7 Social Media Trends for 2011

2010 was a tipping point for social media: it changed how we market, as shown by Pepsi’s Refresh Campaign and Old Spice’s viral videos; connected us during crises, notably in the Haitian earthquake and BP oil spill; and it left every firm feeling vulnerable to a PR flare up, regardless of how broad their engagement. In terms of sheer size, 2010 was notable in that Facebook overtook Google in the number of site visitors.

What does this mean for marketers as we enter 2011?

Marketers and, more importantly, senior management need to take social media seriously and to integrate it across their enterprises. It’s critical to understand that social media networks are where consumers and the public spend their time and engage. This is real life where your audience decides if they like your product and how you’re behaving as a company. Be warned that if they don’t like what your firm is doing, they have the megaphones and connections to get the message out quickly to like-minded individuals.

7 social media trends for 2011

Here are seven predictions for social media’s evolution in 2011.

  1. Think social media boy scouts: Be prepared to respond to your customers and the public. Regardless of how active your company is on social media platforms, you must be ready for a social media flare up. In 2010, a significant crisis for BP turned worse when the CEO talked about getting back to his personal life. To this end, build your social media tribe early and have a crisis management plan in place. Further, update it regularly to ensure that you’re able to contact people when you have to. In today’s world, upset customers express themselves to a broad audience, often when you’re least prepared.
  2. Get senior management on board for social media activities. Many members of senior management haven’t bought into social media. Now’s the time to get your team trained and engaged. Have them participate on social media platforms before you have to overcome an escalating social media issue. Ford avoided a social media crisis by participating as an active member of the community not just blasting out one-way messages. Management buy-in is critical to drive your social media activities towards your corporate goals. Don’t overlook the need to educate your senior management and others within your organization.
  3. Not for marketing only! Expand social media usage across the enterprise. Social media can be leveraged to cost efficiently extend the effectiveness of your organization. For example, social media can extend your customer service, human resources and investor relations by allowing a broader group of people to participate.
  4. Protect your firm, your employees and your customers with corporate guidelines. Social media guidelines can be short and to the point. While this may sound like a nuisance, it supports your employees by telling them what’s acceptable and what’s not. It takes away the guesswork. By doing this, you can enable a broader base of employees to participate in social media on your firm’s behalf and enrich your content offering.
  5. Integrate social media marketing into your overall marketing plan. To enhance the effectiveness of your social media marketing, it’s critical to integrate it into your overall marketing strategies. Well-executed social media marketing requires more than a few tweets a day and a Facebook page. Remember, social media is a multi-directional communications tool. You need to leverage other forms of marketing to let your prospects, customers and the public know about your social media efforts. Often this requires marketing and PR support. Further, bear in mind that advertising on social media platforms, particularly Facebook and Twitter, will gain traction and leverage internal information to generate revenue.
  6. Acknowledge that social media isn’t free. While many social media platforms allow users to interact without fees, from a corporate perspective, social media marketing isn’t free. It requires budget (read: money) and resources (read: employees or consultants). While companies are starting to hire social media experts, the real change occurs when they add internal headcount to manage the process and begin messaging from the inside.
  7. Measure social media return on investment. This often translates to having more sophisticated metrics and monitoring tools. One of the challenges of social media monitoring is that it’s time consuming to find the relevant discussions where consumers are talking about your product in a negative way that requires your involvement. What’s important is to determine what you need to track your social media progress towards your business goals. While companies like Klout are starting to emerge in this space, remember that these firms are still in their infancy and need more testing and attributes to determine their true social media effectiveness.

Looking forward, 2011 will be a year where firms continue to engage on social media networks. In addition to gaining support from a larger percentage of senior management, social media will start to get the budget and headcount to compete for marketing dollars for top consumer and business oriented brands due to the increasing ability to track return and follow target audiences. Additionally, increased smartphone and e-reader/iPad usage will fuel extended content interaction.

What do you think of this list of social media trends for 2011? Do you have anything to add to the list? If so, what is it and why should it be on the list? Please include your viewpoint in the comment section below.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

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