Social Media Business Opportunities For 2014

2013 is almost coming to an end and we’re soon going to be flooded with posts predicting the future of social media.

Most such posts will highlight advancements and changes in the technology powering social media, such as how Facebook will improve its news feed and page analytics, Twitter streams will becoming more personalised or whatever else the Next Big Thing might be.

Facebook getting a redesigned like-button or Twitter changing its algorithm for @mentions is all well and good, but they are only micro forces that at most will guide how you tactically execute your strategies.

The things we should spend time to study and shape our strategies around are the larger macro forces that will fundamentally impact our business environments.

Every business wants to push that little red social media button that makes their business flourish overnight. I hate to be the one breaking it to you, but that button doesn’t exist.

It never has and never will.

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What I will write about its a transformation that started years ago and will continue to evolve in the years to come. I’m surprised about the big paradox that exists within many business today when it comes to embracing social media.

Seth Godin was spot on when he wrote and published The Meatball Sundae in 2005. Eight years later brands have embraced social media tactics such as publishing content to Facebook pages and writing blog posts, but I don’t think that’s enough.

After all, many business haven’t really changed very much in the way they do business.

Understanding the Macro Forces That Are Transforming Our Business Landscape

With technological advancement such as high speed wireless internet, mobile devices equipped with internet, cameras and GPS and an ever-growing pool of tools for allowing anyone at any time to publish and consume content in real-time, quite a few big forces shaping the business landscape have developed.

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If your current problem in social media is what and when to post on Facebook, then read this and re-think what you’re really doing and should be doing:

  • Information is available about almost anything, everywhere, any time and to anyone. Google is just a click away.
  • The voice of the customer is increasingly amplified with social networks, blogs and review and rating sites.
  • The internet has enabled direct commerce and communication between consumer and producer, kicking out the middlemen in many industries.
  • Increasing volume of channels, information and noise has decreased our attention span.
  • Decreased trust in business leaders and increased trust in peers.
  • It’s becoming increasingly difficult to hide a dirty secret.
  • The power of many and the rise of the crowd.
  • The rising amount of interest data available to complement traditional demographic data.

And from a consumer perspective…

  • I don’t care about you, I care about me.
  • If you’re going to disturb me, you better have a good reason.
  • Customers rarely love you.

Have you built a social media program that takes into account the above aspects?

The Future of Social Media for Businesses

The future of social media for businesses is to adopt to these technological advancements, not only on a tactical level (read: launch a Facebook page), but on a deep, throughout strategic level, taking into account the specific challenges and opportunities that your industry is facing.

To me, it’s not so much about launching new initiatives as it is to fix old broken things. It’s a really bad idea to treat a customer bad given how easy it is to share things online today:

  • You have time to update your company Facebook page three times a day but not to reply to my emails?
  • You’re constantly sharing how good you are, how much you care about your customers, but you still haven’t fixed my problem.
  • Your staff are not happy at work hence it reflects in the way the treat your customers.

Communication is important, but what matters by the end of the day is action. Without action that addresses and fixes what’s broken, communication is useless.

So what should you really be doing?

Here’s what will really work in tomorrow’s business landscape: overdeliver on your customer expectations, always and in any situation across every department and part of your business.

If you can have it done by Wednesday, say you’ll have it done by Friday. Then, deliver it on Tuesday.

That doesn’t mean answering a tweet in 10 seconds, it means understanding what the customer wanted and deliver something that is way beyond his expectations and making him go “wow!”.

I’ve been in the online gambling industry for quite a few years and when it comes to what the customer wants it’s not very difficult 1) fast payouts 2) great odds 3) fast and secure website.

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You don’t have to spend much time on Google before finding out what customers really are looking for (hint: suggested search). Still, allocation of budgets doesn’t address what customers are asking or looking for.

In this industry it wouldn’t be very hard to create a wow-experience. Yes, it will cost money and you should reconsider how you spend money and what you allocate your budget on. Buying TV ads is not a safe bet, investing in wow-experiences is.

Changing the Way You Work

Taking advantage of today’s business opportunities requires you to change the way you work, how you allocate your budgets, the tools you work with and the way you’ve organised internally.

Boundaries between business functions such as sales, marketing, communication and customer service are no longer as black and white as they used to be.

  • Great customer service impacts sales to a larger extent now that customers are increasingly vocal and amplified with social channels.
  • Communication around your brand is now also coming from your customers and prospects.
  • Marketing is increasingly impacted by the voice of the customer, testimonials, ratings and reviews.

On many channels, such as Facebook and Twitter, marketing, communication and customer service will need to collaborate. This is usually difficult for companies as they debate over in which department social should sit in and how to evaluate it. Those are the wrong questions from the beginning.

You also need investing in the right tools and technologies to support your activities. A powerful social media monitoring and analytics platform that will tell you what people are saying about you, your competitors and products.

A social media monitoring and analytics platform will typically have use cases within:

  • Customer service will use it to identify problematic mentions that needs to be addressed.
  • Sales will be able to identify leads by listening to conversations about competitors.
  • Marketing will be able to better identify industry trends and adjust their marketing material accordingly.

The use cases are manifold, but the most important part is that the organisation is listening, and is able to respond and react to mentions about its brand and products.

It’s up to you if you implement this in your strategy in 2014 or not, the tools and technologies will evolve and so will the user adoption. But the fundamental shift must be technology agnostic.

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