Ever been sidelined with a tough social media question in your monthly board meeting? Or hop on the phone with a client and get hit with a few doozies you wish you'd been prepared for? Questions about the social media industry, where it's been, and where it's going are the stuff for experts -- and in your job, you're the social media expert. So to help prepare you, HubSpot and Who's Blogging What got in touch with 8 of the industry's best and brightest to get their take on some of the high-level issues social media marketers are facing.
We asked them one question: What surprised you about social media in 2011, and how did it affect your planning for 2012? Their responses brought to light some important issues for social media marketers this year that we think you should know. For a condensed one-sheet of their answers, download the visual pictured below here (as well as other pearls of marketing wisdom from industry experts!). We've also taken their insights and broken out what we think you should know about the issues they brought up. Take a look at their answers to the question below, and get up to date on the tough social media issues they brought up in which marketers should be well versed.Pin It Pin It
Seth Godin on the Ebbing of Privacy
"I think the relentlessly ebbing of perceived privacy is happening faster than most people thought it would. This is leading to both small pockets of frustrated, trapped people who are afraid of what's known about them, and a larger portion of the population that's redefining what they think is normal. We haven't had privacy for decades, but the social web is making that really clear." - Seth Godin, Seth's Blog
Marketer's Takeaway: A key part of Seth's insights is the phrase "perceived privacy." He's right. We haven't had privacy for a while now, but as consumers get more savvy -- and use social media more frequently to interact with brands -- businesses are also being forced to reckon with their role in protecting consumers' data and information.
What social networks do you use in your business, and for what purpose? If you're doing customer service on Twitter, for example, are you operating it in such a way that there are sufficient safeguards for the sensitive information being transmitted between you and your customers? Or perhaps you've developed a mobile app. To maintain trust, the onus is on you to be public about how your app will access and use your leads' and customers' information. When the wool gets pulled over peoples' eyes about how their information is used and then suddenly, at some point in the future, they become aware you weren't playing by the same rules -- that's when you lose the trust of the social fan base you worked hard to acquire.
Jeff Bullas' 7 Surprises
Jeff Bullas of JeffBullas.com noted 7 social media surprises from 2011:
- In July, Google+ launched, a new social network that no one apparently wanted. It reached 25 million users in less than 30 days.
- Facebook rolled out a stronger visual format for its user interface with its much more engaging "Timeline."
- The rise of the micro-blogging platform Tumblr (10 million to 90 million users in 12 months).
- The explosion of the social apps on Facebook.
- Popularity of the infographic.
- Revival of Stumbleupon.
- The emergence of the visual online pinboard, Pinterest.
Marketer's Takeaway: There are tons of new social networks popping up, old ones fading into oblivion, and sometimes -- making an unexpected comeback. On top of that, there are new developments -- Open Graph, new page structures, the emergence of dedicated brand pages, new ad platforms -- that make a marketer's life feel infinitely more complicated. But not every marketer needs to be on every social network. And not every feature needs to be utilized on those you are using, either.
You should, however, experiment with new networks and features, even if they don't seem immediately applicable to your brand or industry. Take Pinterest, for example. It seems like a B2C marketer's playground, but B2B brands have found success there, too, including your very own HubSpot. So while you should pick and choose what's right for your business, never discount a social network or its features without running an experiment first.
Linda Bustos on Google+
"I have to say Google Plus. I notice that retweets of my blog's articles are down since its launch, understandably, especially since Google Reader removed other sharing options in favor of the Plus button. This poses a couple of challenges -- can I compare today's Twitter engagement scores to last year's? How do I reconcile this in my social analytics? Do I need to invest as much time in this new network as Twitter? Is it the same audience? Is doubling up tweets/shares going to hurt my social networking efforts? I'm also surprised that there's room for another social network. This and new sites like Pinterest show us there's still room for new social networks, provided they offer something Twitter and Facebook don't." - Linda Buston, Get Elastic
Marketer's Takeaway: Be an integrated, agile inbound marketer. All of these social media changes happened in one short year. If you're not willing to adapt your tactics, or you're relying too much on any one tactic, you could find yourself with a serious traffic and lead shortage based off of just one platform update. That's too little control for a marketer.
Instead, marketers should diversify their traffic and lead sources, and integrate them with one another. If you haven't already, begin integrating your email and social media, blogging and social media, PPC and blogging, and everything else. If you stay agile and integrated, when one feature or network begins to underperform, you won't be left treading water (or drowning). That gives people like Linda the ability to run experiments around the questions she raised -- pose a question, formulate a hypothesis, run the experiment, analyze the results, then iterate. Great agile marketers aren't afraid of failure -- just standing still!
The Value of Split Seconds With Kyle Lacy
"I wouldn't say I'm surprised by the advancement of tools like Tumblr, Instagram, and Facebook. We are moving to a world where the split second capturing of a memory is more important than taking the time to write a "post." It is up to us, as marketers, to develop systems that fully enable a consumer to speak with our brand. I'm looking for 2012 to be the year of integration and interactive marketing hubs that will fully utilize and deliver social." - Kyle Lacy, ExactTarget
Marketer's Takeaway: We're all getting better at setting up a social presence that lets consumers speak with our brand, but what Kyle hits on here is that we must set up systems that "fully enable" that conversation. 80% of success isn't just showing up with social media. We must all become expert social monitors, and not shy away from social media automation when used correctly. We have two blog posts that help you understand when to automate your social presence, and when it is right, how to automate social media correctly.
Sarah Worsham Taken by Mobile
"How fast smartphone adoption has been, and how people are using them (e.g. for checking prices in store, connecting to their friends all the time, etc.)" - Sarah Worsham, Sazbean Consulting
Marketer's Takeaway: 2012 is the year to go mobile. Smartphone users are set to increase to 107 million this year from 90 million in 2011; ereader users will increase from 33 million in 2011 to 46 million; and tablet users will jump from 34 million in 2011 to 55 million. On top of that, mobile browsing is steadily rising, and those consumers know exactly what they're looking for when they're doing it -- things like store hours, price comparisons, reviews, and coupons.
All marketers should be optimizing for mobile. But if you're running a local or brick-and-mortar business, it's paramount to your success that 2012 be the year you go mobile. That means you should optimize your site for mobile browsing, optimize your emails for mobile consumption, experiment with mobile apps and mobile advertising if it's relevant to your business, and get started with mobile SEO, too.
Ian Lurie Ties Social and Analytics
"I'm still more surprised by everyone's failure to connect social media to indirect value contributed to their company. I just can't get my head around why folks find it so difficult to equate online customer conversations with offline customer conversations. We've invested a lot of time and effort (and money!) in better social media analytics, so that we can better close this loop." - Ian Lurie, Conversation Marketing
Marketer's Takeaway: Many marketers assume social media is important to their company, but it's a common struggle to justify the resources they're putting into it -- especially to a CMO who's more comfortable with old-school tactics. That's why inbound marketers need to invest in closed-loop analytics to help track leads from their point of first conversion through to the moment they become a customer. When you can look back and see documentation that not only did social media definitely contribute to a new customer, but that it also brings in new leads, you'll have an easier time justifying your social media marketing program.
Sharlyn Lauby Incorporates New Social Networks
"What surprised me most about social media in 2011 was the meaningful emergence of so many social networks outside of Facebook and Twitter, such as Instagram, Foursquare, Pinterest, and, most notably, Google+. After what seems like countless failed attempts at social by Google (Buzz, Wave, Orkut, etc.), Google+ is already enough of a hit to force marketers to leverage, if only for its search implications. Our 2012 planning therefore will include a plan for all clients on Facebook, Twitter & Google+, as well as other emerging social networks as needed." - Sharlyn Lauby, HR Bartender
Marketer's Takeaway: The incorporation of Google+ into organic search is a controversial but undoubtedly important aspect of the social media changes from late 2011 and early 2012. Regardless of your opinion of every other facet of Google+ as a social network, if SEO is important to you, you'll be hard pressed to totally ignore it if you're trying to implement an organic search program without any holes. If you're leveraging Google+ to improve your organic search presence, we've written a Google+ SEO guide with some tactics that will help you do it.
Priit Kallas Now Believes in Just One General Purpose Social Networking Site
"Failure of Google+ launch. This has confirmed my belief that there can be only one general purpose social networking site with a little activity on specialty sites like Twitter and LinkedIn. So, when planning, concentrate on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and verticals." - Priit Kallas, Dream Grow Social Media
Marketer's Takeaway: Speaking of Google+, the new social network's launch has confirmed Priit's belief in one general purpose social network, flanked by several niche social networks. This is absolutely the way social media usage appears to be going. In research published on the very subject, eMarketer researcher Kimberly Maul notes, "Many internet users are turning...to social networks that offer a more focused experience than Facebook. In the case of several popular or up-and-coming sites, this means giving users the ability to express themselves."
Marketers investing in their social media presence should invest time in personalizing the experience for fans and followers. Using Google+? Set up persona-targeted Circles. Using LinkedIn? Target your product tabs to a customized audience. Dedicating time to Pinterest? Make boards that appeal to all of your audience, not just one segment. The more personalized you can make your social experience, the more you'll get out of the investment you put into the social networks that end up being right for your audience.
What are some of the toughest social media questions you face? Share your challenges (and solutions, if you like!) in the comments.