note: this is the unabridged version of a post originally published at http://bnet.co.uk of which I am a regular contributor
2010 will be year 6 of the Social Media era (née Web 2.0). Needless to say that 6 years is a long time in the Internet business world. For those who can remember those days, it more or less fits in with the time at which the Internet started to be really popular (if we assume that we first heard about it in 1994 and that 2000 was the most exciting moment of all). Both moments are similar in a way, and at the same time very different, because this time there is no financial bubble, or at least, if there is a financial bubble, the Internet has got nothing to do with it. This is why 2010 is going to be the year of Social Media, the moment at which expectations are going to be at the highest, usage is about to peak, and those who know how to use it will reap the harvest they have sown (and those who haven’t will start regretting it).
Other signs are unmistakably showing that this is going to be so: I can hardly bump into a marketing manager these days without him talking to me about social media even though he might not know much about it. This is a clear signal. At the same time, this will also be a challenge, a time in which social media experts will have to be even more careful about their code of conduct.
Here are my top 10 tips for you to prepare for this Social Media tsunami:
Tip No. 1: hold on to your code of conduct
As social media moves into the mainstream, there is going to be a huge risk for traditional marketing managers to seize this opportunity and try to recycle old recipes which already stopped working a long time ago. At best, traditional methods will lead to failure when transposed to social media; at worst, there will be attempts at “infiltrating social media”. As I have pointed out many times, this is an absolute no-no. More than ever, it is time to remind people of the fundamental rules of disclosure, of which Andy Sernovitz and SMBC are rightfully so fond. Besides, the FTC is now ensuring that this kind of malpractice is made illegal (in certain Eureopean countries like France, “infiltration” techniques have already been deemed illegal, online and offline).
Tip No. 2: structure your teams
There has been a natural tendency to work with limited or even very limited social media teams in the past. Indeed, Social Media initiatives have most of the time been started as grassroots types of projects but they are now endorsed much more broadly and officially by Management. Besides, before moving to the next phase, Social Media had to prove its effectiveness first. Now is the right time to change some of your teams’ jobs descriptions slowly but surely, in order to industrialise what you have just started.
Tip No. 3: avoid social media proliferation and do away with renegade initiatives
As Social Media is becoming more popular, it seems that everyone else wishes to create one’s twitter account. But how many twitter account does a company need? More than once, I have seen such efforts fail anyway, because communities aren’t created without effort and one has – as Tara Hunt would put it – to work on one’s whuffy first. Those who forget about these fundamentals are bound to fail anyway. They will also cause aggravation and havoc amongst social media enthusiasts and there will be a price for this.
Tip No. 4: from presence of engagement.
For the past few years, many enterprises have experimented with social media, even if it only meant that they were carefully dipping a toe in cold waters; whereas it is okay for an enterprise to create content and develop its community online and initiate debates, there will soon be a requirement for them to use social media to move beyond top-down approaches in the very near future and foster community feeling and engagement. Social media users demand engagement and not old-style marketing, as the recent demise of the Eurostar has shown. Once again, this is an area in which well-meaning Social Marketing initiatives could suffer from traditional, badly managed approaches.
Tip No. 5: industrialise video and enforce UGC
More or less every sensible enterprise has experienced with video in the late 2008 and 2009. 2010 will also be the time for us to move into a more mature way of producing videos. Similarly, resorting to UGC videos will soon become easier and easier thanks to the introduction of new generation HD hand-held cameras such as the Flip or the Kodak Zi8. As long as sound capture is improved dramatically though…
Tip No. 6: from video to radio.
As pointed out by Cisco’s John Earnhardt in late 2008 at a blogwell conference, vlogging (i.e. video blogging) introduced a new and easier way of delivering original content at a very reasonable cost. Yet, if videos were easier to produce than blog posts, certainly radio content is even simpler. Mainly, with tools like Blogtalkradio or Saooti [Fr] or for instance. This is even more true for those companies which are spread across continents like Orange Business Services: recording a video with an expert in Sydney and another in Vienna is utmost impossible. Web radio studios make that type of fresh new content available to all; not having the picture is only a minor hindrance. Should we name that rlogging? I’m not sure about that, there is probably a limit to silly 2.0 compound names.
Tip No. 7: get ready for the rise of Facebook in the enterprise
2008 and 2009 have been great years for Facebook. Usage has soared, and their business model is being fixed. There is only one thing wrong with it – notwithstanding its quirky interface – and it’s the fact that Facebook can not be seen behind firewalls. This is not just bad for b2b players who would want to use Facebook for Marketing, but also for b2c players (where do office workers get to consumer websites during the day if not behind their company firewall?). Gradually, US corporations are opening to the use of social media in the workplace. I expect it to happen in Europe as well. Little by little, MIS admins will lift the ban on Facebook usage and this will enable greater reach for enterprises and social marketing. The next step is to then hone one’s social media marketing skills on Facebook, therefore preparing for the future of marketing and learning by doing. Facebook marketing for dummies by Paul Dunay is a good place to start in order to grow these online business skills and prepare for the rise of Facebook in the workplace.
Tip No. 8: Time to get back to the ROI/ROE question:
This is a subject on which we have already touched quite a few times in the past (here and here again for instance), social media ROI or ROE dashboards (I definitely prefer the return of engagement approach because it emphasises these things that weren’t possible before) will need to be created or improved so as to demonstrate a proven benefit. Apart from the traditional and less traditional analytics tools which let you measure visits and popularity, I also suggest social media managers emphasise the amounts of money that they have been able to save thanks to User Generated Content (UGC). As far as I am concerned, my assumption is that UGC has made it possible for Orange Business Services to generate something in the regions of $300,000 worth of content in 2009. I would have never been able to develop that much quality content without social media and the UGC approach. That’s what I call ROE (return on engagement).
Tip No. 9: community management has to be improved and industrialised.
Community management is also high on the agenda although I believe that most agencies and clients have the wrong ideas about it. Community management is in my eyes much closer to old-fashioned application coordination and facilitation than hiring armies of staff in offshore companies to send more or less standardised responses to comments (as a matter of fact, Tara Hunt is even more radical as she declares that she is torn on the question of whether enterprises require community managers at all). Much of community management has to be in-sourced I believe, in order to make it real because clients are fed up talking to robotised helpdesk agents. Social Media should be about real people and real engagement. What is certain is that Social Media teams and the other people working with them cross-organisationally will have to learn by doing as well as get more and more professional about this function which is a cornerstone of Social Media activities.
Tip No. 10: beware of forecasts – including this one – and get ready for changes and innovation … but not too much!
In this day and age, new social media stuff appears on a daily basis, if not more. Yet, shrewd marketers have a sixth sense for knowing when to and mostly when not to jump on a bandwagon. New social media tools are being created every day or so, but it doesn’t mean that all social networks would be should be tried. Be selective, and yet open-minded.