Social media trends in 2012: Orchestrate this!

December 21, 2011
rich levin

Our crazy Editor-in-Chief mugging for the camera

Over the past few days, we’ve been sharing our predictions for what we think will be the trends to watch in public relations and social media in 2012. Yesterday, we featured our Social Networking Manager, Kwan Morrow. The day before that, we heard from Mike Lizun, Senior Vice President of Public Relations.

Today, I’d like to share the thoughts of our Editor-in-Chief and Senior Vice President Rich Levin. Rich has been in the content game since the mid-80s and he’s been involved in social media for just as long — long before the term social media became de rigueur.

Here are his thoughts on what will be the important trends in content-driven social strategies in 2012. And although we promised 15 trends to watch, we always go above and beyond for our clients and readers. So in all, we are sharing 17 PR and social trends to be on the lookout for in 2012.

1. Orchestration will be the big challenge in 2012 for companies that got started with social within the past two years. They have built their basic platforms and skill sets, and are now realizing that, in order to scale and be fully engaged, they need to orchestrate their activities in real-time, yet remain authentic and transparent in their engagement with customers. This is a big challenge, and there are no easy answers. Companies will try and fail, but they must get back up and keep trying until they figure out the orchestration model that works best for their organization. PR agencies that have developed best practices in this area are the ones to lean on. Agencies that promise the moon via outsourcing should be avoided. Social media cannot be outsourced. Social media must be integrated with all communications activities. Orchestration will be the issue that breaks many client-agency relationships, because it demands a highly integrated relationship. The outsourced model won’t fly.

2. The Google+ effect will continue to reshape social media. While Google+ itself might not become the leading social network, remaining the domain of a passionate band of users, the model that Google introduced and continues to refine is sending shock waves through the industry. Make no mistake about it: The massive and ongoing changes to Facebook and the recent introduction of Twitter brand pages are direct reactions to Google’s innovations. Google might not end up with the leading network, but it’s already the leading innovator in social media. Moreover, as Google continues to integrate Google+ technology into its vast ecosystem of applications and platforms (Search, Gmail, Android, etc.), the nature of social networking itself could shift from the current siloed model to one where social is truly a layer atop the web for millions of users.

3. The new formal brand pages from Google+, Twitter, and Facebook will present richer opportunities for brands to engage customers online. That’s obvious. What isn’t obvious is that this isn’t limited to B2C companies. Now companies that tended to focus on LinkedIn for B2B can start considering Google+, Twitter, and even Facebook for brand marketing engagement. This is thanks to the richer design and interaction capabilities aimed at the needs of brand marketers (as opposed to being aimed at the needs consumers’ social networking). Lastly, Google’s decision to allow up to 50 brand managers to run a Google+ brand page supports trend #1: the need to foster orchestration of social media by brand managers. Expect Facebook and Twitter to follow.

4. Blogs will continue their rise as the mission-critical hubs of digital communications and engagement campaigns. Another public relations trend in 2012 will likely see B2B and B2C bloggers top 30 percent of the content in the blogosphere, continuing steady growth of recent years (corporate bloggers and entrepreneurs now comprise 21 percent of the blogosphere, according to the latest Technorati State of the Blogosphere 2011 report). Among the Fortune 500, 23 percent (114 companies) now have active public blogs, according to the annual study by The Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. The number is even higher among SMEs, with some 50 percent of the companies on the Inc 500 now blogging, according to University of Massachusetts study. Strong blogging adoption trends are also evident among educational, non-profit, and government institutions. Organizations will continue to discover that blogging remains the single most effective way to build and reach audience, support organic SEO, drive inbound traffic to the corporate website and other properties, provide resources to prospects and customers, maintain thought leadership, open the kimono into the company’s inner workings, and maintain a dynamic dialog with the marketplace. Make no mistake: Blogging remains the most crucial component of an authentic social media strategy.

That’s how we see it. How do you see it? What are the big public relations and social media trends you’ll be paying attention to in 2012?

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