I'm going to kick the crystal ball way 'cross the room. Who in his right mind could have predicted last year that WikiLeaks would become a global brand, or that its founder would be facing charges of sexual assault in Sweden for failing to fix a condom? (Where is James Ellroy on this?) That Sarah Palin would end up with over 340,000 twitter followers? Or that Delicious would die? Rather than make predictions that serve social media in general and our business in particular, I'm going to share with our members, followers, "like"-ers and random lurkers some of what we're noticing as a business and what we think should happen, even if it doesn't.
First, the hugest of "thank yous" to our clients who in 2010 accepted our premise, repeated to the point of annoyance, that in business-to-business the core of social media is online community. And an even bigger note of appreciation that, in spite of every corporate fiber that screams "control," these brave marketing and communications execs were willing to give in order to get. You know who you are, but you work at companies whom we truly "heart:" SAP, Siemens, Teradata, DuPont, Ogilvy360, Bloomberg BusinessWeek and Microsoft. You saw that online banners are not where marketing is going. In many cases, you run vibrant, online communities within your company that embrace social behavior. You also saw what Social Media Today advisor and blogger Jonathan Baskin writes about here in his salient post, "Company Towns Never Work," and what is to be gained by taking a front row seat, instead of stacking, the forum.
A "thank you" just as big to our bloggers, who number in the thousands and with whom, as much as possible, we endeavor to have a one-to-one relationship, in an era when that is getting hard to achieve. You are the core to what we do and to what we are trying to prove: that in today's world, influence equals blogging and blogging equals what we now know as media, and you can forget the "social." The list of leading bloggers to whom we owe special recognition is too long, but includes some of the brightest minds in social media, CRM, customer service, data management, business intelligence, environment, energy, government, corporate management, global communications....
Because we believe that "bloggers have to eat, too," and so do busy curators like us, we'd like to propose that in 2011 there be a greater recognition that social media be truly accepted as the central communications mechanism for the global, 24/7 neighborhood. That means--surprise!--that social media receive the BULK of marketing spend, and not just the part that goes to pilot projects. ("We'll see what sticks.") If anyone out there still needs case studies, call me.
We'd also like to try out an even less predictive idea on you. That social media is "media." Remember the notion that is found in the Bill of Rights that has to do with "freedom of the press?" Bloggers are the press, and many leading companies began to realize this in the past year (SAP has been a leader in this regard, of course) but there still need to be more "honest brokers" between these disparate creators of thought and dispensers of information and those companies who profit from their toil. I'm very interested to see if Forbes, for example, will be successful in the business press in bringing more bloggers in from the cold, or if AOL, which has achieved some success in business-to-consumer promoting the best of blogger content, can make this work on a mass scale. But I will go out on a limb to predict that, while we agree with Tom Foremski and others that in today's world "every company is a media company," big enterprises primarily interested in their making and distributing widgets successfully will not be replacing The New York Times anytime soon. And who knows what the New York Times will be once it goes behind its pay wall?
Perhaps the real issue in social media is quality -- what Craig Newmark calls "the new black." Creating quality in a twitter-timed world is the central challenge, and puts the onus on us to convince big marketers that social media has come of age. Not just by being smart and savvy, but by being good.