1. Connected Consumers
I think this is the biggest challenge facing businesses in 2012 — dealing with increasingly connected consumers. We’re already seeing the leading edge of responses from retailers like Macy’s and Sears. Macy’s posts QR codes throughout the store providing information and incentives to purchase nearby products. Sears is even more in-tune with connected consumers, allowing them to purchase items online them drive-by to pick them up 5 minutes later.
In 2012, businesses will create competitive advantage through attracting connected consumers and businesses who fall behind in this race may become relics of a by-gone day not vital businesses.
Connected consumers are constantly wired to mobile devices like their smartphones, iPads and laptops. They avoid traditional advertising by not watching broadcast TV or reading newspapers. They’re increasingly unreceptive to seeing advertising messages in the newsfeeds of their social networks. Businesses need to use connectivity to provide social CRM and integrate connectivity seamlessly into the customer experience.
2. Social Media Will Become Increasingly Competitive
Social media marketing is becoming increasingly crowded as more businesses fight for eyeballs in social networks. Innovators and early adopters of social media marketing have become savvy, raising the bar for later entrants into social media marketing. New entrants can no longer expect to see the returns of early entrants and will not be forgiven making mistakes made by these early entrants.
This means firm must quickly learn best social media marketing practices and develop strategies incorporating these best practices.
Firms need to constantly scan the environment for social media tactics that meet the needs of consumers and take advantage of changing social network platforms. The pace of these changes is likely to increase.
The stakes in social media marketing are also likely to increase with leading firms capitalizing on pushing the envelope in social media marketing and lagging firms getting little or nothing from using yesterday’s tactics.
3. Social Media Will Become Increasingly Scientific
Social media marketing is becoming more scientific and I expect to see this trend continue stronger in 2012. Firms need trained experts in marketing, technology, and statistics.. Analytics will increasingly drive social media marketing success. Firms will need people and processes for managing and making sense of a huge amount of usage data across social media platforms.
As content management systems evolve, firms need people who understand not only the technology, but can create optimal user experiences on these more powerful websites. The days of cluttered websites, obtuse navigation, and clunky email integration are over.
4. Integration is the Key to Social Media Marketing Success
Just as I predicted last year, I see integration as the biggest challenge facing businesses and I see integration as a key element separating social media marketing success from failure. Firms must move beyond simply adding share buttons on their email newsletters and print ads. They need to fully integrate efforts across platforms, media, and functional groups.
Customer service can no longer be relegated to a department, but be part of the job of every forward-facing employee. Customer complains on a businesses Facebook wall or Google+ business page can no longer make their way through channels to get resolution. Community managers need to solve problems, not refer customers to another office. Firms need to take their public whipping and move past it to apologize and fix problems rather than let Tweets bury them.
Listening is NO LONGER an option. Firm reputation will be a function of their ability to hear across social platforms.
5. Increased Blurring Between Customers and Employees
We’ve long referred to some customers as partial employees because they take on some company roles without pay. In an increasingly networked society, this trend will explode.
Firms will need greater emphasis on attracting, motivating, and training willing customers to serve as company ambassadors. Rather than controlling conversations, firms need to step back and provide gentle guidance then let customers do the rest.