As I enter my third year working for a social media company, I thought this might be a good time to reflect back on a few of the things that I've learned since joining VT two years ago this month, and what I see as some of big trends on the horizon.
Luckily I've been able to work with some of the world's biggest brands as they ramp-up their social media strategies and operations, making the past 24 months a challenging but fun time to be in this part of the Internet industry. So here goes...
- Monitoring to Intelligence: There is no doubt companies serious about social media are more interested in business intelligence than just monitoring. If you want to know who is really understands social media, look at the brands that not only get involved in communities but take what they learn and have a systematic approach to integrate that intelligence across their organizations.
- Content Coverage and Quality: With the rapid expansion of new sources and the growth of communities in so many new places on the Web, brands have to be obsessed with the scope of coverage and the filtering of data into actionable insights. The old days of ignoring single voices is long over and most companies today want a comprehensive way to stay on top of new sources around the world. Smart companies already know who their top targets are, but they want to sleep at night knowing they have as much of the Web covered as possible.
- Dynamic vs. Static: The explosion of interest in blogs and other forms of social media by corporate America is based on the increasing need to have information available nearly as fast as it appears online. Not long ago companies were content with weekly, and even monthly, reports - but not anymore. The need for real-time, dynamic data is the primary reason marketing and communications executives are now wrestling with their colleagues in market research over social media budgets.
- Social Media is Hard Work: Some companies underestimate what it takes to integrate social media into their organizations. What looks easy on the surface - connecting with audiences online - is actually very hard to implement for many brands. Money is definitely moving to this discipline, but many companies still don't have the hang of it in terms of strategy, people and organizational resources just yet.
- ROI Model: It's still a hung jury on the best way to integrate social media insights into existing market research, brand marketing, communications and customer service from an ROI perspective. Half the people I've talked to say it's a new paradigm and should not ever be lumped with existing ways of measuring success, and the other half say if the industry can't slot social media into traditional marketing metrics it's not going anywhere. In my mind, they are both right to a degree.
- Internal Ownership: It's going to take a few more years before everyone figures out that social media crosses all functions within a company, very similar to what we went through 13 years ago when companies were trying to decide who "owned" the corporate Web site. Same thing here. The most savvy brands have everyone from marketing to communications to market research to legal involved. The number of seats at the table is definitely increasing.
- Go Global: Companies are dipping their toe in the water here in the U.S., but increasingly demanding a global solution because they already know where this is all headed. Brands are going to continue to kick the tires of different providers until they find one that meets their needs and it better have a global solution to win.
I hope the next two years are just as much fun.
Tags: social media