2012 will go down in history as a significant year for social media. Facebook went public, hit a billion users and bought hipster darling Instagram; Twitter went out of its way to annoy the developer community; Pinterest exploded but few people could really explain why; and the London Olympics won gold for revolutionizing social media sports coverage but DNF’d by expelling athletes for Tweeting.
So what will 2013 hold? Unlike Danish physicist Niels Bohr who famously said “…prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future,” I’m throwing caution to the wind and present the following big five social media trends to watch out for. The next five will follow in a couple of days.
Time to think mobile first (your customers are)
The only thing growing faster than mobile usage is the number of analyst reports citing the growth of mobile. With more than six billion mobile subscribers worldwide, it is clear that desktops haven’t quite had their day – but that mobiles are becoming the computing vehicle of choice.
Having a mobile strategy isn’t just a nice-to-have or afterthought – increasingly marketers need to think mobile first. And it isn’t just check-ins and Instagram updates – the mobile web is dominating B2B website traffic site too. Businesses need to move forward with their customers as shoppers reach for their mobiles first, changing the path to purchase forever. The age of the mobile app is upon us – it is time to move as your customers move.
Social business won’t wait for marketing
I admit I said 2012 would be the year of social business. Sure, there’s been progress but we’re not seeing McKinsey’s $1.3 trillion in annual value just yet. What we will see, though, is a lack of patience across the enterprise for marketing-led social business initiatives to gain traction.
Human resources, sales, research and development and customer support will make their own social business plays as their audiences demand new and better ways to work with them. The neat cultural shifts that marketers ponder and carefully brand will happen with our without them. BYOD, cloud storage and the app explosion will force IT and marketers to adapt on the fly as their businesses evolve around them.
It’s all social, stupid
Led by Twitter, Facebook and dark-horse LinkedIn, social networks will continue to evolve and offer new content and collaboration services in response to ‘traditional’ media outlets that show a greater command of social media channels.
Niche communities will grow but we’ll also see consolidation as venture capital burns out and the larger media companies acquire social networks and digital properties to grow their share (leading to inevitable hipster outrage). There will also be a greater demand for ROI from social media as big data reveals the actual role social networks are playing in buying decisions (or not). As a result, B2B brands in particular will build custom, on-domain social networks.
Marketing silos crumble
Marketers will be confronted by the dawning realization that their audiences simply don’t care whether they’re from PR, advertising, web or search. We’re talking to the most marketing savvy generation in history who can spot a marketer from 100 yards (91.44 meters).
This means marketers of all disciplines will have to play nice. PR folks who saw advertising as a dark art now must embrace Facebook ads, sponsored tweets and understand PPC. Graphic design and photography skills need to be part of every community manager’s toolkit. An average of eight content assets are consumed by IT decision makers in selecting a vendor. This means our collective understanding of what makes people buy, be it paid, owned, earned or social, is no longer non-negotiable.
Who is my customer anyway?
While 2012 saw marketers embracing the idea of big data, the question remains, is it being used effectively? Ponder all you want, but it will be critical in 2013 to know customers beyond demographics and really understand their behaviors.
We’ll see CIOs rise up in response, with the realization that knowing how to track data, personalizing websites, semantic analysis and so on will be vital in helping companies catch up with their fickle and chameleon-like customers. For marketers still struggling with social media monitoring and measurement, this might require some remedial mathematics. Add to this the complexity of data generated by multiple interactions across multiple devices and platforms, and we’ll need the CIO even more. Content may drive the decision, but data directs the content.