The Future of Social Media is Not Digital

I spoke at three separate events last week with a focus on how social media has disrupted B2B communications and the way we operate. While there was a lot of focus on what we have accomplished and lessons learned, everyone seemed interested in my thoughts on what’s next. What is the next platform? Is there a new technology we are testing? What are B2B companies going to do next? What should we be looking to do?

I recently talked about the changing role of communicators, but I’m never one to make predictions, especially when it comes to technology. That’s why I read the blogs of people like Howard Lindzon, Armano, the team at Convince & Convert and others.

That’s not to say I don’t think a lot about technology and all things digital. Tools like Twitter and Instagram came out of nowhere and one of the next new technologies will likely do the same. That is a topic I personally follow regularly, and right now, I’m interested in content aggregation, especially in light of yesterday’s Google Reader news, and how individuals wade through the endless streams of information and vertical communities that help focus conversations.

But technology aside, I think the next, next thing in B2B communications is face-to-face communications. That’s not exactly revolutionary, but it is vital. Read what Aaron Pearson had to say about this while at SXSW.

People want intimate experiences that cannot be filled by any social media.

There still remains a lot to do in social media. Twitter and Stocktwits continue to evolve their real-time streams, LinkedIn still provides us ways to professionally connect and other platforms give us a variety of choice to leverage our B2B content. These are and will be important business tools moving forward.

Speaking last week at the Marketforce Social Media in Financial Services conference

Speaking last week at the Marketforce Social Media in Financial Services conference

But we are coming closer to the point where competing with our competition on social media will be like competing websites, trade show booths or advertising. These tools do matter, but they will become ubiquitous and expected. A few years ago, companies truly gained a competitive advantage using social media, and we still do, but as it makes its way throughout the enterprise it will be more challenging to do so. Will you still be the best brand on Twitter? Will your Facebook page help you stand out against others? Do Slideshare and Instagram show off your thought leadership? Maybe. Maybe not. Does it matter?

Last week continued to demonstrate to me what I have believed for some time since engaging more and more in social media: People want intimate experiences that cannot be filled by any social media. Yes, Google Hangouts can make a difference and hashtags on Twitter create virtual discussions, but that is not good enough.

My coffee break conversations at the Marketforce event were constructive and interesting. I was also able to finally spend some quality time talking with Cristophe Langlois of Visible Banking. The discussions I had with the students from the Hult International Business School and Penn State Harrisburg were vastly different, but they challenged me on many areas of digital and

We are all in a battle for the “hearts and minds” of customers, influencers and other various stakeholders, and while social media helps us connect, it does not replace what we want as people.

Is your company a leader in social media? Great. Is your organization following and trying to understand new technologies? Wonderful. Are you trying to learn what can help make your brand stand out and understood? Perfect.

But how are you connecting with people and creating those intimate moments that matter? If you are not thinking about this yet, then you quite possibly will be left behind by the next wave of social media: building and maintaining relationships.

If you enjoyed this post you may also want to read the following:

We still need to get together in the real world?

Do we need a social index for businesses? 

Who are your content superheroes?

Tuning into your industry

Social media management

Blogging isn’t supposed to be easy

Getting Your Degree in “Business Acumen”

What is social media success in B2B… and some examples

 

 

Three Areas for B2B Communicators to Focus in 2013

Another year and another post to avoid making predictions for next year. Frankly, there are too many…some good, some not. Last year, I used this space to talk about what actions were on my calendar for 2012, and I’m confident to say we accomplished many of my objectives. This year, I want to take this space to talk about the things we should focus on for 2013.

And there are some interesting trends to watch this year. The idea that your B2B brand

Do you find time to focus?

Do you find time to focus?

needs to think like a media company is one that is changing our landscape as communicators. Even CIO magazine has provided thoughts on how social media is affecting the IT enterprise. And reading Armano’s thoughts on what to watch in the year ahead is always a must read.

And to look forward sometimes you have to look to the past. I’ve learned a lot from the past five years of managing social media, which has made me think about what I need to do next year. Doing this is no easy task as there have been a lot of moving pieces in the world of communications in 2012. We’ve seen the rise in how powerful photography and images and

  • We live in interesting economic times. As the economy continues to struggle, communicators are being asked to do more with less. Our landscapes are much more competitive as our customers are prioritizing where they invest. We’re seeing more opportunities to communicate as social media allows us to deliver our message across many many platforms. So, as we struggle with priorities and marketing investments, we are provided with an enormous amount of options. You have to get better at making choices. This means you really need to roll up your sleeves, collaborate across your company (e.g., HR, IT, legal, marketing, sales) and understand the key drivers of your business, the competition, opportunities and outside threats (a.k.a, SWOT analysis). Maybe now is a time to really dig through your company’s intranet and read what is happening (I make time every week to do this).
  • Learn good data management. I don’t mean organizing all of your data into columns of traffic trends, but I mean really learn to understand it. Are you tired of hearing about big data? Yeah, me too. But the reality is that we live in an era of expanding data and most of it is ambiguous. We need to fine tune our analytical skills to better understand what works, what doesn’t and who to reach. Google Analytics can help us better calculate ROI. I feel that we still need to get better at social listening and gaining better insights from our audiences. That means turning data into actionable items. I’ve found that focusing on a few things helps to provide better thoughts and knowledge.
  • Ask the right questions. Good business people, not just communicators, know that asking good questions can reveal a lot and open doors. I wrote before about the importance of asking questions, and I can’t emphasize it enough. You may accomplish a lot if you don’t, but if you don’t focus and come prepared to ask tough questions, push the boundaries and think differently you are just implementing everyone’s ideas. I like to think our role as communicators is part cultural detective where we piece together the stories, participants and stakeholders to find the solutions.

We have a lot to do and a lot of choices. Prioritizing what we do and how we do it will be critical to our success as communicators not just in 2013, but in the years to follow. What are you focused on in the coming year? Let us know in the comments.

If you enjoyed this you may also want to read:

The Three I’s of Social Business Media

Five Lessons Learned from Five Years of Social Media

Is motivation the key to success?

The Trust Economy

Getting Your Degree in “Business Acumen”

How Well Do You Know Your Social Network? Probably Poorly