Social in 2012: What’s on the horizon for social media in the next 12 months

The social enterprise has effectively changed the way we work, share, and engage; it has impacted many aspects of our daily lives.

In business, I believe the proliferation of social media is the biggest change in the front office in the past eighty years. It requires organizations to constantly re-evaluate how they communicate with everyone from suppliers to consumers and all those in between.

Even though we’re using social tools more widely all the time, we might take another ten years to fully understand the power of social.

In 2012, we will continue to see the rise of the social enterprise. Gone are the days when we could anticipate that our customers would be lining up for our business–– instead, we have to be willing to line up for them.

Many organizations and leadership teams are wondering how that is even possible. How do large-scale organizations line up for those who once sought out their attention?

Lining up for customers means you take the time to actively find your fan base on the social web. And once you’ve discovered them, it’s your responsibility to learn more about their thoughts and feelings towards your product and brand in order to serve them better now and in the future.

Communicating on the social web opens up new opportunities to foster customer loyalty, growing your brand in ways you’ve never imagined.

As the integration of social listening becomes more pervasive in business, organizations have the option of engaging both actively and passively online, first through listening to conversations, and once they’re more confident and familiar with the medium, interacting with their audience. This provides the opportunity to engage with their customers, fostering enriching conversations on the topics of consumers’ needs and wants, as well as their feedback on customer experience and current product offerings.

Up until now, the greatest adopters of social listening have been in B2C (the business-to-consumer space), as they’ve taken the opportunity to actively engage with their consumers. Recently, businesses in the B2B (business-to-business) space have been making large strides in their adaptation as they continue to recognize the opportunities the social web provides for both sales and lead generation.

Social listening solutions show that despite the number of results being returned in daily searches, social does not have to be overwhelming.

Larger organizations have been the leaders in embracing the social enterprise, a trend that will continue throughout 2012 and beyond. These companies have recognized that social media is a viable opportunity to connect with customers in a high volume setting.

This scaling of social across the enterprise allows teams of staff members from various departments to get involved in social, demonstrating the brand is a united front across the social web. Arm yourself with the right team and a solid social strategy, and you’ll reap the benefits of being in tune with your customers.

Another issue that often comes up is deciding who is responsible for championing the social web within your organization. Is a full team required to interact? Or is it the job of only one person?

Embracing social should start with your CMO, someone who has the ability to connect with other thought leaders in the industry who can also help to shape your corporate strategy. Once social listening has been embraced from the top down, it’s up to everyone to take responsibility for your corporate social engagement.

For companies seeking advice for enhancing their engagement in social listening, my biggest suggestion is to start any foray into the field of social with a solid strategy. You need to have an understanding of the goals you’re hoping to achieve and what path you would like to take to get there.

It’s necessary to assess how social listening will impact each area of your organization — from human resources and customer service to public relations and marketing — and then design a strategy accordingly, taking each division into account.

With the rapidly changing pace of social, it is hard to predict where we’ll be next year, let alone in ten years’ time, but brands must embrace this new business communication tool and recognize that their audiences have migrated to online conversations.

We can’t stand idly by any longer; it’s time to become an active participant in online conversations surrounding your brand.

Marcel LeBrun is CEO of Radian6, a Salesforce-acquired company dedicated to social media monitoring, analytics, and engagement for brands. As a serial entrepreneur over the past decade and a half, LeBrun has raised more than $100 million in financing, completed a Nasdaq IPO, and overseen a successful acquisition by a public company.


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