8 years after its introduction – and a few name changes – Corporate Social Media can no longer be considered as an innovation. We have clearly hit the third wave of its implementation in Corporate environments, that is to say the structuring of collaborative web initiatives in order to scale in multi-billion dollar companies (and smaller companies. In this piece 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.
10 Major Trends In Corporate Social Media Management
First and foremost, it has to be confirmed that this is definitely the end of the beginning of social media in large enterprises. Almost 10 years after the invention of Web 2.0 and its deployment in enterprises, brands are no longer toying with the idea of jumping on the band waggon, but are rather busy at structuring and streamlining their initiatives. In our book (“Mastering Social Media Like a Boss”), Hervé Kabla and myself were already emphasising the need for a third stage in the implementation of social media (structuring).
This statement is even more true nowadays with the advent of a second wave of a very serious European economic crisis, to a certain extent a lot deeper and harder than the one that struck in 2009, even though the numbers related to the growth in GDP are – so far – less ominous. As a matter of fact, that crisis is beginning to wear thick on the allocation of marketing budgets (even though digital is still considered low cost by most) and to an extent it is a good opportunity to streamline our processes and curb a few excesses.
As we are working towards this streamlining phase, which is definitely on the agenda at Orange where I manage social media and digital for the group, I feel 10 major trends coming to the fore in 2012. Here they are, in random order, based on my experience in the field:
- trend number 1: mobile devices/iPad (and not tablets) are becoming obligatory, whether you like it or lump it
this statement is less obvious than it may seem. I have noticed as I was attending many meetings with my peers in the digital world recently, that few actually knew how many of their users were looking at their websites via a mobile device. Facts and figures related to my website orange.com (anything between 1.2 and 1.5 million monthly uniques) are however very clear: since 2011, it’s more than 15% of our users who have gone mobile. Yet, something new has happened in that area. I mean the proportion of iPads (and I don’t mean tablets in general) which are being used by our readers. In essence, twice as many iPads as there are iPhones, in themselves by far the most used of smartphones as far as our readers are concerned! Without judging, the amount of the audience using android devices is very fragmented, non-iPad tablets being completely invisible in my statistics. These numbers are not neutral when it comes to designing websites or adapting social media platforms for brand purposes, and let alone when it comes to the socialisation of traditional websites which is another major trend which we have observed (per below).
- Trend number 2: content marketing is no longer a gadget, it has become central to our strategies
I often tell the story about my beginnings at orange business services when I started to introduce business blogging and started recruiting experts among our ranks. The first few reactions which I got at the time were “we are not the New York Times!” Whereas I do agree with that statement and wouldn’t even venture to compare blogs to eminent news pages, everybody who’s been working in the web industry for at least a little while understands that the web is fuelled with content. Internet content, and particularly user generated content (UGC) has become central to our content driven strategies nowadays and is no longer debated. This is the case also at Orange where we have been able to impose many of these platforms such as orange – innovation.TV, the feed (UK), le collectif (France), as well as live.orange.com and very soon orange inside which will be available directly on the main orange.com portal (see our major trend devoted to curation). Not to mention the Orange Business Services blog which I created more than four years ago. These sources of information are now part of our communications landscape, are no longer seen as a gadget, and are directly incorporated within the enterprise and embedded in its DNA.
- Trend number 3: social media has changed the way one hires new employees … for ever
Due to sociological, structural and organisational changes, the good old resume has become largely obsolete. In Canada alone more than 90% of jobseekers are using social media to find for a new employer. There is no reason why employers, this side of the Atlantic or anywhere else, should do anything else either. At a time when Monster is going through a rough patch, one could actually say that LinkedIn has killed the traditional resume and the way that one used to look for a job in the past. I won’t complain about it personally. I have always found degrading the practice of sending one’s curriculum vitae through the post so that it would end up in an unknown anonymous pile of 2000 resumes.
Social media and e-reputation now enable employees to “sell” themselves online, without having as if they were brands. Eight years after its release, LinkedIn is now slowly but surely becoming the world’s online and rich media resume. To a large extent this changes the way companies too are using social media, and the impact on HR strategies being driven by digital and how they attract new candidates is of paramount importance.
Tools like LinkedIn, Viadeo, Xing and Vkontakte in Russia and even Facebook are becoming unavoidable.
- trend number 4: curation (in the noble sense of the term) can become a major asset for companies which are into content marketing
“curation”, is not a term of which I have always been fond. In the beginning, curation very often meant that people would actually steal your content using RSS feeds not quote the author and plonk the content back into their own blogs or platforms, without having to pay tribute to anyone. Whenever you came back to them they would answer something like “Oh! there is nothing I can do about it, this is just the platform you know; it’s automatic!” Even though the statement was feeble, there was indeed very little you could do about it. However, may be with a little help from the Google penguin (and before Panda) algorithm, one managed to do away with most of content aggregation platforms, and now original content is back on the agenda; content producers can at last reap the harvests they have sown. As a matter of fact, certain platforms have either disappeared or been taken over (like summify which was taken over by Twitter and for which new user registrations are now closed) while others have matured considerably. I would for instance dwell on the scoop’it platform, a Franco-American start-up, which has always taken great care at promoting original content through its curation technology rather than steal it. In early June 2012, Orange will release a new curation platform powered by Scoop’it in order to fuel is brand-new inside orange dynamic site. There will be a dual stage curation process on Insife Orange : first aggregating internal Orange content throughout the world (23 different RSS feeds) and second proposing external content curated by the team. Platform will be available at inside.orange.com.
- Trend number 5: beyond the fan page
a year ago, I was already announcing that the future would not be for brands to develop bigger and bigger and bigger fan pages, even though some analysts are still stuck with a measurement of the number of fans on brand names therefore triggering a silly Market definition in B2B and B2C - The very notion of "market" is at the heart of any marketing approach. A market can be defined... for which customers pay very little interest. Engagement rates on these fan bases are smaller and smaller, and the bigger the fan base, the smaller the engagement rate. With the advent of Facebook timeline, discussions are now even less visible on brand fan pages. The future will be about the capitalisation on such discussion platforms in order to create second to none content, which readers would want to share on their own spaces. This has now become reality on most content websites which already incorporate what is now known as Facebook opengraph and Facebook connect (not to mention Twitter and LinkedIn connect etc). Sharing buttons are now trivial and are not even part of the debate any more. Even though it has taken us a little bit of time to implement it (in fact we didn’t just change the website, we overhauled the entire platform), this vision is really central to the new orange.com website which we will release at the end of May, as well as it enhancements in mid June.
- 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.