This is part 2 of a two-part piece dedicated to the major trends in corporate social media management, which will serve as a basis for my presentation in Bucharest at the ronewmedia digital conference due to take place on May 16th, 2012. I will use my 5 years of practice in that field at Orange and dwell on some of the major trends impacting Social Media and its management in large corporations. My presentation will highlight these trends which will be illustrated with real-life examples taken from the field.
Trend number 6: clients want direct interaction to take place on social media
We have been debating about social CRM for quite a while now. It has always been my view that there was no such thing as social CRM but that it had to be a means for customer relationship to add one more channel to its current toolbox. However, this is more than just an additional channel. It is a channel which forces customer relationship management departments to better handle customer requests and complaints. On social media, it is no longer possible to hide direct interaction. It is immediately visible to all. At the same time, a survey carried out by orange business services in France has shown that the requirement for customers to interact with real people is of paramount importance to these customers. I see this as a real opportunity to make “social CRM” really useful insofar as it is happening in real-time and cannot be hidden or postponed and therefore this fulfils the requirement expressed by customers.
Trend number 7: enterprise social networks are certainly the future, but we are not there yet
The future of social media isn’t where you believe it is. The internal part of enterprise collaboration (aka enterprise social networks) is probably the line of business on which the biggest numbers will be made at least according to Gartner. There is no doubt that you will hear far less noise about the new version of SharePoint or Lotus Notes or blueKiwi than the recent takeover of Instagram by Facebook (see trend number 10). However, we’re still a long way from implementing social networks inside organisations in a seamless manner. Such implementations are fraught with social issues (often, it’s employees who actually feel reluctant to use internal social networks rather than management, and the latter are sometimes unable to explain that internal social networks are here to help them and not spy on them) as well as many implementation issues. It is far from being an accessory. For people like me in charge of external social networks and websites, the use of the internal social network is of paramount importance if one wants to find help and support internally. Things are moving forward but a lot remains to be done and things are far from being perfect. As often, technology isn’t a major issue.
Trend number 8: turning one’s employees – not just community managers – into brand advocates
Working with external bloggers is nice, having community managers who have become experts in the facilitation of social media communities is not bad either, training one’s communications managers on the use of second-generation web collaboration techniques and platforms is also nice (and Orange is doing this and I am actually the sponsor of this initiative), but we cannot think that we have achieved our goals until we have managed to convince most of our staff to become – if they so wish – our brand advocates. In our case, it is particularly challenging given the fact that we are 170,000 employees around the world, scattered around more than 35 countries, and 220 countries and territories if we include Orange Business Services. This is why I believe in this initiative that we are launching at this moment, which we are naming “social media champions”, the details of which are explained on our social media guidelines page online: http://orange.com/smg
Trend number 9: social media strategists will have to / must deal with the proliferation of social media platforms, due to peer pressure and self-fulfilling prophecies initiated online and/or by the Press
This isn’t as easy as it seems. Every day or so, a new platform is born, which creates a huge buzz on the web and puts considerable pressure on web teams within large organisations. Can we, or can we not, ignore Pinterest for instance? Depending on our line of business, positioning, or even just the number of resources that are available to us, the response to that question may vary; yet there is a strong probability that you will not be able to evade the question, for fear of being taken for a twit or a has-been, or even because of internal pressure too. Yet, with the hardening of the current crisis, we would probably have to learn how to say no… human resources and time cannot be expanded without limits even though our “champions” (see trend number eight) can help.
Trend number 10: the new bubble is coming, the signs are worrying
During the first dot com bust, between the year 1999 and 2001, there was no shortage of pundits who would tell you, a calculator in their hands, that the so-called “new economy” was real and that the gross market cap over evaluations of the period were justified. The fact of the matter is that they were right insofar as there was really something new happening for which many of the benefits are only reaped nowadays. However, there were wrong in the evaluation of certain companies, and they had even lost common sense in more than many cases. We now know what happened next. To a large extent, this is also what we are witnessing today. There is no question as to the amazing success of Facebook, even to a certain extent as a platform for advertising. I am still flabbergasted however to see the Facebook – or any of the other platforms – is not trying to make money out of the numerous brands which are now thriving on their platforms whereas in fact, it would make perfect sense for an enterprise to pay for the service as it offers considerable publicity for them and helps maintain the service. A premium version of Twitter for instance, which would offer multilingual support, would be something I’d be ready to pay for because we need it. Yet, the battle has shifted to the stock market, IPOs and new Web entrepreneurs who make no money but are ready to “flip it” as they say in the Valley. People never learn. The valuation of Facebook itself at anything between $90-$100 billion seems over the top. Even the fact that the company (even before it launched on the NASDAQ) has been able to take over Instagram (and God knows I love Instagram) for $1 billion even though it is only made of less than 10 people and hasn’t started to generate a penny worth of revenue is a worrying sign that something wrong is happening … again; naysayers would probably say that a bubble his buying another bubble … Sensible Web managers have to look after this kind of things and prepare for the future, that is to say protect themselves from current excesses as well as future excesses in any direction. Despite what people think, Web assets are developed in the long run, not with platforms which come and go; stability is of the essence.