2012 Prediction – Here Comes the Boring Part

Sorry it’s been a while since my last post.  I was recharging the batteries. 

In-between sitting by the fire, walking the dog, going to the movies, etc., I got to thinking about Social Media. 

It’s gotten so … big. 

There are something like 800M folks on Facebook.  Walk away from your Twitter account to grab lunch, and there are 1,500 unseen tweets waiting in queue.  Social Media has even been given outsized (if controversial) credit for powering the Arab Spring.

Crazy, right?  And when you are a marketer? — Unwieldy.

Here’s what Mitch Wagner at The CMO Site wrote today, quoting new Altimeter Research findings:

Big brands are managing an overwhelming number of social media accounts, with an average of 178 accounts per company, according to a recent study. (Altimeter surveyed 144 enterprise-class corporations, with 1,000 employees or more, including Applebee’s, Avaya, Caterpillar, Hallmark, JP Morgan Chase, Newell Rubbermaid, and Western Union.)

Companies launched social media with little planning, and without standardized processes, according to Altimeter Group analyst Jeremiah Owyang. Companies that don’t get control are at risk of abandoned accounts, inconsistent experience for customers, and untrained employees creating a crisis…

“Like a disease, social media proliferation will leave companies crippled — unless they develop a strategy to manage now,” the Altimeter Group said in a report. “Beyond coordination challenges, unchecked accounts and disparate customer interactions expose brands to a host of legal, compliance and fragmented brand-perception risks.”

I wrote about this very issue two years ago.  I don’t bring that up to remind you of my prescience (you should be well aware of that by now –  heh), but as a signal that this situation is getting worse.  Here’s an excerpt from that ancient post:

In the end such companies will have hundreds – maybe thousands – of “stray” Social Media sites/accounts.  Inconsistent.  Abandoned.  Off-kilter.  Hardly any of these independent Social Media efforts do a good job of boosting the master brand, yet all of them are still clearly affiliated: dragging down the brand, calling out the lack of strategy.

This is not a call for control for controlling’s sake; it’s a call for planning for brand’s sake.

So, given that it’s the New Year and folks are prediction-happy, here’s a prophesy for 2012…

This will be the year that brands wake up to the need for a sound strategy for Social Media.  And this will mean tighter corporate controls.  This is the year that “engagement” will start to become boring.

92255455There will be many who shake their fists as The Man buckles down (and buttons up) on this stuff.  But never fear, the genie is out of the bottle.  The days when the last resort of an aggrieved consumer was the Better Business Bureau or a letter-writing campaign are long gone. Social Media is inextricably woven into the larger mediasphere: monitored by brands and mainstream media for smoke signals that will never again be ignored.

Meanwhile, hey, even if the brand marketers start self-policing (i.e., become boring), we can still chat at unprecedented scale with each other.  That part’s fun too.

Posted on: January 9, 2012 at 10:41 am By Todd Defren
13 Responses to “2012 Prediction – Here Comes the Boring Part”


  • Jon Loomer says:

    Good job, Todd. I hope you’re right. The past few years have been for experimentation. Or they have largely been used that way. Brands could get away with it. But they no longer have an excuse for failing with social media. And experimenting with social media without a plan or strategy will only end in failure. It’s no longer 2009!

    Thanks for the post.

  • A thought provoking prediction with wide consequences. I agree with it. This will certainly be the year when social media becomes part of an integrated marketing strategy (the death of the social media consultant?). Part of me believes that we will also see the saturation point of businesses using social media, following a decline in engagement. A bit like the dropping CTRs experienced by online advertising.

  • Chris Brogan was just talking about this very thing in his new year’s predictions. I think we are at some kind of tipping point. Certainly, businesses will begin using more social media enterprise tools… From Hootsuite and Sendible right up to Expion, to help manage the social media firehose. That’s going to be a big step. And planning…wow…what a concept! Maybe they’ll ask their agencies for help like they should have in the first place.

    But as excited as I am about the transformation of pr and social media, I am getting quite concerned about what all this will mean to the end user…our audiences. Even I feel overwhelmed sometimes, and I can carve out big pieces of my workday to fiddle with this as part of my job. I also have tools at my disposal. What will this mean to just the average joe, who’s now expected to have a presence on LinkedIN, Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and Google + as a baseline? And I haven’t even begun to mention the LinkedIN Groups cluttering your email, industry forums, or yelp.

    The growing popularity of platforms like Path, which have friends limited to 150, may be evidence that the sharepocolypse is upon us. It’s already getting difficult to make it into the seen feeds of your page’s friends on Facebook. The continued social media proliferation and growing personal networks will only make it worse.

    If you have some kind of jedi trick to overcome the overload, boy, I’d sure love to hear it…

  • Charles Hall says:

    I believe that newer forms of social media, Google+ in particular, try and help companies manage their social media. Companies with multiple accounts on one social media channel are noticing the negative impact on their followers, as well as the difficulty in maintaining so many accounts even if on one social media site. Google+ and other new social media allow you to have multiple accounts within one group and allow you to regulate rather stringently who can see what which separates it from other social media. Sites like this will be much more useful in the business realm where instead of circle you can think of departments of a company, or different clients, the hangout option allows open video conference, and the user can still have an account meant just for non business social interaction. Privacy, along with control are the future of social media. The first social network to offer both will be the one that will be the choice of companies in the future.

  • Elle says:

    Thanks for this post. It reminded me that it’s something that has been bugging me – this bandwagon mentality when it comes to social media “OMG we need a Facbook profile! Everybody’s doing it! React, react, react!” It seems many organisations don’t ask one of the fundamental questions before signing up for every social media application around: Do we actually need it? And like you said with the genie in the bottle analogy, once it’s out there are we prepared to manage the consequences.

  • David Jones says:

    It’s been moving that way. Clients are regularly coming at us now with the “we need a strategy for all this.” The “this” being the disparate, decentralized social media presences they have across departments, brands, products, countries that they started on their own and quickly spiraled out of control.

    It’s way easier starting with a clean sheet, but bringing some method to the madness will be the true test of all of our social media strategy chops this year.

  • Kevin Dugan says:

    Great stuff Todd.

    Squatting was once the strategy (albeit briefly). As brands got their sea legs and, at a minimum, started broadcasting at some of the sites, it’s started to look, well, bad.

    It reminds me of the “ghost town of blogs” we used to discuss. Or someone discussed.

    So the question becomes, how do you “defend” the brand (which some could argue squatting does) and still create a good first moment of truth? If my brand has no need to be on Flickr based on my research, you could argue no one is looking for them there (no one of consequence to their brand). The bad fmot would, more than likely, not take place.

    I’m playing the role of the client in the above hypothetical.

    On engagement, I am hoping we move along to dyed in the wool strategies too. Hopefully it will better define the word engagement. Getting consumers to get their friends to vote for them in the “cutest dog” contest or other voting related promotions are not engagement.

    I could spin the value of these promotions in educating traditional marketers who didn’t see the value of social. But they still haven’t seen it if that’s all they’re doing.


  • Welcome back, Todd, and Happy New Year!

    This proliferation of social media venues is a worrisome, but not new, dilemma. When the fax machine came into being, suddenly would-be PR practitioners had a quick-and-easy way to send their releases to heretofore unreachable (except via snail mail or courier) media outlets.

    So we developed (at least in the Army where I was working at the time) “guidelines on proper utilization of facsimile machines.”

    Then email wandered along…and we had yet another means of communicating with previously unreachable audiences.

    So we (corporate America) developed “guidelines for proper use of email.”

    Now we have all our new bright, shiny objects that enable us to communicate with and be communicated to. Guidelines inevitably must follow to ensure that what is being communicated on our client’s or employer’s behalf meets approved standards.

    I’m just waiting for the NEXT new “toy” that will throw yet another sabot into our communication machinery!

    Interesting and thought-provoking post as always!

  • The Better Business Bureau, talk about a shake down, bad example of consumer protection. Second I suggest that social media’s genie is only effective in “easy” situations. Here’s one, AMEX, great social service through Twitter when it comes to loud customers whose products redeemed through AMEX rewards don’t work, but there is only so much social media can do when it comes to credit scores and financial institutions that are controlled by software implemented business rules.

    This is the charade, AMEX with its open forum for the social media elite come off as social, but their customer service folks are strictly by the book.

  • I agree with you. Here’s the question though: if social media ends up being largely a response mechanism (referencing the letter-writing campaign/BBB letter), is there going to be enough money dedicated to ensuring that affiliated sites and accounts are tightened up? If social isn’t driving sales in a big enough way–the R in ROI–I can’t see brands sinking time and money into the accounts that are on the periphery.

  • but wait, how do you think those companies got in such a unwieldy mess?

  • It just shows that you can’t disappear for a few days.

    What do you think about a policy including, not only what can be said online, but a requirement for employees to be active if they are going to say “Account Coordinator @shiftcomm Tweets are my own.”

    Too often I see accounts that are representative of their firm even if they write something such as “Tweets don’t represent my business”. I completely disregard this statement. We are a brand and representative of our business even if we aren’t legally bound to it

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