Five trends all marketers should watch in social media in 2011

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New year card 2011 (II)

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Through December we’ve run an informal series on social media in 2011 - trends and developments that we are witnessing at FreshNetworks with our work with clients across Europe. Social media budgets are set to rise across Europe and they are not just in marketing or communications functions. The real shift that has started in 2010 and will develop and mature in 2011 is a move from social media marketing to social business. Recognising and capitalising on the fact that social media has impacts and benefits across a business and using social media strategically where it can have the biggest and most important impact.

The task in 2011 will be for brands to consider where social media can have the biggest impact across their business and how they will adapt and change to realise these benefits.

Here are five trends that we are seeing in social media marketing (and beyond) and that we expect to see more of in 2011.

1) Social media marketing budgets set to rise

Research shows that not only are budgets for social media marketing rising, but an increasing number of brands are prioritising this spend over other media. The truth behind this may just be that spend in this area has moved from being exceptional or experimentation to more regular spending. Or it may be that more areas of the business are starting to see social media as a a core part of their activities. But whatever the cause, overall budgets to spend on social media is rising and will rise more in 2011.

This will reinforce the need to make sure that brands are using social media strategically, and that it is not just being used by one function or team. A brand that is just using social media as a PR tool is almost certainly missing out on other opportunities or ways in which it can help.

2) Location-based marketing should be about more than just vouchers

Location-based tools and services continue to develop and with them opportunities for location-based marketing. If 2010 was the year that these tools developed and were used by more people, 2011 will be the year that more brands use them, where appropriate, in a way that adds value. We should see more location-based marketing and more innovation with these tools.

Innovation means both doing old things in new ways, but also doing new things altogether. Whilst there is a role for using location-based services to distribute vouchers and discounts (of the ‘check in here and get 10% off’ variety), location-based services can and should be used for so much more. The trend in 2011 should be for experimentation and trying completely new things, things that we can only do because we know where people are.

3) The rise and rise of the social graph

The social graph has yet to be used effectively by many brands. We’re seeing some innovation - such as the use of Facebook’s social graph on Amazon.com to tell you when it is a friend’s birthday and suggest books they might like based on their Facebook profile. But such uses are rare at the moment.

The real opportunity for the social graph to bring social elements to an existing website - allowing a brand to pull the best and most useful information and relaitonships from Facebook and other sites to their own site. In doing so they break the argument there has often been between engaging on platforms like Facebook or on your own site. With social graph you can engage people offsite and onsite using the same data.

4) We should all be talking about value from social media

As brands spend more on social media, they will be forced to prove the value they are getting from this spend. This will move us from measuring what can be measured (Twitter followers, traffic etc) and working out how these show benefit, to having to show the business benefit that is being realised by using social media. It may be a reduction in contact-centre calls because you are servicing customers online, it may be an increase in spend per year from those customers you are engaging online, or it may be direct sales you can attribute to activities in social media.

2011 will see brands building models and showing the value that they are getting from their expenditure on social media. We will move from measuring what can be measured to showing value.

5) Social media is not just about marketing

Finally social media has always been about much more than just marketing. It is about communications, public relations, customer service, insight, new product development. In fact there are many areas of a brand that can benefit from engaging with people through social media. And the areas where a brand can realise most value may not be in marketing but in other areas. 2010 has seen increased discussion of ‘social business’ - where social is used across a business, changing processes, products and services to bring more value to the brand and to consumers. In 2011 we will hear much more about social business, and probably less about social media marketing.

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Why we’ll all be talking about the value of social media in 2011

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The debate and discussions about measuring social media, and those about social media ROI, often focus more on what can be measured than on the value that social media is creating for a brand. Over the last few years as brands have been experimenting with social media this is not unexpected. When we go through periods of innovation and experimentation we always tend to explore and discover the new tools we are using. But as social media has become more mainstream for brands, both as part of the marketing mix and more broadly across the business, we need to move from discussing the things we can measure to the things we should measure. From measurements to the actual value that social is adding to a brand.

Measuring and then evaluating the value that social is adding to a brand will be different from brand to brand. They are using social in different ways, across different parts of their business and are used to measuring value in different ways. There is not one solution, a panacea for all our social media measurement ills. Things are more complicated than that. However, this does not mean that we cannot measure the value we are having when we use social media. And as social media has moved from innovation and experimentation to more mainstream we need to take a more mainstream approach to value. And we need to talk about what we are measuring and the value social is creating.

There are many things that are not examples ‘value’ from social media - a large number of followers on Twitter or Likes on Facebook for example, or a large number of visits to an online community. Such things, whilst easy to measure, are not, in themselves, examples of business value. It is relatively easy to get more Likes of your brand on Facebook (running Facebook advertising being one obvious example), and this may open up more people you can broadcast your messaging to via their wall, but business value comes not from having Likes, but from what these people do for you. Brands and social media agencies need to talk more about this, about what their social media is doing for them and the value it is adding.

Now that social is a mainstream part of business, value should be expressed in more mainstream terms. We should be talking about things such as a lowered cost of new customer acquisition, and increased lifetime value of customer, a reduction in average customer serving costs, increased customer satisfaction, or greater brand awareness. We should be talking about actual value to the business rather than social media measurements. We should be talking about why we started using social in the first place and the impact it is having across the business

There are many things we can and should measure, but in 2011 the conversation will be about the value social is adding to a brand. Brands should be talking internally in these terms and they should expect any social media agency that works with them to be talking in these terms too.

This post is part of an informal series: Social Media in 2011.

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Location-based marketing should be about more than just vouchers

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Facebook Deals in Times SquareWith the launch of Facebook Deals in the US in November and its imminent launch in the UK, the opportunities for brands to engage in location-based marketing are growing and set to grow more in 2011.

We’ve already looked at the ways in which marketers can use Facebook Places, and the ways in which location-based services can add value to both consumers and to marketers. But with the launch and growth of Facebook Deals, we will see a rapid growth in use of these tools by brands. And, with luck, a growth in marketing innovation - using location to do things and engage with people in ways that have not previously been possible.

But there is a danger that marketers may not move beyond the use of location to target vouchers, discounts and coupons. That would be a real shame.

Facebook Deals and Foursquare lend themselves to easily provide discounts based on a consumer’s location - a voucher for checking in, a discount for checking in a fixed number of times, a group discount if you check in with your friends. All of these are possible and would be of interest to brands. Taking a tactic that is already used offline and both moving it online and bringing in the location element. But this misses out on the real opportunities for brands to experiment with location-based marketing and to engage with consumers in new ways.

Successful brands will be experimenting sensibly with social media in 2011 as part of their social media strategy. And location-based marketing should be one area for innovation. Rather than just discounting or offering vouchers there we will see innovations in how brands are interacting with consumers. They may be allowing consumers to leave a ‘wish list’ in shops for friends - dropping their wedding list in a department store for others to find when they are there, or leaving their virtual birthday gift list in stores around town through location based services. They may allow customers to sort reviews and find services based not just on what is closest, but what others, people like them, or their friends, think of them. Or they may allow consumers to keep a record of when they have visited a location (maybe a gym or swimming pool) and the activities they did when they were there as part of a training diary.

Location-based tools offer a new way to engage with customers. And the successful brands will be innovating with these in 2011. Vouchers, discounts and coupons are just one thing they can be used for. But the best brands will do so much more.

This post is part of an informal series: Social Media in 2011.

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Brands 50% more popular than celebrities in social media

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Internet users in the UK are more likely to follow brands in social media than they are to follow celebrities. A study of over 1,000 internet users (by the IAB, Opinion Matters and RMM) found that whilst only 13.4% of users follow celebrities, more than one in five (20.3%) follow brands. Brands are, therefore more than 50% more popular than celebrities in social media. This is good news for brands and shows the benefits they can get of using social media and using it well. But it also reinforces the importance for all brands of getting a social media strategy in place.

The research also showed than more than one in eight UK consumers have given feedback to a brand or organisation in social media. That is more than half of those who say they are following a brand in the first place and shows that, when consumers are following brands in social media, they are also likely to interact with it.

Another way to ‘interact’ with a brand in social media is not to follow it or to give it feedback directly, but to complain about it in a public arena. The survey found that 7.7% of UK consumers had done just this and in 40% of cases brands had responded rapidly to these complaints and comments. Getting your social media monitoring in place is important for brands as it helps you to find and, if appropriate, respond to mentions and such complaints. The research also shows the benefit of brands monitoring and responding like this - almost four out of every five (77.8%) people who were contacted by a brand were left with a positive feeling about the brand.

So consumers are more likely to follow a brand than a celebrity. Of those who follow a brand, more than half will interact with it and give it feedback. Consumers are also complaining about brands and organisations through social media, and those who receive a response from the brand through the same medium and highly likely to leave with a positive feeling about that brand.

In an environment where we know that most people will happily consume, and be influenced by, discussions and comments. The number of UK consumers actively discussing and feeding back on brands in social media is relatively high, and underlines how critical it is for all brands and organisations to address how they are using social media and to make sure they are using it in a way that makes sense for them, and adds value to them as well as to their audience.

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Consumers in brand communities 71% more likely to purchase (Universal McCann)

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Universal McCann have just published Wave5 of their Social Media Tracker. It provides a great snapshot of social media usage from around the world. The overall report is useful for brands and social media agencies alike and provides particular insight to people planning multi-national soial media strategies.

Among other things, they asked internet users if and why they join brand communities (see diagram below). And found that those who had joined brand communities were 71% were more likely to make a purchase as a result.

This backs up what we have found with clients in a range of industries and shows the power that online communities can bring to brands.

Why people join brand online communities (McCann)

Why people join brand online communities (McCann)

The report is well worth a read and is Required Reading from FreshNetworks this week. You can find a full version to download here.

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