Doesn’t it seem as though social media has grown from that promising young tot into a hormone-raging sometimes-rebellious teenager right before our very eyes? As any parent who has ridden the wave of similar growth spurts might be wondering—what’s next?
I’m not going to sink into the “hot new tools” debate and predict whether 2011 will see Foursquare’s demise while Tumblr takes on Twitter. No. There’ll be plenty of that already. It’s much more interesting to take a higher-level look at how brands may evolve their social media strategies during the coming year. So here are some things the CMD Earned Media team is looking forward to in 2011.
1. Taming the beast. Most companies have gotten some social media initiatives off the ground and they’re tweeting, posting, polling and checking in like mad. But once these channels have “matured,” it’s helpful to take stock and figure out what they are going to be when they grow up. Have they reached their full potential, have they plateaued, are they languishing or do they simply need to be redirected? Clarity in purpose and solid analysis is a welcome trend for the coming year.
2. The paradox of choice. The social media enthusiasts will always be looking for the latest new thing that everyone flocks to, leaving in the wake abandoned user names and forgotten passwords when those channels don’t turn out to be the new promised land. But for the average users, social media preferences may trend in reverse and steer them to the more common one-stop shop—leaving the clutter of managing multiple, more-niche channels to select audiences. (Read the book—it’s great. So is this article from The Washington Post which ran earlier this year: http://wapo.st/ggW4mz).
3. Ball hogs get benched. Social media was a bright spot in a dismal employment landscape—lots of companies hired social media and online community managers in 2010. The best of them took a team approach and served as coaches to put their company’s best social media foot forward vs. trying to be the singular star player. For example, I particularly admire Cisco’s approach; its social media group helps inspire, guide, inform and educate groups throughout the company to empower them to get involved—making the collective effort stronger than what any single individual could do.
4. Cutting the website cord. Websites no doubt serve an essential and central brand purpose. But 2011 hopefully spells an end to the automatic response that everything ought to be on a centralized corporate website. Building a new site and trying to drive traffic there can be a lot tougher in some instances than simply going where the audience is already hanging out. So with 600 million-plus users, offering a deal or developing an e-commerce site on Facebook might make a whole lot more strategic sense than force-fitting it onto a site. Here’s to this being the year where the website isn’t the foregone conclusion to digital solutions.
5. The year of the influencer. Pitching influential bloggers is nothing new, but building relationships, partnerships and sponsorships with other types of social media influencers, whether they be mayors on Foursquare, local community Twitter celebrities or administrators on Facebook, is virtually uncharted territory. The CMD Earned Media team is squarely focused on this strategy which involves a combination of solid research, pitching and outreach know-how, paid media negotiations and transparency/disclosure. This may be the year brands and realize that their efforts are better spent trying to build bridges with like-minded social media influencers rather than spending the time and effort to become one themselves.
Oh, and maybe this is finally the year we’ll see the end of the 5, 7, or 10 tips, secrets, guidelines, best practices and so forth trend on blogs and Twitter, but somehow I doubt it. So, what’s your top trend for 2011? What New Year’s resolution do you have for your own social media efforts?