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The Inflection Point in Social Media: It’s Here

The volume of social conversation is exploding. Hundreds of millions of blogs, millions of forums, and hundreds of thousands of online communities are supporting instantaneous conversations worldwide. And every day, new channels, forums, communities and topics are emerging, opening the door for even more conversation and information exchange.

Consider the numbers: Facebook users collectively spend more than 6 billion minutes in the online community every day. Microblogging site Twitter is on pace to process almost 10 billion tweets this year. There are 346 million daily bloggers. Search engine giant Google supports more than 2 billion searches daily. And if you wanted to watch all the online videos on YouTube, it would take you 412.3 years to do it. A recent quote by Eric Schmidt, CEO at Google … “we create as much information in two days now as we did from the dawn of man through 2003”  seems to say it best. The volume of conversation is growing exponentially and shows no signs of slowing down.

Social media has become so pervasive that we’ve reached an inflection point. Three things seem to bear this out. The volume, scale and speed of social conversation, which we’ve touched on already, is causing many companies to find they can’t keep pace with their social channels and make sense of the information available to them.  Second, more and more companies have moved beyond the stage where they are trying to determine if social media has business value. They have concluded their tests and decided that social media should be viewed as Social Intelligence, a powerful information and strategic business resource to effectively engage their prospects and customers alike. To be effective at enterprise scale requires the ability to collaborate efficiently between internal departments, external partners and the entire social ecosystem. Lastly, as companies move beyond departmental implementations to enterprise adoptions, it requires them to utilize analytics to generate actionable business insights to deliver meaningful returns on social investments. Our three inflection point indicators: volumes of social conversations, enterprise adoptions and requisite integration capabilities and the demand for serious analytics to make informed business decisions are all evident.

Let’s look at a few real-world examples. In just the past year, we’ve seen companies taking action to do different and more meaningful things with social media. Seeing the success of Pepsi’s “Refresh” initiative or the Old Spice “Smell Like a Man” campaign has made many organizations initially resistant to social media understand they are missing an important opportunity. Many are moving away from the view that social media is just another outlet for marketing to dabble in, and instead look to extend it across the enterprise and achieve more measurable return.

Another indicator that we have reached an inflection point: Social media is influencing the enterprise, and how it approaches its everyday business. Many firms are already using Social Intelligence to enhance customer service as well as to become a more service-minded culture. They understand that every person in the company is now a potential spokesperson, and therefore, are taking steps to maintain control of their brand in the workplace while unifying the company in representing the brand.

FedEx is a very good example of a serious social enterprise. They realized early on that social media had the potential to change the way business operates. Initially, they tested small projects to learn what value they could extract from social conversations. Small pilots monitored specific keywords and concepts to determine the volume and level of engagement necessary. They have since moved beyond departmental implementations to embracing social media throughout the enterprise. Today, FedEx is using a platform and process to generate business value from social channels for all its business units and to help its employees provide enhanced customer service.

Once we have passed this inflection point in social media, the companies that will truly succeed in engaging users through social channels and achieving tangible returns for their efforts are those with access to the deepest level of integration and analytics. They will use insights gleaned through social conversations to understand the cause, effect, outcome and influence of conversations on their business.

If there is a final thought on the nature of social media today, it’s that this channel values substance over style, personalized content over generic information and has at its very core the desire to share information 1-to-1 on a global stage. So, to make sense of all that conversation and to engage in genuine, meaningful, substantive dialog is to begin to harvest the real value in social media.

Tags : social media

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