A good friend recently asked me a few questions about social media in 2012 and what I foresee in 2013. So I thought I’d share my replies here.
1. What is the one to two most surprising things that happened in social media in 2012 (not the flop of the Facebook IPO)?
Despite the fact that social media, as a topic, dominates tech news, many CEOs still don’t see or understand the value of social media. While surveys suggest that CEOs are increasingly “warming up” to social media, it’s surprising to me that most CEOs do not see it as a strategic part of business. Except for leading social brands like Salesforce, Intel, and IBM, most companies still relegate social media duties to interns and entry level employees. Instead, executives should be hiring and/or consulting social strategists on how to approach and engage in social to benefit the business.
2. What is your most bold prediction for social media for 2013? What will we be reading about at the end of the 2013?
In 2013, leading social brands will start seeing monetization via social media channels. Most social practitioners argue that social ROI is mostly about brand awareness and customer loyalty. While I agree with that, I also think that smart companies in 2013 will begin implementing solutions, programs, and analytics that demonstrat sales attribution and acquisition via social media.
3. What is the secret to Pinterest? It grew over 5000% this year, but what kind of companies does it make sense for?
Pinterest led the way in underlining the importance of VISUAL content. Given the crazy amounts of traffic we see online in general, people have very short attention spans. So visual content is the quickest way to get someone’s attention. The importance of visual content has now permeated all social networks, with statistics demonstrating that social posts with images see higher impressions and engagement. So any company that can show a visual representation of their product and customer can do well on Pinterest. That said, I think Pinterest is most effective for B2C companies.
4. What is the biggest thing we learned about social from 2012?
The biggest lesson in 2012 about social media is that it has become a pay to play space. Frankly, the number of followers you have is no longer an indicator of how many impressions/eyeballs see and engage with your messaging and content. Social activity and traffic are so high that people’s feeds refresh at light speed. The solution is to pay, e.g., Facebook promoted posts and Twitter promoted tweets, to make brand content sticky, i.e., promoted posts stay at the top of people’s social feeds, ensuring a brand’s post will be read and increasing the chances of user engagement.
I’ll cheat here and add a second big lesson from 2012: social media and SEO are inextricably connected. The biggest evidence in three words: Google Panda and Penguin. In a nutshell, social media links and engagement significantly affect a website’s search rankings.
5. What was the biggest disappointment about social from 2012 that you hope will be realized in 2013?
Social media IS Big Data. Social profiles and activities hold a wealth of customer data. This has been a well-known fact in 2012, and yet brands have not amassed, organized, and implemented social user data in intelligent and strategic ways. A number of technical solutions have emerged to help companies understand product sentiment, marketing effectiveness, predictive behavior, and much more. Such technologies include Radian 6, Dataminr, Informatica, and Causata. My hope is that these solutions will be leveraged in 2013 so that brands can make make effective decisions based on social customer data.