It’s that magical time of the year, when we look back and try to make sense of it all. We re-cap, we analyze and wade through the endless ‘top ten list’ links that flood our Facebook stream. In both our personal and business lives, it is the proverbial ‘Summary Season’ in which all the efforts of the past 12 months are quantified.
Now I’ve never been one to dwell on the past, but as a digital strategist I find looking back essential before we can look ahead. This past year was instrumental to brands and marketers in many ways, and in reflection we can see exactly what we need to be ready to tackle in the year ahead.
In 2012 it became pretty clear that social media is now, officially and unequivocally, mainstream. Facebook has nearly 100 percent awareness and nearly 70 percent of all people in the US are on at least one social media network. Which translates into 1.5 billion people who are engaged on a social network. We’ve all been obsessively focused on fan acquisition, so now in 2013 we need to start to focus on offering value for engagement retention; in essence turning the ‘fan’ into the ‘super advocate’.
In industry tales there are distinct phases in the lifespan; creation, expansion, and the duplication/imitation phase. These are then followed by every start-up entrepreneurs favorite phase; the consolidation phase. A casual look back on 2012 and we can see that the consolidation phase has begun in a big way; Facebook bought Instagram, Twitter bought Tweetdeck, Google bought Wildfire and on and on and on.
All brands should take notice that in 2013 as platforms continue to merge there will likely be continual changes to terms of service, privacy restrictions and the elusive return on investment. Flexibility and fast thinking are going to play a bigger role than ever in brand success. Be certain you or your agency is building processes and action plans that allow for nimble adjustments to content and messaging.
Platform diversification remains essential in 2013 since most brands are investing in ‘properties’ they don’t even own, which can quickly become costly (see: Facebook’s new pay-to-promote-this-post-or-else business model). So in 2013 it will become more important than ever that we also create diverse voice for each community. Every social platform needs its own goals, its own KPIs and its own success path to get there. Which means brands in 2013 will need to create clear individualized strategies with distinct voice and storylines for individual platforms that ladder up to the larger brand mission.
Social engagement in 2012 was astonishingly high, including pushing into new areas of growth like visual aggregation (Pinterest), but as 2013 approaches it begs the question - how much more can people really continue to engage? I suspect we are on the cusp of engagement reward models in 2013. So while Facebook will remain free to join, and free to use - we could very quickly see rewards (Facebook dollars or credits towards the new Facebook Gifts) for individuals who engage frequently. Expect others to follow immediately thereafter.
2013 is sure to be a pivotal for all digital marketing opening an era of digital dominant marketing strategies for many of the world’s largest brands. But while brand “awareness” is nice, money is better. Let’s hope that in 2013 we will all get closer to making the connection between the work we do in social and its correlation to sales.
Marcy Massura is digital supervisor at Weber Shandwick.