Social Media like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn may have dominated the social platforms in 2011 but as we move into 2012, it is vital for marketers and business leaders to begin thinking about social media in a broader sense, fully appreciating the impact of social dynamics on business.
Jason Xenopoulos, CEO of NATIVE, believes five core concepts will influence marketers and business leaders this year, the first being Social by Design.
“Social by Design is the term that Facebook uses to describe the new order of things where social dynamics now underpin every aspect of the web. But,” says Xenopoulos, “Social by Design is not limited to marketing. The effects of an increasingly-connected world are now being felt at every level of business. Companies are beginning to reorganise themselves around people; processes are changing and structures are mutating as businesses themselves become Social by Design. The question is no longer, ‘how do we create viral marketing,’ but, ‘how do we develop viral products and services?”
From social media to social business
2012 is the year in which industry leaders must look beyond social media and towards Social Business. This year will also see the emergence of a new planning discipline called Propagation Planning, which governs the way in which brand messages scale and spread.
Social media has rewired the planet’s electronic communication networks. No longer is information only consumed through bought-media channels like radio and television, but today, in the socially-connected mediaverse, people are discovering more and more of their content through friends. “Targeting consumers in this environment requires an understanding of how information flows through their social networks. Griffin Farley from BBH New York describes Propagation Planning as, ‘planning not for the people you reach, but the people that they reach, by giving them assets to propagate.’
The Social Media revolution is a consumer revolution. The democratisation of media has shifted power away from corporations and media owners and into the hands of the general public. Today, brands are co-owned by consumers.
Power to the people
The impact of this shifting dynamic cannot be underestimated. “For those business leaders who doubted whether consumers would really usurp their power, the Arab Spring came as a profound and shocking surprise. We live in a world where consumer-centricity, transparency, truth, and authenticity are now table-stakes.
In order to remain relevant in a world being redefined by social dynamics, business leaders will need to devolve their brands into the hands of the people that are most important to them – their customers. ‘Devolution’ is designed to help businesses adapt to the changing needs of their increasingly empowered consumers. They must take heed of this new consumer-led dispensation,” Xenopoulos warns.
Another key trend impacting business is mobilisation. He explains that Mobile media is not just about advertising on cell-phones. It is about understanding the implications of being an ‘always-on’ brand, available to customers anywhere, anytime.
“Mobilising your business is not about buying a few mobile banner ads or building a mobisite,” says Xenopoulos, “but rather about understanding the way mobile computing is likely to disrupt and redefine the customer journey within your industry… and then reshaping your business to meet these burgeoning consumer demands.”
Third world growth
The final factor to consider is the potential of E-merging Markets. According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the world’s population will grow by another billion people by 2025.
While western markets have begun to buckle beneath the pressure of a global recession, the third-world has begun to emerge. Today 80% of the world’s consumers are moving into a new economic reality. As a result, global brands are now looking to tap into these emerging markets in order to reclaim the growth that once defined their success.
But from a marketing perspective, connecting with emerging consumers has always been a challenge. The sophisticated mass media infrastructures that forged consumerism in the west do not exist in many emerging markets.
Enter the mobile phone. “Suddenly, that reality has changed. In South Africa, for example, in 2009 we had approximately 4,3 million fixed-line connections, but well over 40 million mobile subscribers and the mobile phone is fast becoming the number one gateway onto the Internet. Suddenly, emerging markets like South Africa have managed to leapfrog decades of socio-economic development to arrive at a place where almost the entire population is connected. This radically changes the picture for marketers who now have the opportunity to engage with a whole new layer of the population,” says Xenopoulos.
Leaders and entrepreneurs who are targeting emerging markets must acknowledge the vital role that technology plays in harnessing these consumers… “because it is only through the appropriate and innovative use of technology that we will be able to fully realise the potential of our e-merging consumers.
“According to Chinese Astrology, 2012 is the Year of the Water Dragon. If this is anything to go by, businesses will have to exude power and ambition, like the Dragon, while at the same time remaining flexible and pliant, like water. This is going to be the year where businesses need to focus on forging strong interpersonal relationships through communication, persuasion, and collaboration,” concludes Xenopoulos.