You know you’re still implementing tactics from the first generation of social if you:

  1. Have built a large social audience, but are still scratching your head trying to articulate if and how it’s valuable.
  2. Have fallen in and out of love with social advertising faster than you can say Kim Kardashian.
  3. Are struggling to move from interacting with your social audience to truly engaging with them.
  4. All of the above.

If you answered yes to any of the questions above (and especially if you answered yes to more than one), chances are you haven’t yet figured out how to apply the tools, audiences, and lessons, which emerged in the first generation to realize quantifiable value and ROI.

In the second generation of social, companies will develop the insight and strategy necessary to truly engage with consumers at every stage in the customer lifecycle….and drive customer acquisition, revenue, and growth as a result. 

But first, a bit of background on the first generation:

When social media first hit the scene (MySpace anyone?) it immediately began to have major implications for the way people relate to each other. Suddenly everyone was online, connecting to each other, discussing things they care about (including brands and services), and consuming and sharing information easier and faster than ever before.

Companies saw that the huge audiences that were on these networks, in many cases discussing their products and services, and knew they had to get involved in those conversations.  But they weren’t sure how to do so in a way that was effective without being intrusive, and many were uncomfortable relinquishing control of their brand to the unpredictable, transparent world of social media.

In lieu of the expertise to do anything else, marketers began applying the same tried and true digital advertising techniques to social that they had traditionally used. And it hasn’t paid off the way companies had hoped. 

 

Marketers are realizing that you can’t just bombard your social audience with unwelcome, irrelevant marketing messages. Today’s consumers are savvy, and they tune these messages out without thinking about them.

 

Companies are shifting strategies, especially since May when Facebook began charging businesses to promote posts to the news feeds of users who have "liked" their page, as well as their friends.  The Wall St. Journal published an article, “For Small Business What’s a Facebook Follower Worth,” capturing the implications of the change:

Having to pay for social media puts small businesses at a disadvantage over larger rivals, says Eric Yaverbaum, co-founder of SocialMediaMags.com, a magazine publisher in New York. "They don't have the same amount of money to compete with the big companies," he says. "They're going to have to reshape their online sales strategy or bow out if they can't afford it.”

Recent research by The Incyte Group suggests that, no matter the size of a business, relying solely on Facebook is a mistake. When researching products and services to buy, 81.1% of survey respondents first go to a company’s website, compared with 19.9% who go to their Facebook page—open social networks like Facebook are where people go to connect and build relationships with friends and family, not to research products and services.

The secret, then, for marketers to truly leverage their social audiences for business benefits, is tuning in to customer intent, and talking to them about what they (not you, your PR agency, or even your CEO) are interested in discussing.

Marketers are catching on, learning from the successes and misses of the first generation, leveraging tools, audiences, and insights in a better, more engaging way. They’re embracing the transparent nature of social and operationalizing word-of-mouth marketing using tools like customer communities to bring their customers in one place to share ideas, give feedback and praise, and report problems.

In the second generation of social, companies are beginning to understand that they need to go beyond building audiences and merely responding to customers with canned responses. They must leverage the insights they’ve gained into their fans and followers in order to proactively build relationships with them wherever they are (social networks, mobile, company websites, and in search) about the things they care about throughout every stage of the customer lifecycle—from answering pre-sales questions and providing relevant information, to assisting with post-sales set-up and support, to activating brand advocates, and connecting customers to prospects.

The answer to this social media-marketing conundrum is a lot simpler than we realize. A Facebook like does not build a relationship. Relationships are established over time via trusted networks and human interactions. Facebook has a long way to go. I predict we’ll see brands pulling their ad dollars from social channels and investing in solutions that better maintain the integrity of the customer relationship at every stage of the customer lifecycle.