4 must-know social trends for 2016

3. Data and analytics are a boon and a challenge

For every article that says that data is transforming the way people do business, there could be a counterpoint that says that people can’t do half of the things they want to do with data.

Data is big and getting bigger (sorry!). It has a big impact on brands, their ability to understand their customers, and ultimately their ability to reach them better. We’re seeing some great examples of brands using listening data to develop products or craft content. GM used listening data to figure out that metal steering wheels were getting too hot to handle, and removed them from a truck.

But at the same time, more brands find it challenging to take that data and contextualise it in a way that yields usable insights. 

There’s a flood of information out there, but sometimes less is more: Brands whose data use is clearly scoped out and defined, even more limited, can have better luck getting real results from it.

In terms of paid distribution, there’s plenty of controversy about viewability and the impression data that brands are getting. Julie Fleischer of Kraft says that most of their data is “crap.” And in terms of performance data, there’s a very prudent desire, on social, to move away from single network data to metrics that are aligned with their overall business goals.

4. Social businesses are looking beyond social

People in the social media world have been alluding to this idea for a little while now, but we’ve begun to see more businesses start to put it into practice in meaningful ways.

These companies are focusing on integrating social across their business functions in a way that helps them reach broader business goals. They’re looking at overall marketing and content marketing strategies, PR, customer service, sales, and other departments and incorporating social into and across those teams, rather than running it in support of them.

The distinction can seem a bit fuzzy, but in reality, there’s a big difference between the two approaches.

How can you tell the difference between a business on social and a business whose social presence is really integrated into a larger strategy? When a brand launches a new product, do they plan a TV campaign, in store roll-out and live activation, then figure out how they can support it via social? And do the people running the social aspect of the campaign aim primarily to increase social-specific metrics, or do they feel they share responsibility for the overall success of the campaign?

Or consider a complaint from a customer that comes in through social. Say it’s an obscure product question, and the person assigned to handle it on Twitter isn’t able to resolve it himself. Does he tell the customer to call someone else in the company? Or is there a system set up to pass it to someone who can handle it—even if that person doesn’t normally deal with issues on social—in a way that creates as little friction as possible for the customer?

The point is that a lot of the key functions for businesses—sales, marketing, PR, customer service, recruiting—can happen on social media. But social’s impact is diminished if it stands on its own. It should be used as an element — often a very powerful one— of a broader business strategy.

When change is a constant, it’s easy to focus on short-term strategy goals. Even if trends don’t generally last, these challenges and shifts are likely to be around for a while, particularly the last. The brands that are able to integrate social across their business, in a way that maximises its impact, are the ones that will be poised to lead in the coming years.

Ulrik Bo Larsen is CEO and founder of enterprise social media management platform Falcon Social.

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