With 2011 holiday sales surpassing expectations, marketers entered 2012 with new customers and a renewed optimism. However, given the ups and downs of the past several years, now isn’t the time to rest on your laurels. Building community will require a renewed dedication and attention across these three areas:
1. Innovation. Success and differentiation will require proactive planning and a lot of experimentation. Marketers serious about building community must be creative and unafraid of failure. Create an innovation budget is my No. 1 must. Dedicate a portion of your 2012 budget to test new ideas to support new social media programs, networks and technologies.
You’ll no doubt continue to see the emergence of new community players this year (e.g., the increasing influence of Google+ brand pages), as well as the continued expansion and maturity of others, making them viable community platforms. Set aside a portion of your budget to support the building of such platforms as well as the testing of new programs, including but not limited to location-based services, augmented reality efforts, retargeting programs and more.
2. Data analysis and measurement. Data is the holy grail. If you haven’t already integrated your social media communities into your CRM database, 2012 is the year to do so. Looking at behavior such as engagement across multiple channels (e.g., web, email and social) will be essential in indentifying key influencers and brand advocates. Build a social media measurement framework to better track and analyze the impact of your social media efforts on individual programs as well as your brand overall. Measurement frameworks should include the following:
- awareness: reach and impressions;
- interest: views;
- excitement: “Likes,” comments, +1s, @mentions;
- advocacy: shares, retweets, testimonials, endorsements;
- conversion: attributable sales; and
- economic value: upsell success, multiple product ownership, increase in satisfaction/likelihood to recommend, loyalty, multichannel engagement, lifetime value.
3. Splinternet expertise. With more than 37 million iPhones sold over the holidays, smartphones as well as apps have become an increasingly important part of all of our lives. The proliferation of smartphones, new technologies, and proprietary platforms and networks has given rise to what Forrester Research calls “the Splinternet.”
As a result, growing and increasing participation across your social communities via mobile platforms will need to be a key focus in 2012. Marketers and their agencies will increasingly need to hone their communication skills in order to reach and engage consumers. Creating positive user experiences will be paramount and content optimization expertise will become as important as program ideas in 2012 as consumers engage with your brand across platforms.
The key to building community in 2012 will require a bit of left and right brain thinking: A thorough analysis of who your customers are and what they want, mixed with some creative thinking and flawless execution across multiple proprietary plaforms.