The year of social media convergence, integration and simplicity – is Enterprise ready for 2012?

By Alex Romanovich, Founder Social2B, CMO – EuroSpaClub International

 

With all the excitement of 2012 predictions and speculations, we couldn’t help but weigh in with a few observations of our own. After all, we are equally excited about what Year of the Dragon (officially starts on January 23rd, according to Chinese Zodiac Year of 2012) will bring to marketers and technologist alike. The Dragon will undoubtedly make good on the promise of convergence of the three major forces in business: digital media, marketing and technology. Ironically, Michael Porter’s value chain supporting organizations, namely: marketing, information services, legal and human resources, must take the lead in defining and shaping business strategies in 2012.

 

The two major ‘axis of Enterprise new media’, marketing and technology disciplines, will have the leverage of many investments made in 2011 and the attention of the boardroom. Enterprise ‘spin doctors’ and ‘geeks’ will have to please CEOs and CFOs, as well as their Operational counterparts, delivering the ROI from that leverage, while finding ways to play nicely together under the same roof of ‘social media and cloud computing’. Surprising it may seem, success can only come from focus, simplicity, and collaboration. Marketers can no longer afford to wage go-it-alone campaigns and to rely on agencies, which are clamoring for bigger budgets and opportunities for ‘outsourcing’. The complexity of tools and the amount of high-risk brand exposure call for alliances and internal agreements between pundits in legal, marketing, human resources and technology communities within an Enterprise.

 

The year of 2012 promises to be the ‘year of more‘, according to Mitch Joel, in his Six Pixels of Separation Blog. Naturally, we hope that marketers and technologists will find ways to cope with less and still make good on the promise of Social Media and Cloud Computing. Here are a few facts and tips for marketers, technologists, legal, and HR professionals to ‘converge, integrate and simplify’ their life in 2012.



1. Tools and Business Process Integration will force alignment and collaboration

Ask any marketer today about how many distinct tools they are using and how much functionality and productivity they are delivering to the company. The answers will vary, but the overall sentiment will be the same: it’s getting more complex and more expensive to manage the environment. CMOs are simply overwhelmed by new technologies, metrics, resources, skills and self-proclaimed ‘digital media experts’. Agencies have the same predicament - they are great at delivering ‘social media monitoring’ reports and breathtaking strategies, but are still limited in activating brand strategies for their clients based on data or ‘creative sentiment’ alone.

Converge: Marketing and IT functions must work together and turn ‘spending’ into ‘lead and revenue activation’ via tools, agreed-to metrics, and a unified business investment justification. As disciplines, marketing and technology have to converge (as equals) and drive the leadership agenda for the business. Or they will face further reductions and in some cases, outsourcing.

Integrate: Marketers and Technologists must find ways to integrate processes and technologies. ‘Marketing platform selection’ or ‘marketing automation process’ cannot be done in a vacuum any longer.

Simplify: If the CEOs and CFOs can’t get it, it will not get done. All the investments in marketing, technologies and resources in 2011 have to amount to bottom line results in 2012. The priority for 2012 should be: get CFOs and CEOs to buy into the new ‘digital and social’ agenda and show results of the 2011 investments by creating easily understood success metrics and integrating them into the traditional ones.


2. Social Media and Cloud Based Tools will dominate, but standards need to be in place

Modern corporate disciplines (marketing, IT, legal, human resources, operations, etc.) are defined by tools, processes and resources. But tools clearly occupy much of our time and human investment, forcing the learning curve cycles. Marketing alone can drive organizations to the brink with tools ranging from office automation, collaboration, and research, to A/B testing, social networking, monitoring and analytics.

Converge: A ‘management coalition’ needs to drive the convergence agenda with standards in place for how information is acquired, used, and delivered, to avoid chaos and spending sprees. Marketing may want to converge ‘marketing and communications’, while IT may want to adopt a ‘cloud computing’ framework and start saving money by moving services into the ‘cloud’. Legal and HR may want to simply take advantage of all the experience, data and platforms available within the Enterprise to streamline their operations and build communities. Talent acquisition platforms can integrate with other ‘social and community building’ platforms with the help of IT and marketing peers.

Integrate: Marketers and technologists (inclusive of operations/sales CRM agenda) need to select integrated solutions (tools) in project management, automation, research, optimization, support, and digital/social marketing.

Simplify: Companies must inventory their tools and process investments to streamline operations. Integration and selection processes will help eliminate most of the excess, if done correctly.


3. Metrics, data and analytics need to drive decision making process

There is enough data and information within the Enterprise today to confuse even the most analytical and experienced management team. Yet, all that data is useless without the agreement of how business success and performance is measured.

Converge: Organizations need to adopt common digital and social media metrics to measure their success in 2012. These metrics need to be understood by the entire C-Level Suite, not just marketers and agencies, or IT gurus and their vendors. A ‘path to bottom line’ has to be clear and further simplified, hence all Enterprise disciplines must converge their metrics and assumptions to present a unified ‘success measurement framework’.

Integrate: Integration of metrics might more difficult, however. Marketing and Sales need to agree on what drives leads and closure of business - traditionally and with new social media campaigns. IT needs to understand how to enable the ‘social Enterprise’ via streamlined platforms, standards, cost measures, deployment of automation tools, and management of data. Analytics and reporting needs to be simplified and tied to bottom line results.

Simplify: Simplicity will be key in defining and tracking ‘social business’ metrics in 2012. Going back to basics, breaking the silos, and eliminating ‘job security’ will be of paramount importance for management teams. Integration of many tools and platforms, or selection of all-encompassing ones will help, but so will the collaboration of decision makers.


4. Agencies, consultants and various ‘vendors’ need to present value and new business models to their clients

Agencies and consultants have to embrace their clients and concentrate on their needs and success metrics, and not on industry trends reports. With that, they need to develop new muscles and capabilities – either through partnerships or home-grown, or risk being replaced or diminished.

Converge: PR, Communications and Marketing agencies need to develop their digital and social muscles. How they do it will depend on their willingness to break their traditional business models and their willingness to invest into additional skills or outside partnerships. Digital Agencies and Advertising Agencies also need to move away from ‘Quarterly or Yearly Reviews’ and develop a more open and transparent relationship with their clients – they have to review themselves on a regular basis to make sure they constantly deliver value to their clients.

Integrate: Integration is key in this particular case – anything from services being delivered to technology skills and analytics skills being acquired. As agencies expand and grow, bringing on new capabilities and partners, they have to delight their clients with new integrated set of services, from social media and digital marketing to creative to platform development. We should expect a few agencies investing into new skills, capabilities and resources to pleasantly surprise their clients, and guard their relationships at the same time.

Simplify: Agencies and consultants will also have a more difficult time simplifying their offerings, as they expand their capabilities. The best approach is to prune their unprofitable business segments and to concentrate on their clients’ business, adding capabilities that will directly benefit their clients. Examples may include lead generation, digital communications, social media (amplification), and design for conversion.


Whether 2012 is promising to be a stellar year of performance and leverage of 2011 investments, or a scrappy year of survival, the Enterprise and the Agency must take notice and converge, integrate and simplify their operations and day to day activity. It is the only prescription for a more measurable and more justifiable execution of 2012.