Monday, December 31, 2012

Where Social Media Will Grow in 2013 (and Where It Won't)

Social Media has had a terrific ride for the past several years, but the days of easy growth are gone. In fact, the days of easy anything in social are behind us. For many brands, 2013 will be a year of social media disappointment.

With so many consumers spending so much time in social media and expecting so much of brands, our investments in social will continue to grow, but that does not mean our results will grow, at least in easily measurable ways. Certainly, all of our brands will earn more fans, see more comments and collect more retweets, but we all know this is no longer enough--our bosses want to know the business results we are delivering, and fans simply are not a business benchmark.

Success in 2013, more than ever, will be measured in difficult metrics and not easy ones, and increasingly, it will come not just from the Marketing department but from every corner of the enterprise. To succeed in 2013 and beyond, organizations must recognize how social media is altering the way we live, work and conduct business and not just the way we kill time on Facebook.

Here is where (I believe) social will grow and where it will stumble and stagnate in 2013:

Do you think my forecasts for 2013 are correct or all washed up? I would welcome your dialog--both criticism and agreement--in the comments below or on Twitter (where my handle is @augieray.)


Steve Furman said...

Very comprehensive. In general I would align with you. It is a natural evolution of what has been unfolding the last few years. Social Media is but another tool in the brand's toolkit, and the newest and least understood, and for the majority of brands will not be in the top 5 as it relates to business value.

Some brands are just not that interesting and no matter what, they likely will never be. Not to say an occasional promotional moment won't get noticed, but passion usually cannot be mas-produced and is certainly difficult to sustain.

Additionally not all brands use all media. Most brands don't advertise on TV, yet nearly all their customers watch TV.

Mobile is becoming like the web of 2001. It is disappearing. It's no longer a thing. It is part of the fabric of connection. Hand held devices are so popular because humans have a powerful, primal connection between our brain and our hands. The device is the syringe and apps are the drugs. Convergence will continue and the edges between what we used to think about, desktop and mobile, will vanish.

Brands should focus on this convergence, not social.

Augie Ray said...

Thanks for the great comment, Steve. I agree convergence is important, and I like the way you talk about mobile, social and digital being the fabric. I am beginning to think of social like the air--it's around us, we move in it, breath it, cannot live without it, and it's there whether we are aware of it or not.

Still, I think with the growth in social, brands cannot simply accept that they are not that interesting. They have to stop thinking about content strategies to get people talking and start DOING and BEING something that gets people talking!

Anonymous said...

One thing you don't mention is there impact of a single sign on method, like using your FB or LI userid to connect and comment in sites where you are not a member. Also, being able to repost from a site where you are not a member to ones you belong to creates a new dynamic - a temporal social graph across social media nodes. HufPost comments posted to FB pages is a good example

patmcgraw said...

First, thanks for a great post. It really got the blood pumping and the wheels turning.

But I need help with the whole concept of 'social business'. I've heard the term bounced around but never wrapped my head around what the heck it is.

Regarding your examples, giving money away isn't success - getting the loans repaid on time and generating a profit is. And I have seen a lot of start ups with 'rapid growth' because going from $0 to $10,000 in revenue produces an attention grabbing % - but, again, unless you have the same funding as Amazon, you better turn a profit ASAP.

Happy Holidays!

Augie Ray said...

sylviechen, the way people now use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other profiles as a single signon is certainly powerful and interesting, but I'm not sure it's a growing trend any more. I could be wrong, however--do you know of any good data on this?

Thanks for the comment!

Augie Ray said...


Thanks for the comment.

First, as for what Social Business is or is not, there are a lot of different views on the meaning of this term. In fact, I'll admit that my definition (new forms of business empowered by social technologies where consumers bypass traditional providers to acquire more directly from individuals) is different than many others' definition. Too many people, in my opinion, use "Social Business" as a trash can term that encompasses everything and anything social. I see it differently, and I wrote a blog post about this:

As for making money, I certainly agree, but don't overlook that Amazon did not make dollar one of profit for SIX YEARS. Today, Jeff Bezos is one of the richest men in the world while companies that were making money at the time (such as Borders) are now defunct. There can be WAY too much focus on making money today rather than focusing on how you build a business that makes money in the future.

That said, many of the older social businesses I cite are making money already. Zipcar has been in the black three of the last five quarters. While many others are still pre-IPO, there is great evidence that people who lend money via P2P sites are making a solid return. 91.11% of Lending Club investors with 800+ Notes earn returns between 6% and 18%. (800 Notes can be purchased with a minimum investment of $20,000.)

Thanks for the dialog!

Terry said...

Very thought provoking - I am unsure how your example of Zipcar (soon to be owned by Avis) fits into your social business model. This has more to do with the different business model engineered by a innovative company than social. The contribution of social is spreading news about 'good' products/services. New business models will gather pace, simply because it is so much easier to create word of mouth.

I believe that is the ultimate role of social - Facebook and Twitter are just pipes that connect people. Businesses need to learn how to use these pipes just as they learned to use TV, newspapers and yellow pages.

I also agree free posts (Facebook)are a thing of the past - forget Edgerank games - if Facebook makes it easier for brands to manipulate - it dies.

Terry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Augie Ray said...


I agree Zipcar isn't a pure P2P model, but I think it does represent a sort of collaborative consumption. I see these models as a result of our increasingly more social world, even if they aren't pure P2P plays. The idea that I can rent/access something rather than own it is all part of the way digital and social is profoundly changing attitudes.

I don't think Word of Mouth is going anywhere, but I think 1) it's always been with us, and 2) it isn't nearly as powerful a disruptive force in business as are P2P and collective consumption models. The internet changed how we marketed and communicated, but it's MUCH larger impact is in how we purchase items. Borders, Blockbuster and Kodak didn't lose because they didn't get how to launch web sites and use email; they lost because they ignored how the Web was altering human behaviors. I think social will do the same thing to companies that only think social media is impacting WOM and not products and services themselves.

Thanks for the dialog!

Unknown said...

Great post Augie. Very thoughtful predictions and I think we will see many come true. I keep coming back to content which in itself is tricky - we need compelling content to prove what social can do - but we need to be able to prove social's capability and real business results to invest in content creation. Will be an exciting year to see where everyone takes their social programs.

Augie Ray said...

Thanks Vanessa,

I agree content is very important, but I also think it's becoming a crutch to too many brands. "We can't or won't become talkable by creating a great product or service experience, so instead we'll try to get people talking with content."" Obviously, having great content and having a great product and service experience are not mutually exclusive, but if a brand was going to focus on one thing first, it should be product and service.

I think of it this way: How did you first learn about Amazon? Google? iPads? Was it from ads or content? Or was it from friends buzzing about a great new product or service? If brands put as much effort into creating experiences that go people talking as they do into Facebook sweepstakes and content plans, I suspect they'd have a great deal more success.

Unknown said...

thanks for a great article Augie.

Augie Ray said...

Thanks, David. I appreciate the comment!

Unknown said...

Very good point Augie. My comment assumed the great customer experience was already in place - but a good item to point out. Definitely see how content can become the crutch.