2010: The year social media settled down, Part 2
“Everything that can be invented has been invented.”
Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899
I predict that in January you will be awash in predictions, about all sorts of things. We might do that here, too, so stay tuned. But as 2010 winds down, I thought I’d revisit some predictions I made about this year, in the post, “2010: The year social media settled down, had kids, and became boring (but earned a steady income).” I didn’t make any floaters like poor Commissioner Duell’s, but a bit of critical retrospection is worthwhile.
First, I’d say I got the title half right. I think social media began to settle down and give us useful products, but it’s not earning a lot of money yet, and certainly not yet boring. In fact, after an additional year marinating in the hype and thinking about what’s next, I think it’s fair to say there remain some really great innovations and surprises next year, not just in the technologies that emerge, but also in the interesting ways we will put them to work—for ourselves, our organizations, and our communities. And here’s a year’s worth of stories that lead me to believe that: Copy this link and subscribe to it in your RSS reader.
More in the mea culpa column:
- I said “[s]ocial media is not unlike every previous communication innovation.” Well, yes and no. That was pretty equivocal language. It’s like every other major innovation in that each changes everything after. I just didn’t see everything changing. Now I do. But, insofar as we are adapting social media to serve human desires and needs even better, it’s similar.
- I was too optimistic about standardized practices. Most of us are still trying to figure out what works, and few things are either universal or permanent. That probably won’t change next year, either.
Where I think I got it right:
- Success will depend on each of us (and our organizations, on their own scale) developing sustainable habits. I mean habits and not practices, because really a lot of this requires behavioral and attitude change, not just adopting methods or formulae.
- Social is taking more budget share (duh); I don’t deserve credit for that pearl, but it’s surprising how fast the share is growing. Some estimates put budget share percentage (in aggregate across industries) in the high teens or even twenties: not too shabby for a medium few took seriously until two or three years ago.
What we will still be talking about next year (predictions!):
- Social media ROI. OK, the simplest way to look at this is, “Investment” is measured in dollars, so “Return” has to be shown in dollars. This gives two alternatives: a) find a way to do that, or b) change the question. I’ve seen a lot of approaches to this, many of them good, so I vote for both approaches. It can be done, but it requires just about everyone to change or expand their expectations and ways of thinking. We simply need ways to show we’re not wasting time, period.
- Who “owns” social? This has turned out to me to be the most interesting question. For agencies like mine, it has seemed to be either advertising, marcomm, pr, or so-called “digital agencies”; our client organizations wonder if it’s marcomm, pr, legal, product, customer service, or (gasp) IT. They’re all wrong. Like some very bright person said at a digital media conference I attended this fall (I can’t remember who or which), that’s a like asking who in your organization owns telephones. The organizations that understand the implications of new digital and social strategy are not asking that question. And some agency people like ourselves are thinking about how we will serve those organizations in the future. (Hint: it won’t be by hiring a bunch of 23-year olds to tweet for them.)
Some solutions will never be certain, some practices never quite proven. Such mysteries provide a useful tension between what we want to do to learn, to push the envelope, and what we have to do to prove the value of our efforts. That’s great, as long as that tension pulls us forward, and doesn’t keep us paralyzed with indecision.
Here’s to Social Media keeping the faith (and on our toes) in 2011. For your reference, some worthwhile reading:
Boston Consulting Group report: The CMO’s Imperative
The Social Media section of MarketingProfs
Categories Digital Media, Strategy and Management
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