2012: The year of social business


New Media Age have been publishing an advent calendar featuring an industry figure’s predictions for 2012 each day. Here’s mine from day five:

We’ll look at back at 2012 as a transformative year in the history of marketing, a year when social media changed everything.

Big brands are no longer experimenting with social media – they are now taking it very seriously indeed. They spent 2011 getting to grips with it from a marketing perspective, and bringing in specialist agency support. Some have gone as far as hiring heads of social media, which is only accelerating the change.

2012 will be the year of social business, when brands realise that to keep up with their more enlightened competitors and to reap the rewards of social media, they need to properly internalise it. To move from one-off campaigns to always-on conversations, real structural and cultural change is required.

Operationalising social media within companies will often start with customer service, as brands realise that turning negative online word of mouth into positive has more impact on their bottom line than their pro-active marketing activities.

Brands will also learn to listen, and to act on what they hear. Social intelligence and insight will start to be baked into all marketing activity, from it being at the core of their owned and earned media strategies, to it feeding in real-time into their paid media plans. Along the way they’ll learn that it is those agencies that are managing their communities and running their listening programmes are those best placed to create content that those communities want.

We’ll also see brands start to gain competitive advantage by incorporating conversational data into their product development, inventory management and predictive sales modelling.

Ultimately, this will be just the beginning of the change that social media forces upon business. As the Cluetrain Manifesto told us back in 1999:

There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies do about their own products. And whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone. Companies must ask themselves where their corporate cultures end. If their cultures end before the community begins, they will have no market.