Maturity is Next Business Cycle for Social Media

Date:   Monday , January 02, 2012

Up to this point in its young, hyperactive lifespan, social media has been all about growth. I expect a bit more maturity in the coming year. Maturity is what I see as the next business cycle for social media, as brands move from generating fans and followers to find the reasons why they have a digital affinity. Social media brands will no longer be satisfied with "like me" and "follow me." They will want consumers to tell them why theyíre following and they will measure how often they are engaged.

With half of the total U.S. Internet audience (comScore, Sept. 2011) visiting a social networking site in any given day, brands have been focused on generating "likes" and connections, building an audience and increasing their reach across various social mediums. In 2012, the focus will now be on engaging this audience and content marketing. The brand is no longer just a buyer of media, but is now in the business of creating content that builds engagement and creates a dialogue with their audience. This is an important brand trend and one that marketers will start to aggressively focus on.

Letís look at some numbers that support this. According to Nielsen, 53 percent of active adult social networkers follow a brand. The growth for brands and the need to monitor the ever-volatile customer behavior was brought into focus by comScore in a late October 2011 report. It showed that mobile social networkers also were likely to interact with brands on social networks with more than half (52.9 percent) reading posts from organizations, brands or events. One in three mobile social networkers received a coupon/offer/deal, with one in four (27.7 percent) clicking on an ad while on a social networking site. This trend will catch fire in the coming months. Brands will need to know more about their customersí interaction on social networks. I expect "social media customer segments" to become a familiar phrase.

The other driving force is mobile access. The numbers around mobile migration continue to be staggering. Consumer adoption of smartphones will be well north of 50 percent by the end of 2012. The crossroads of mobile and social is an exciting opportunity for marketers because for the first time a brand can create a bridge between the "digital" and "physical" worlds. Everything you have been accessing from your desktop will now be reaching you in-market while shopping, eating lunch with friends or at your kids soccer game.

All of which could add up to an intimidating picture, especially for a relatively small start up. But in my opinion, it is one of the best times to be an entrepreneur. Technology is moving so fast that there are huge opportunities to create new businesses and thrive. As far as challenges, if you look beyond the ever-present issue of financing, I think a key hurdle is talent acquisition. Making sure you have the right people, in terms of skill set and cultural fit, is critical. And getting that key person to leave a "secure" job for a start-up is not always easy. It is one thing to start a business and another to operate and scale successfully, this is where I feel a lot of entrepreneurs struggle.

However, if thereís one digital media space that affords opportunity, talent and capital, itís social media customer strategy.
The author is Co-founder & CEO, Compass Labs