Since joining Oz I have spent more time digging into the social marketing tools, and thought it would be helpful to create a Gartner style hype cycle of the major ones.  Also my focus is for B2B marketing which will skew my perspective.

LinkedIn – Given this is the most business focused tool , LinkedIn is furthest along in the cycle. Users clearly know how to leverage LinkedIn for networking and prospecting, there are thousands of groups that can be leveraged. People get it. With their recent IPO, I put them as passed the “peak of inflated expectations.”  The logic on entering the trough of disillusionment based on needing better tools to help leverage capabilities like groups and eliminate SPAM. The group analytics are a basic start, but too many groups are flooded with stupid questions, and unrelated discussions. The relevancy Google has incorporated into search needs to be applied here. Of course there is huge potential to leverage LinkedIn more into web sites, CRM systems, customer feedback post sales, and service, etc.

Facebook  – Obviously the visibility of facebook is the highest, although the huge majority  are end consumers. Although businesses clearly understand they need to leverage facebook, most business people I speak to are still trying to figure it out. This is especially true to small and medium businesses, whose facebook pages are mostly one way (from them) promotional posts (I would call it SPAM). Personally, I think the small business opportunity for facebook is huge, however, they seem to be more focused on the consumer side.

Twitter  – Similar to facebook, the mix of consumer and business use has people trying to figure out the best way to leverage twitter.  Although more so than facebook, many people do not get it. Surprisingly, when I was interviewing marketing candidates, although all of them used Twitter as a tool, very few could actually give me concrete details on how their company benefited. Ultimately, when pushed most said, “it helps Google find us”. I personally have focused less time on Twitter, but in last few weeks have learned how good it is to find specific information and facilitate engagement. The engagement piece is what too many marketers leave out, which is as critical as creating content.

Blogs  – As a general  marketing tool, company blogs are becoming pretty mainstream.  I am putting them as coming out of the trough of disillusionment, simply because as companies kick this off they themselves go through this cycle. Starting enthusiastically for the first few weeks – posting regularly. However, after some time, they wonder, why don’t we have more readers, why do not get more comments, etc. Blogging is a marathon, so the key is sustaining great content, and engagement. Obviously, the other tools can be used to improved reach and engagement.

E-mail  – Not much to say here, although dismissed as “Marketing 1.0”, regular e-newsletters, and promotions of content are a key element of your social marketing strategy. Obviously, the response rates, opt-outs, and investment need to be managed appropriately.

As you look at your companies initiatives with each of these, I would expect you will go through this same cycle for each initiative. My recommendation is to pick ones that you can sustain, and then use those successes to add additional elements.

What tools are shooting up the hype cycle? Can someone point out a good post covering “the next big thing?”