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Social Themes Trending in 2013

One week back on deck after a long break in India and its very clear 2013 is well under way now, and I'm busy getting my brain around what 2013 holds in store for Social.  There have been a lot of "Social trends for 2013" type articles and posts, but one that proved more thought provoking than most was Adam Vincenzini's which he presented to Fairfax Media.  I was able to take a lot of value from this and so thought it was worth pulling some of the key take-outs from it and sharing here. [slideshare id=16451026&style=border: 1px solid #CCC; border-width: 1px 1px 0; margin-bottom: 5px;&sc=no]

1. His first point about images is key.  While Pinterest and Instagram positively exploded last year, they're impact on the rest of the social web was huge.  In particular, I saw the way that Facebook is used by brands and organisations change to respond to these new channels.  That users respond well to images became the golden rule and now many social community managers focus on how to use images to convey a message.  In many ways, in the B2B space, this explains the amazing growth of Infographics.  Designers of Infographics will continue to make a mint in 2013 it seems as it remains the most effective way to communicate complex messages - a key challenge of B2B Social Communications.

4. He makes an interesting point about "semi-guaranteed engagement", in terms of the use of "promoted posts" to drive community inter-action.  But when I first read it, I immediately thought of it the other way around.  I hope to see Social Media users begin to expect more engagement from brands.  That guarantees could be offered to respond to users requests and queries via social media is unlikely given the struggle most organisations are having with scaling to meet the demand at all.  However, a semi-guarantee that a sensible, sober comment should be met with an equally valuable reply from a brand engagement team isn't too much to ask after nearly a decade of Social Networks.  Pretty soon, users who go ignored on social media by brands, will reciprocate that snub in the real world.

5. His point about You Tube is superb, and I agree wholeheartedly.  The Bodyform case study last year was a tremendous example of how brands can engage directly with people in a way that does so much to give character and personality to their voice.  But also  it exemplifies a more entertaining approach that adds value to everyone.  The business of Commercial Social engagement is about to get a lot more mature and a lot more fun!

6. On the subject of in-sourcing Social Media, I also strongly agree.  There's a growing consensus that this is the way forward and while brands often seem intent - mainly because of resource-constraints or nervousness - on keeping the Social function at an arm's length, I agree with Adam that it's time to get their hands dirty.  The strongest reason I've come across for this is learning.  The main benefit of community engagement through Social Media is learning more about your customers and prospects and getting to know them better.  Why outsource this?  Keep it in house, learn from it regularly and feed it back into the business.  (Incidently, I don't believe this is a threat for Artechulate as brands will still need strategic consultancy before building or adapting their own Social function.)

"Brands will be forced to think more collaboratively if they want to work with the people that have resonance with the people they want to reach."

Mango's Adam Vincenzini

7. Influencer engagement is key and how Social teams approach their management of this important area will be critical to success or failure.  I've written about this before, and what I clumsily call the "amplification cohort" (a post also inspired by Adam!) is for me one of the most important success factors in Social Media outreach, and one that requires PR expertise as much as Social Media understanding.  Success in this area depends on recognising that this is as much an offline campaign as an online one.

11. Finally, on measurement, I also agree with his comment about "meaningless numbers".  But marketing departments are always going to project their success and justify their value in terms of numbers, as will customer care teams.  Equally, CxOs only really understand how to measure the success or failure of their organisations in terms of numbers, graphs and dashboards.  But I think what is important - while using Social KPIs to measure audience and activity and so on - is to also embed within that anecdotal evidence and qualitative context.  True Social success should be judged on audience engagement and while likes and +1s are great, its those human interactions that tell the best stories.  Moreover, don't hide from the bad stories either, as teams will learn more from what has gone badly than from what has gone well.

So thank you Adam for a great presentation that has helped me frame some of my thoughts around a Social 2013.  This post listing 7 considerations for those planning their 2013 budgets is also very insightful.    One other final thought is that Google+ - the oft forgotten network - is so much more powerful than you think but most teams leave it out of the planning.  But this research showing that activity on Google+ has surpassed Twitter and is now second only to Facebook, is very compelling.

What do you think is going to be the most important development for Social Media in 2013?