This year is set to be the year of Social Marketing, like it or not, accept it or not, fail to engage at your peril. In a few short months we’ll see a record breaking IPO by Facebook which will firmly cement Mr Zuckerberg as one of the most powerful men on the planet. Not just because of the 800 million users and not just because he’ll become, alongside his organization one of the major commercial wealth centers on the planet. But more importantly because the nature of social engagement on the web will become a mission and strategic focus of private investors and investment houses. 2012 will see Social marketing adopted and embraced as mission critical, here to stay.
Despite the fact that recent figures show Facebook growth slowing in developed countries (2011 saw a mere 4% growth in USA) Facebook take up amongst 3rd parties is surging to the point of explosion. Personally I find almost every new website launched includes the option (sometimes the only option) to register using Facebook or twitter access protocols. Web savvy companies understand the fastest way to build brand exposure and users it to adopt existing technology creating a harmonious and symbiotic relationship between themselves and leading social networks.
2012 will see utter and complete domination by 3 companies; Facebook, Twitter and Google (in that order)
Facebook Domination: Already with over 800 million users (even if we assume only half of those are real active users) represents the most powerful single platform for social engagement. Facebook arguably knows more about us than Google as we pour our lives into the system to create and sustain our lives. This power will see Facebook continue to ease itself a growing ad market share (currently around 24% of display ads are served through FB, I see that rising to 35-40 by the end of the year)
Twitter Domination: CEO Dick Costolo in a recent interview outlined his accepted understanding that 40% of twitter users never tweet, it’s a one way Social Broadcast Network. This is a stunning revelation and positioning, Twitter need not worry that a significant percentage of users never tweet, why? because these people are using the system as a source of information only and this in itself brings it’s own power and potential ad revenue wealth.
Google Domination: Focusing here only on the Google+ since they already dominate every other major market their in. The aggressive release of SPY World and the subsequent rewriting of the SEO rulebook to dominate the future of search results will place Google firmly at the center of the Social Engagement Paradigm. As soon as agreements (or loopholes) are reached to work with and not against Twitter and Facebook, we’ll see a new world of information sourcing.
So where does that leave the average company striving to find it’s way on the web? straight forward and simple… to ignore active social engagement is to not only miss an opportunity (that was missed if you didn’t get on the ball in 2011), it’s now a perilous decision to not engage with customers, clients and potential target market.
By the end of the year it’s a reasonable assumption that our appetitite for non-recommended information or products will be close to finished. With the average facebook user connected to 150 friends and using the Linkedin metric of degrees of connection, this means the average person has connections to over 1,000 ,000 people to gain accurate, reliable recommendation. Factor in that more and more people are segmenting their social connections correctly (Friends in FB, Business in LinkedIn, and everyone in Twitter) we can assume we on average can call upon the voices and opinions of over 5,000,000 people!!
Placing trust in ads from the richest advertisers or visiting sites based on the best SEO will become a thing of the past. The way to dominate the web in 2012 will be to embrace the voices and hearts of those 25,000 connections and incentivize them to become product evangelists. Not only will this lead to measurable ROI but importantly the search results will reflect these social voices rather than the highest bidder for ad placement.
The final question to be answered is ‘how can I embrace and incentivize?’ lets get serious on this, we just need to do what we should be doing; provide products and services that people really want, delivered in a way they want them, followed up by good customer service. The final key to the puzzle is the simplest, give these people the tools to shout about it! these tools are already on offer and will continue to be enhanced by the 3 aforementioned dominating companies.