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Social Business Future Gazing for 2016



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Do you manage social media for an organisation? Are you thinking about plans for next year? If so, this set of six articles is for you.

They discuss the impact of social media technologies on large organisations in 2016, and are based on our experience of sitting in the client’s seat, behind the agency desk, and now being independent of both.

Social Business Future Gazing for 2016

  1. 1. SOCIAL BUSINESS FUTURE GAZING A series of articles discussing the impact of social technologies on large organisations in 2016. DECEMBER 2015 image:
  2. 2. Introducing Social Business Future Gazing Over the last couple of months we’ve been doing a li>le social business future gazing. We’ve been blogging about changes in the world of social media and how they’ll impact the setup of large organisaAons in 2016. The six arAcles are packaged up here, and aimed at digital, brand and social media managers. They’re based on our experience of siIng in the client’s seat, behind the agency desk, and now being independent of both. We talk about social business rather than social media, to emphasis the point that social technologies are increasingly impacAng the people and processes at the heart of organisaAons. We explored a range of topics, seIng the context and (we hope!) offering some useful insights and ideas: Page 2 We’d love to hear what you think… Find all the arAcles at Social Media Comes Home. A Whole New Kind of Planning. Rise of the Social Customer Care Rock Star. What Social Media Marketers can Learn from Local Radio. Picking a New Social Media Tool? Package Holiday or Independent Traveller? Time to Revisit Repor:ng?
  3. 3. Social Media Comes Home In the first ar:cle we looked at how the client-agency model for managing social media will change in the year ahead. To set the scene, let’s consider three areas of notable development in the last year or two. First off, the internal interest in social media has conAnued to accelerate. As the Harvard Business Review and Marke1ng Week point towards, senior marketers, chief experience officers and even CEOs are dedicaAng increased Ame and investment to social media, as it steadily climbs the business agenda. Plus we’ve seen most major brands bring social media customer service in-house, integraAng it into their wider customer service operaAon. Finally, we’re now actually seeing the uptake of internal collaboraAon tools (like Slack and Yammer) in large organisaAons, as cloud-based services gain momentum and are increasingly considered business-as-usual. They’re helping teams who work on acAviAes requiring lots of collaboraAon… conveniently like those involved in social media markeAng. Page 3 Let’s also consider the increasing maturity of social media technologies and plaZorms. Of course we’re not ignoring that the established networks conAnue to add features apace, or that new networks conAnue to pop-up (leaving brands pondering whether to be early adopters or wait-and-see). However, if we strip things back to the fundamental funcAons of the major social networks, we’re seeing greater stability and usability. Social media (paid) adverAsing is a clear example, as the process to “promote” content has simplified and been further integrated into mass-market social media management tools. This is enabling marketers and customer service teams in parAcular, to develop robust, repeatable processes they can track over Ame. And of course big businesses love this: order, process, planning… in a nutshell, more predictability.
  4. 4. Social Media Comes Home So, we have greater visibility amongst senior stakeholders, more repeatable processes and streamlined internal communica:on. The future’s bright! But what of the impact? We believe the proporAon of social media acAvity managed in-house will significantly increase – if not by the end of 2016 then shortly aberwards. Three factors will drive this… ① More of the “heavy libing” roles will flip in-house, as standardised processes increase. This will be assisted by a natural increase in the pool of employees with experience of working with social technologies. A colleague’s ability to work on acAviAes that play out across social media will fast become an assumed part of brand, markeAng and/or customer experience job descripAons. ② The sophisAcaAon of hardware in the client’s hand and the nature of plaZorms like Periscope will conAnue to make it easier for anyone to create content. It will be of sufficient quality, but more importantly capture the moment and benefit from being Amely. Page 4 ③  Finally let’s consider the ever-growing need for content creators and distributors to collaborate closely. This is by no means a new concept, but the impact on client- agency team structures will increase. Joint agency teams are common these days, so we see the logical step of agency individuals siIng client-side in an implanted, advisory type role. While external support will remain key, the increased level of internal focus and maturing of technologies will lead to the agency’s “role and responsibiliAes” looking a lot different in 2016.
  5. 5. A Whole New Kind of Planning The second ar:cle in the series considered the impact of real-:me plaNorms (like Periscope) on the way businesses plan their content crea:on. When it comes to execuAng a nice, neat plan, social media really sucks. But hold onto that thought for a moment and let’s consider the planning process for television adverAsing. Develop a concept, get buy-in, shoot the footage, edit and get final sign-off. That takes a lot of work, not to menAon co- ordinaAng when and where it should air. However, there will always be a deadline to deliver the final “rushes”, and for the campaign to go-live. Aber that, unless things go really wrong and you have to take it off air(!) it’s more or less job- done (excuse the slight over-simplificaAon). It may not be completely straighZorward, but brands can plan from A to B, from concept to go-live. And everyone loves a plan. Unfortunately in many cases the same approach is applied to content published on social networks. A concept is developed, tweets are readied, cat GIFs are perfected and the content is scheduled for pre-defined Ames. There are two main challenges with this : Page 5 q  The world changes and content can quickly become out-dated (or really inappropriate), as per an unfortunate sign-off tweet from Tesco amidst the horse- meat scandal. q  The two-way nature of social media provides an instant litmus test of public opinion, which is tough to ignore… say you’ve created a whole series of tweets with dogs, but no-one seems to care about the first one you publish. But everyone raves about the one tweet you did about a cat… but there’s no more budget to create more tweets about cats. Do you keep posAng about dogs, or Google “cat GIFs”?
  6. 6. A Whole New Kind of Planning Brands are becoming aware that they need to be more nimble in how they publish content on social media. The benchmark is rising and in 2016 this will accelerate further: Ok, not everyone is going to be streaming content 24/7, but the need to rethink the planning process is very real. The crux of the ma>er comes down to planning the creaAon of content. We see the implicaAons being: q  The proporAon of content created “pre-campaign” will drop significantly, perhaps as low as 20%. For agencies and social media managers the majority of what they develop will be during the campaign itself, influenced by the audience’s reacAon and breaking events. There will be an increase in the number (but reducAon in duraAon) of meeAngs between teams to make this all happen. q  The likes of WhatsApp Groups becoming standard tools for quick collaboraAon. q  Brands who look to test the water with live broadcasts will find themselves needing to create new types of “issue scenario” and conAngency plan. Never work with children or animals, right? Page 6 q  Audience demand: with social networks awash with content, brands must produce ever more exclusive snippets to engage their audiences. Burberry, for example, posted live updates (via Snapchat) of the finishing touches to their 2015 London Fashion collecAon. q  Technology: plaZorms like Periscope are reducing the lead-Ame from creaAng content to publishing it… to zero. So what are the implicaAons for how businesses organise themselves in the future?
  7. 7. A Whole New Kind of Planning q  AcAvity plans will need to be more carefully shared with supporAng teams. Let’s say a Snapchat story performs fantasAcally well, and customer support gets inundated with product requests and demos… were they prepared? Going the whole hog and not actually producing *any* content ahead of Ame is both impracAcal and unnecessary. However, those brands which get the right mix, organise themselves efficiently and embrace the opportunity will steal a march. Page 7
  8. 8. Rise of the Social Customer Care Rock Star Social technologies have arguably had more impact on customer service than any other business func:on. We think 2016 will be the year those working on the front-line aren’t just seen as valuable employees, but business rock stars… So, the technology and the processes are looking good… but what about the people. In large organisaAons a key challenge is to both understand the “voice of the customer” and act on what’s revealed. Customer insights teams are oben charged directly by CMOs and CEOs to cut through the noise and get a handle on what’s being said “on the shop-floor”. Now, if only there was a team with their finger on the pulse of what customers were feeling – not gathering a weekly view, but understanding how things were changing in real-Ame. A team who knew how customers responded to different types of adverAsing, promoAons, product launches and the like. Page 8 Delivering customer care via the likes of Facebook and parAcularly Twi@er has become a standard, “hygiene factor” for most businesses. In fact the percentage of people using Twi>er for customer service queries grew by almost 70% between 2013 and 2014, the Harvard Business Review reports*. Fortunately for customer service teams, they’ve been helped by the rate at which social media management technologies have developed recently. While these tools have been around for years, they’re now much more stable, intuiAve and most importantly designed with contact centres in mind (not just markeAng-focused community managers). This has enabled businesses to confidently scale up their provision of social media care with robust processes, governance and analyAcs. Lovely. * Source: xxxxxx
  9. 9. Rise of the Social Customer Care Rock Star Hang on… what about a team of social media customer service agents! Of course using social media to deliver insights to the boss is nothing new. In 2012 O2’s CEO, Ronan Dunne, was famously cited for regularly using social media to “walk the floors” and get a sense of what was being said. But how many brands consult the customer service team when developing their next adverAsing campaign? Over a short period of Ame this has led to the humble “customer service agent” being expected to wear mulAple hats and demonstrate a huge array of skills, notably: q  Crea:vity: understand and reflect popular culture, be aware of what’s happening across the business; q  Empathy: really understand the customer’s issue to confidently have a non-scripted conversaAon with them in public; q  Funny: disperse an awkward situaAon, or help generate brand warmth with a well structured, appropriate and amusing reply; q  Priori:se: quickly idenAfy when a social media menAon has the potenAal to go nuclear (maybe the customer is highly influenAal online or the subject ma>er is parAcularly sensiAve); q  AXen:on to detail: every hashtag and URL is in the public domain for anyone to throw stones at; q  GeZng things done around here: who in the business can help answer a customer query in a Amely manner. Page 9 Providing insights isn’t the only change that social media has brought about for customer service teams. As agents engage in a public dialogue with consumers, everything they say has a potenAal markeAng impact, and in some cases a real opportunity to drive sales. (I find this fascinaAng – it’s what got me excited about whole area of social media in the first place).
  10. 10. Rise of the Social Customer Care Rock Star That’s a lot of skills, and requires agents to combine explicit training on using management tools and internal policies but also, crucially, on the job experience. Every day involves tough judgement calls, which draw on tacit knowledge that can’t be neatly packaged up into a manual. Agents will hopefully build up a rapport with customers - for many businesses (parAcularly those which are online-only) they may be the only employees whose name the customer knows. The nature of social media, and the myriad queries that consumers submit, also means that service agents develop a deep understanding of both the business and the wider sector in which they work. As the role of differenAaAon through customer service grows in many industries, so the importance of these agents will conAnue to rise. They’re not the kind of people you want walking out of the door. Especially to a compeAtor. Page 10 And that means organisaAons must recognise the amazing role these agents play and take acAon accordingly. Social customer care agent should be a priority in terms of training, remuneraAon, career progression and recogniAon. The final point is parAcularly important, especially when things are (apparently) Acking along nicely. How oben has an agent headed off a social media firestorm, but it was never acknowledged? Next year the social customer service agent’s value will be greater than ever before and their unique posiAon in the business should make them absolute rock stars. As more organisaAons recognise this, the ones that don’t may find their stars looking to sign to a different label.
  11. 11. What Social Media Marketers can Learn from Local Radio Page 11 q  Facebook: with users swamped by updates on their Amelines and a need to increase adverAsing revenues, Facebook introduced its publishing algorithm. LimiAng how much of a brand’s fan-base see posts organically in their newsfeed (to as li>le as 2%) means that paid adverAsing (even to reach exisAng fans) is a mandatory ingredient of being acAve on the network in 2015. q  Instagram: it currently remains algorithm free, but sponsored (paid-for) posts are starAng to be shown in people’s newsfeeds. I personally see no more than two ads per day, so it doesn’t feel too intrusive (although their quality and targeAng can someAmes leave a li>le to be desired). The fourth post in the series considered a simple ques:on – how o]en should we post on social media? (a ques:on that returns 267 million Google results in fact). We looked at how brands must do more in 2016 to reflect the way consumers use social networks…. and what they can learn from local radio. Before we go all Alan Partridge, let’s summarise the current situaAon around content on social media. As “content markeAng” grows in popularity, we’re seeing more brands publishing more content online, with social networks a key means of sharing it. In parallel, the major social networks have been busily creaAng new formats and features to further encourage brands to do more with them. Video auto-play is a good example – encouraging brands to opAmise video for each social network rather than just linking out to YouTube. The result has seen Facebook, Instagram and Twi@er serve up quite different user experiences:
  12. 12. What social media marketers can learn from local radio q  TwiXer: this one’s trickier. The volume of tweets and lack of (Facebook-like) algorithm make it hard for brands to be confident that their tweet will organically reach its intended audience. I drop into a Twi@er a few Ames a day and typically scroll back through 30-40 minutes worth of tweets. Features such as Lists, the recently announced Moments and While You Were Away have been rolled out to try and crack this problem. For brands, again the other (increasingly important) opAon is to make use of Twi@er’s many paid-for promoAonal opAons. These social network nuances should be a major consideraAon for brands when planning the distribuAon of their content. However, when I look at the way many brands create their social content schedules, the reality of how consumers use social networks can get lost. Twi@er is a prime example. However, there’s usually a slight twist for each bulleAn, perhaps using a different quote. This enables the people who dip in and out to have a good chance of catching the story, and those listening all day to get a slightly different perspecAve each Ame (and not get too bored). Page 12 Most brands publish more frequently on Twi@er than Facebook or Instagram. However, in pracAce this oben sAll only means 4 or 5 tweets per day (I base this on my experience over the last 12 months of reviewing and assessing tens of branded Twi@er accounts). The trouble is, even if these brave, young tweets are published when the potenAal audience is most acAve online, the chances of them being seen is shrinking. Those poor tweets. For inspiraAon, in step the humble local radio staAon. If you listen to local radio (or any staAon for that ma>er) for a whole day, you’ll hear the same news stories featured every hour.
  13. 13. What social media marketers can learn from local radio This approach is becoming increasingly common pracAce for major publishers on Twi@er, such as Marke1ng Magazine. Head to the UK account, scroll down to see the last 24 hours worth of tweets and note how the content repeats. I’d personally like to see a bit more variaAon in each tweet, to keep it fresh for readers, but you get the idea. The other benefits of an increased frequency of (similar) tweets are: q  It provides an opportunity to tailor tweets to the Ame they’re being published to make it feel more authenAc. q  It provides a perfect opportunity to do some A:B tesAng analysis on different images and copy, to inform future content. In 2016 brands will need to put their approach to content distribuAon under an even bigger microscope. The importance of using targeted paid media (for all plaZorms discussed in this post) and balancing frequency with originality (Instagram, Twi@er) will only increase. And we haven’t even touched on the whole different ke>le that is Snapchat… Page 13
  14. 14. Picking a new social media tool? Package Holiday or Independent Traveller? The penul:mate ar:cle looked at the changing landscape of social media management tools (SMMTs). What are the decisions and challenges for social media managers to navigate, and why will they be amplified in 2016? The la>er is easier to manage and a safe choice, but you can end up being locked into opAons you don’t really want or need. Go independent and you have flexibility, but more suppliers to manage. However there’s a third way, as single-focus vendors conAnue to specialise in their area of experAse, but partner with other vendors. So conAnuing the holiday analogy… rather than the food being all inclusive in your hotel, you get a discount card to visit local restaurants - giving you freedom, but sAll a benefit of booking with that hotel. Page 14 The journey of SMMTs over the last decade has been, let’s say, a hecAc one. As the major social networks have grown, hundreds of tools have been developed to help enterprises manage a range of tasks such as publishing content, paying to amplify that content and listening to the audience. Some tools have flourished, others have disappeared. Some were snapped up by bigger fish and some remain independent. For social media managers this has meant a moving feast of opAons, configuraAons and contract negoAaAons. However, the biggest dilemma has oben been whether to select a tool that supports all the tasks required, or plump for mulAple “single-focus” tools. I think the challenge is not unlike holidaymakers deciding whether to organise the different aspects of their trip independently, or selecAng an all inclusive package!
  15. 15. Picking a new social media tool? Package Holiday or Independent Traveller? Anyway… back to the challenges faced by those responsible for selecAng SMMTs, and the growing level of complexity they face from inside their organisaAon. q  As more teams across the business use social media (customer insights, new product development, profit protecAon etc), owning and managing the SMMT vendor relaAonship is a much wider responsibility. q  As the business wants to do more with social media, tools become more sophisAcated and expensive – making the procurement process more complex. q  RelaAonships with SMMT vendors are becoming increasingly strategic, oben with extended contracts/subscripAon periods… which means brands are locked into the decisions they make for longer. That’s the environment, decisions and challenges social media managers are facing, but why will 2016 be so significant? Here’s why: Page 15 ① IntegraAng data from social media with exisAng customer data (aka social CRM) will become increasingly important for brands looking to enhance how they target audiences (and what with). In 2016 this will become a far more common acAvity. ② As organisaAons become more engaged in the opportunity of social media, a wider range of networks will be recognised as having strategic benefit. Are the likes of Instagram, Facebook Messenger and WeChat included on your vendor’s 2016 development roadmap? ③ The li>le-talked-about launch of Facebook Topic Data is opening up vast swathes of Facebook data for analysis for the first Ame. Does your vendor have access, and if so how will they offer up this service?
  16. 16. Picking a new social media tool? Package Holiday or Independent Traveller? In conclusion, selecAng SMMTs remains a case of “horses for courses”, with certain vendors and configuraAons best suited for certain businesses. The trick will conAnue to be selecAng a vendor which can balance the needs of the core social team (publishing, listening and responding etc) with the growing interests and demands of the wider organisaAon – such as delivering support via Facebook Messenger or building a deeper social CRM capability. Page 16
  17. 17. Time to revisit reporting? To finish up we looked at how the changing nature of major social networks will require social media managers to reassess how they measure ac:vity in 2016. Measurement is one of the most talked about aspects of social media in large organisaAons. As we hurtle towards 2016, most brands have moved beyond measuring “likes” and “followers”, and instead look at metrics such as engagement rate and referrals. “Click through rates” have become a tangible measure that the wider organisaAon can compare with other online markeAng acAvity. However, as it likes to do, the social media animal is sArring and seeing a new type of behaviour… that of users remaining within the confines of the social network rather than clicking out to other sites. There are a number of reasons for this; Page 17 ① The social networks are introducing more features to encourage it. Consider Facebook’s “Instant ArAcles” and Twi>er’s “Moments” to cover news and current events. Buy bu>ons on Facebook, Twi>er and Pinterest so you can shop without leaving*, and Facebook’s “Businesses on Messenger” for all of your customer service interacAons in a single place. ② Falling a>enAon spans can make the idea of clicking beyond the headline of a tweet or post too much for some. ③ Such is the range of content available on the social networks, audience simply don’t’ need to go elsewhere to get what they want. *Side note: I wouldn't mind holding a share in Shopify at the moment, given their posi1on as the commerce plaQorm unpinning much of this in-plaQorm commerce!
  18. 18. Time to revisit reporting? This obviously asks quesAons about how much effort brands should spend in encouraging people to click from social networks to their own websites: q  Do we conAnue to design content that requires users to click away from social networks? q  Do we remove click-through rates as a key performance metric? q  Should our metrics change? Is it just about engagement, or can we sAll assess some sort of dwell Ame on the social network (Instant ArAcles will allow Google AnalyAcs integraAon for example). q  Do we just scale back publishing on our website and move it to a social network (famously like Nescafe’s shib to Tumblr). I think there’s probably a way to go before it becomes such a black and white decision of “social network” or “own website”. It will conAnue to remain a case of assessing the audience and nature of the content, and adopAng the right balance. However, I do think it will further polarise the way many brands are managing social publishing, focusing on: q  Content to drive brand awareness & warmth. q  Content that’s highly targeted and seen much more like tradiAonal “direct response”. q  The former will be played out more and more within the social networks, with the emphasis (as it should be) on actually geIng people to talk favourably about brands with their friends and families. The la>er will conAnue to be streamlined and opAmised, but not (we hope) at the expense of creaAvity and consistency. Of course what hasn’t (and won’t) change are the three most important aspects of every social media measurement acAvity: context, context, context. Page 18
  19. 19. In conclusion Clearly 2016 will be another year of rapid development and change in the industry, bringing with it new challenges for those teams responsible for managing social media. It strikes me that the major trend will be that of social media becoming more ingrained across more teams and departments. The social media team’s role will steadily move away from being responsible for every “social media acAvity” across the business, and instead focus more on helping organise the rest of the business to do it themselves. We’re a long way from a world where everyone uses social technologies at work every day, as a ma>er of course, but could 2016 be the year we look back on and say, “it started then”? We’d love to hear your thoughts, opinions or quesAons, so please get in touch: Email: TwiXer: @simonlp LinkedIn: And if you’d like to read more arAcles like these, why not subscribe to our blog at Page 19