If conversations are any indicator of what’s important in social media right now, there are certainly some hot spots. And based on a high level glance at the industry overall for the past year, we can pick out a few topics that really seem to have the attention of the business world, including us.
Here’s a look at just a few of the leading indicators of what the social media discussion entails today (and that’d be over 64,000 conversations just in the last month alone):
Location, Location, Location
Between the crowd-driven ecommerce like Groupon, location-based Tweets, and the badge rewards for applications like Foursquare and Gowalla, location is as prominent in social media as it is in real estate. And while the social wave started with massive, come-one-come-all social networks, business are now particularly interested in finding their focus, targeting their most loyal and local customer base as well as attracting those in their geographically relevant pools.
Why it matters: Geolocation has long term implications in everything from search to social media analysis and metrics, not to mention increased focus in more traditional communication efforts. Global businesses need to understand reach and market distribution on a geographic basis, and local businesses need to be able to fine tune their efforts. Mash location data up with behavioral data, and you start getting some powerful modeling indeed.
Once upon a time we talked about “engagement” as a universal term that meant connecting personally with customers and communities via social channels. The emergence of social CRM has figured heavily into the industry in the last year, evolving beyond simply a suite of enterprise tools and platforms, and more into a mindset or strategy that puts the cultivation of customers and community members – no matter where they make themselves known on the web – at its core. We call it answering the social phone, but the principles are largely the same: greeting your customers where they are, on their terms, and nurturing those relationships for long term, mutual benefit.
Why it matters: Relationship management, in its truest form, is far more nuanced than ever as customers no longer simply gather or communicate in company-hosted environments. And while a good deal of the discussion and engineering (including our platform) focuses on how to tie data together across a business and provide a solid analysis framework for understanding customer behavior and needs, there’s an invaluable and complimentary human framework of listening, communication, content, outreach, and community development that will round out the sCRM space and its business applications.
Measurement & Accountability
First the question was “can we measure social media”, and the overwhelming conversations today agree that yes, we certainly can. Then the question was “how”, so platforms like Radian6 created broader and deeper ways to bring in relevant social data and conduct some analysis around them especially connecting dots with things like CRM systems and web analytics.
Now the discussions center around what, specifically, businesses should be measuring in their own context of goals and objectives, what social data points actually matter in a business context (and how they’ve evolved from more traditional metrics), and how to derive insights and map out plans based on what we learn.
Why it matters: Social media, in its early adoption phases, is more of a cost center than a revenue channel (and in many ways, the balance may continue to sit heavy on the investment side). Beyond just “ROI”, businesses are seeking to understand the impact of the investment they’re making in people, time, and tools from both quantitative and qualitative perspectives. And as social media gains a foothold in an overall business model, companies are very much looking for some direction as to how to tie it into their overall reporting and accountability functions.
Privacy & Participation
The beginning of the social media wave saw celebration of the idea of open networks: anyone could participate, however they liked, and we wanted access to everyone and everything. In the last year, concerns and discussions around privacy and information access have been on the rise as the gleam wears off the shiny social media coating, and we start taking a longer-term view of how social plays into our human networks. In a business context, companies are more closely examining the need for social media participation guidelines and governance, especially in heavily regulated industries like financial services, healthcare, or government.
Why it matters: While we love the free flow of information and ideas that the social web enables, we also want to be sure that we have established expectations, parameters, and understandings about what information can and should go where. As individuals we want to make educated choices about how public our information is, and as businesses we want to be sure our approach to social media is methodical and well-thought (rather than trying to throw a runaway train into reverse).
Social Media Integration
There’s no doubt that social media integration discussions are far more prevalent than they were 12 months ago. And while there are still plenty of conversations around social media roles, campaigns, and ownership inside companies, more and more organizations like PepsiCo, United Healthcare, and Dell are working out ways to wire social media not only into broader marketing efforts, but into other areas of the business like customer service, product development, or human resources.
Why it matters: Social media as a stand-alone entity has a limited shelf life. Much like the phone or even email, communication with customers and feedback from relevant communities drives many areas of the business, and not all of them front-line communication roles. So while vertical adoption of social media can establish a center of operations, horizontal adoption and integration is what will take social media from the tactical front lines and immerse it in the overall business model.
What Has Your Attention?
If you’re a business that’s employing anything from a basic listening strategy to a full-blown social media business approach, what’s your focus right now? What topics, questions, and discussions are top of mind with your business right now?
We’d love to hear from you.