As part of our upcoming year-end report, I spoke with Shiv Singh, vice president and global social media lead for Razorfish. Shiv is a member of the SmartBrief on Social Media Advisory Board and author of “Social Media Marketing for Dummies.” His blog Going Social Now is among the most respected social media marketing blogs. Our year-end reports publish on Dec. 8 and Dec. 15. If you’re not already a SmartBrief on Social Media subscriber, sign up today so you won’t miss it!
Social media is evolving quickly. What are the three trends on the horizon that business leaders absolutely must keep up with?
- Social brands. The most successful brands in 2010 are going to be the ones that evolve into social brands. This means that brands that have social voices — real people participating and talking on their behalf to customers in an engaging, conversational manner. The company must be willing to let its employees and its brand advocates become the face of the brand. Consumers demand that, and brands like Best Buy that are evolving into social brands (think Twelp Force) will be the ones that win. Every brand is going to need to become a social brand at some point.
- Real-time brands. Companies that become dynamic and responsive in real time to their customers and their needs will be the ones that succeed. This doesn’t just mean real time customer service but real time market research, real time product development, and real time customization and personalization of products and campaigns alike. This also means that the products will need to have a digital pulse in them.
- Identifying, nurturing and managing relationships. Customers increasingly are also influencers (expert, positional or referent), and companies will need to know who those people are and how much influence they actually have. A lot more effort is going to go into this. Along those lines, understanding how customers come together as communities and make collective decisions will be important, too.
What emerging technologies related to social media do you think have the greatest potential for businesses next year?
I’m really bullish on mobile for probably the first time. Smartphone penetration is finally and truly hitting the mainstream. Location-aware applications that integrate your social graph are going to revolutionize how we engage with each and with our favorite companies. Sure, we’re probably going to find it all a little invasive at first, but as consumers we’ll get used to it. And the businesses that provide the smartest solutions will be the ones that succeed.
The other emerging technology is what I consider the applification of everything. It is not so much a technology as it is a trend. But basically more companies will have the opportunity to deliver their services, products and advertising as applications — niche, compartmentalized mini-applications that travel between platforms and provide discrete value to consumers. These can be apps on a cell phone, those in a display window at a retail outlet or within the boundaries of a widget sitting on a profile page in Facebook.
What will be the greatest challenge for businesses in adopting social media in the coming year? How do you suggest they overcome that?
The greatest challenge is going to be their customers’ impatience for mediocrity. Consumers are demanding more and more every day and are expecting iPhone-like experiences from everything. The other challenges — being able to engage in meaningful conversations with consumers. They’re not going to have the time, energy or inclination to engage with brands the way they engage with people. To market or sell successfully will mean finding ways and reasons to engage with consumers who have less time for brands as they engage with each other in social media. The best way to address that is to try to become as much a part of your consumers’ lives as you are trying to get them to become a part of your brand world.
What represents the biggest opportunity?
Finding customers who will do the marketing for you. Or in other words using customers to create customers. And with the new technologies, the power of social influence online and crowd sourcing concepts, businesses have a unique opportunity to reinvent themselves and become social and real-time brands that have meaningful impacts on the lives of their customers.