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Happy group of finger smileys 2 (ra2studio/Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Happy group of finger smileys 2 (ra2studio/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

How the social media conversation will change in 2012 Add to ...

There’s a good chance that we will look back at 2011 as a major watershed in social media. The growth rates of established platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn continue to grow and newcomers like Pinterest and Instagram are quickly gaining steam.

Guessing the next big social network or app may be a fun exercise, but it's still just speculation. One thing we can discuss with relative confidence, however, is how social media use across all networks will change in 2012.

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As 2011 concludes, we’re already catching a glimpse of what the New Year will bring. The conversation is no longer about getting fans on Facebook, it’s about finding creative ways to keep them. It’s no longer about trying to think of enough tweets to fill a day. Instead, it is “How can we use Twitter to create positive customer service interactions in real time?” So many organizations have ironed out the kinks when it comes to getting on social media; they’ve got the buy in from head office and have found their fans and followers. The next step for brands is to make the most of their new audiences and to focus specifically on customers, activation and value-add.

Customer

We will see more brands putting the customer at the centre of their social media efforts. Back in October when Socialbakers released their study on customer interactions on Facebook, they found that 95 per cent of Facebook wall posts were not answered by brands. We can assume that a high percentage of these unanswered posts left people with a negative feeling about the brand which begs the question, “What is the value of setting up another avenue for customers to potentially have a negative experience with your brand?”

On Twitter, we’ve already seen Rogers abandon @Rogers_Canada in favour of @RogersHelps and @RogersBuzz in an effort to separate customer service interactions from other Twitter activity, enabling them to better serve customers who are looking for support without congesting their news in information stream. Over the course of 2012, I think we can expect to see more brands do the same.

Activation

Valuable social media management is straying from mundane interactions about the news and weather and moving towards aligning your community with the goals of your brand. It’s less about using social media for marketing purposes and more about finding unique ways to enable your communities to interact with your brand in meaningful ways. The proliferation of storefronts on Facebook is a great example of new ways companies are integrating social media into their sales strategy. The luxury deal company, Gilt Groupe has created a truly immersive Facebook shopping experience with exclusive sales and new releases. Expect to see more companies follow suit.

Value-add

When someone chooses to follow your brand or become a fan of your page, they are doing so based on the assumption that it will be a valuable experience over time. And expectations are rising every day. To stay competitive, brands will move further and further into the role of publisher and content creator. It is not uncommon for brands to create their own content, what has changed is the ability to share it.

The tools to create and publish your own content are more accessible than ever. Moving forward in 2012, brands are able to go directly to consumers by creating their own content, and no longer have to advertise in high-end publications or spend money on content creators.

Gilt Taste, another offering from Gilt Groupe, is an online magazine and market for food lovers. The combination of content matched with products allows them to target high-end food aficionados. Gilt even went so far as to hire the former editor of Gourmet magazine to run it, enabling them to challenge traditional food magazines and offer their audience more than just products. Associating your brand with people who are experts in the industry enables the brand to gain more credibility with consumers and corner the market because of the exclusivity gained.

Check out Hubspot’s various online properties for an idea of the volume of tools, videos, blog content and slideshows that customers will come to expect from leading brands.

It’s going to be another exciting year for social media and it looks like organizations in all sectors are going to have to be working a lot harder to make social work for them.

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