ImageLooking Back at 2013 As We Look Toward 2014

After such a tremendous year for us at Social Media Today, I can’t believe the end of 2013 is only eight days away. Perhaps it's also because this was the year we all waited for social media to die as some Nostradamuses suggested it would.  Maybe we got caught up in some of the social failures, such as Lufthansa, JP Morgan Chase, and Kmart; nonetheless, 2013 is almost complete and while it is no longer SOCIAL AS WE KNEW IT, social, in its many forms of networking, listening and community, is not only still here but stronger than ever. Before we say goodbye to this year, let’s mull over a few things that shifted and have us looking toward new social horizons.

I couldn’t agree more with Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff that “behind every interaction on the Internet, we must not forget there’s a customer.” It is not that social media is dying. It’s just no longer driven by one social force such as Facebook or Pinterest; they are simply channels for content creation, interaction, and listening to our customers. The most important thing we’ve learned over the past 12 months is that our customers are socially-driven. But we must get there first and greet them when they enter social places each day—whether it’s on LinkedIn, Google+ or Twitter, or on their mobile device or desktop. It’s up to us to make it a seamless experience for them.

This is just as true in business-to-business and complex sales, where the majority of decision-making is done before a salesperson is contacted.  The only way for companies to enter a B2B conversation with a customer while the decision is being shaped is through content, which is not only "marketed" through social (search remains critical), but in its most effective form rises and is shaped by the conversations and opinions from online (and offline) communities of experts.

Customer-centric is the new social-centric. Social enterprise has to be enabled by seamless enterprise alignment. Remember, the customer is the bottom line. This is going to disrupt traditional measurements and diminish the importance of “shareholder value” as the key metric of business performance. Being able to provide the most seamless customer service will determine how we’re measured and valued.

Tech has moved on from social and is now poised on the bleeding edge of mobile.  As Shel Israel says in “The future of tech for marketers is wearable and mobile," “Disruptive technologies are trying to change the world for the better. The big point is the coming together of them.”

In this recent interview about the book he co-authored with Robert Scoble, The Age of Context, he shared the example of how the average hotel has four computer systems: one for the restaurants, one for the spa and golf course, one for registration, and the fourth is social media listening to relevant conversations.” Israel says that while now those systems are in silos, in the age of context, all things will talk to each other and people, and all computer systems will talk to each other, and data systems will talk to each other in meaningful ways to increase efficiency and profits and make a much better experience for the customer.

“The end result is technologies are going to know us better than our spouses know us,” Israel says. “They will be able to predict what we want even before we know that we want it.”

These are a few main developments from 2013 to take into account so you can put closure to social-centric, and begin to set up for customer-centric social success in Q1. As you chew on the above, I will elaborate on how it relates to 2014:

  •  Customer-driven strategy: After doing face-to-face interviews with 4,183 executives in 70 countries, IBM shared social is now just a business model. Customer-centricity is the new primary business process. For the first time, customers actually play a larger role in driving strategy than the board of directors says Dr. Saul Berman, Leader of Strategy & Transformation at IBM. The digital world of social media and big data, combined with increased customer information and consequently expectations, has escalated the customers’ role where they are helping with not only strategy but also product development, service, sales, and talent recruitment.

 The CEOs that don’t jump on board with this and look to their customers for help will do so at their demise.

  •  Data-driven insights: It’s the end of some measurements, such as Facebook “Likes,” but there’s a new emphasis on “engagement.” I think we’ll get a clear understanding of this in 2014. On the other hand, good-old-fashioned impressions will be the common language to understand paid-versus-owned-versus-earned.  This common ground is also helping to bridge the gap from awareness and conversions.  Our speaker at the Social Shake-Up, Wes Nichols, points out in the Harvard Business Review, “With data-driven insights, companies can often maintain their existing budgets yet achieve improvements of 10 percent to 30 percent (sometimes more) in marketing performance.”
  •  Analytics with budgets and tools for actions: Analytics gives you the opportunity to gather knowledge about the performance of your marketing efforts—but knowledge without the ability to act is useless. It is important to think of the analytics process in steps. Gather the numbers, identify patterns, and develop a conclusion about said patterns. Coming to a conclusion about your analytics will help you to identify where action is required. A webinar with good insights on this process can be found here.
  •  Social selling will soon be the main way to sell: It will separate the chaff from the wheat. A great resource for this can be found on this webinar, which brought together our adviser, Anneke Seely, with Jill Rowley from Oracle and Sandy Carter from IBM for the lastest trends.  But the gist is that you won’t be able to sell without understanding the nuances of content, platform, and listening. The traditional sales structure follows a model of clearly defined roles, segmented responsibilities, and specialization. Social selling necessitates greater flexibility and the ability for all team members to develop relationships throughout the sales process. You’ll have to put in place new team roles and accountability structures that facilitate the challenges and opportunities of social selling. Following up on social leads, fostering customer relationships, and creating a listening environment are a few.
  • Finally, to quote my friend Jeremiah Owyang, “If you thought social media was disruptive, you ain’t seen nothing yet.” With 3-D printing for consumers on the very near horizon, we are on the brink of the most disruptive (a word I don’t use lightly) economic trend in history.  The crowd’s new-found ability to communicate without intervention, which is the consequence of social media, will morph into the crowd’s ability to create the products it needs, and to share those products in new ways that will not involve warehouses, shipping, and costly resources (like oil).

Owyang is evangelizing the collaborative economy through his new venture, Crowd Companies and already 20 far-thinking brands like Intel, Cisco, and GE are on board to themselves collaborate about what this combination of extraordinary technologies combined with social means, and what it will mean for their businesses. 

So my friends, if you thought 2014 was going to be a breather, a time to coast, forget about it. Book those meditation sessions, because you’re going to need them. What are your predictions? Leave a comment here to let us know what you are thinking about as 2014 rolls in.

(And be sure to mark your calendars for September 16-17, 2014, in Atlanta for The Social Shake-Up II. We’ll see how many predictions will be coming true.)

image: social media in 2014/shutterstock