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The Strategic Side of Social Media

The Future Impact of Social Media

Worldwide social media use is growing rapidly. Nielsen reports that today nearly four in five active Internet users visit social media sites or blogs. Additionally, social networks and blogs reach more than three quarters of Internet users across a snapshot of 10 major global markets.

With these numbers continually growing, the question isn't whether to embrace social media; it's "How can I effectively leverage social networks to enhance the customer experience and gain valuable insight?" Moreover, consumer adoption of devices like smartphones and tablets will only continue to accelerate social media use in 2012. As a result, companies must prepare their enterprises for this new reality by developing strategies, processes, and best practices around social media engagement.

Doing so requires an understanding of the most critical social media-related issues that companies will face in the coming months. Four industry insiders predict which social media trends will most impact organizations in 2012.

Daniel Hong, Lead analyst, customer interaction, Ovum
With the increasing penetration of smart, connected devices, we expect to see tighter integration of social media into greater customer service processes among enterprises. This will help accelerate the presence of customer service through social networks and other channels.

As social customer service matures, there will be two developments: one-touch customer service and proactive customer service. One-touch customer service means the customer needs to contact the enterprise only once. For example, a Twitter complaint leads to an outbound call during which the situation is addressed by a trained customer service rep (CSR). For this to work, it requires full integration into intelligent routing to ensure the complaint is sent to the correct CSR and integrated into CRM, and also to ensure the CSR knows who the customers are and the context behind their complaints. In order to place the outbound call, the solution will also need to be integrated into a dialer or an interactive voice response platform.

In an ideal world, CSRs will be able to address complaints from social media before the customer makes an explicit attempt to contact customer service. In doing so, CSRs will solve issues before they become large problems, quelling customer frustration, driving down call volumes and durations, and generating significant brand loyalty.

Realistically, however, enterprises will have to take their lumps experimenting with social customer service. They will have to work out when to respond to customers and how to respond. Moreover, they will have to consider the extent to which such full integration of the contact center with social media is actually advantageous.

The nature and types of interactions on different social media sites will also help shape enterprises' social agendas. We believe that more enterprises will have campaigns and programs for social media-based customer support designed specifically for Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc. The culture is different among social media sites, and how to service customers effectively will differ according to the self-governing rules on these sites.

Facebook and Twitter, [for example,] are the channels where customers expect to be able to reach out and get responses from enterprises. As enterprises begin active engagement, customers will realize that not all problems can be solved through Twitter due to limited character input. However, there will be scenarios where problems are addressed directly through Facebook via chat or private messages, especially given Facebook's incorporation of the HTTP Secure protocol. By the end of 2012, many enterprises will get this and will have embarked on new strategies for different social media sites.

Trip Kucera, Senior research analyst, marketing effectiveness and strategy, Aberdeen Group
When we ask companies about the goals they're trying to achieve with social media, the top goal is demand generation. There are also other high-level ones, which include increasing [brand] awareness.

There are a certain number of social capabilities we see being adopted by top-performing companies. The first is the ability to launch or track a social media campaign. Content-based marketing is increasing in importance in organizations, as well, and is a big challenge that they face. This basically means that marketers need to find ways to produce more compelling content. Content is also how companies are going to be engaging buyers through education. That needs to happen via multichannel and it needs to happen in the social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook, as well as through video.

Companies also need to start tracking social media marketing to solid returns. It comes back full circle to the importance of metrics and connecting social media marketing efforts to tangible business results.... As a result, the ability to pull social profile information into your marketing automation and CRM will be increasingly important as companies start to engage with customers and partners in the social sphere.

Susan Etlinger, Analyst, social media analytics and strategy, Altimeter Group
The proliferation of social data throughout the enterprise will have the biggest impact on social organizations in 2012. The past two years saw a tremendous explosion in unstructured data. Twitter was experiencing 4,000 to 5,000 tweets per second when bin Laden died. When Beyonce showed her baby bump, Twitter got 8,000 tweets per second about that topic. We're talking about hundreds of thousands of data points.

What this means is that companies need to start integrating social data and using it as a listening post for performance management and a lot of exacting insights. This is putting tremendous pressure on companies because of the computational requirements and the immaturity of the tools to interpret social data. As a result, organizations are asking themselves, "How should we value social data?" "Should we staff for social data interpretation and analysis or should we outsource it?" "What kind of policies do we need?" and "What are the legal implications?"

To solve some of the challenges, companies have to formulate a framework for social data and for how it relates to business objectives. Then they need to figure out the KPIs..., and then incorporate that data into their existing enterprise systems.

Chris Brogan, President, Human Business Works
I believe that mobile technology will change things a great deal, with tablets and smartphones edging out laptops and desktops. Offices will eventually shift to accommodate and embrace this.

In doing so, organizations have to align their mobile and social strategies with their business goals. If they need more sales, they can't be sitting around hoping for re-tweets. They have to work to hone the social channel (the human digital channel as I call it), and not mess around with tools just for the sake of using them. 

In addition to the need for social strategy, organizations now have an overwhelming amount of potential research and actionable material at their fingertips. The problem is that it requires some work to sift through, but there are some very big and smart companies solving this right now.