element for long-term success. Work social into your site, not in place of your site.