No, that doesn’t mean I’m going to list over two thousand predictions for social media. If I did, however, I would be almost certain to get some of it right.
Instead, I’m going to list my predictions for the year ahead. Which means I’ll probably get most of it wrong.
However, just to lend some semblance of order to this post, I’m going to do it in three sections. These are: part one, in which I look at what I pretty much randomly said about social media last year with a cat sitting on my lap, and decide whether or not I was right or wrong (probably wrong, right?); part two, in which I also look back at the aggregated post I did last year, in which I looked across several predictions to see what the consensus was this time last year, and again see how they panned out (or not); and part three, in which, with a cat sitting on my lap, I give you my potted view on what the year ahead holds.
So, onward and downward…
Part One: What I Said About This Time Last Year With A Cat Sitting On My Lap
Here’s what I said, in brief, and my take on whether or not it happened…
How can you invest time and effort, how can you plan, when you don’t know what’s going to happen over the next few months, let alone the next year?
What I Think Now: I’ve seen quite large developments over the past year, such as continued Facebook changes, the temporary disappearance of SocialMention and the seemingly permanent disappearance of TweetCloud. However, not all of these have been bad, so for example Delicious has been revived, and Google+ has offered a good, new, stable channel (albeit not a platform).
And actually, I don’t think confidence has gone down. Perhaps we’re just reaching Gartner’s plateau of productivity, in which we’ve figured out how to use this stuff, and are going ahead and just using it, with our expectations more realistic than they were last year.
Yahoo owns the biggest bookmarking service around, and it cannot make money off it. Twitter, as far as I’m aware, still doesn’t have a monetisation strategy. I don’t quite understand how Mark Zuckerberg can be so rich off the back of Facebook.
What I Think Now: I think monetisation is still an issue, but not a problem. This is because people are conveniently forgetting about it. (Here, I’m referring to the value companies place on their social media efforts rather than valuations of Facebook etc).
If you asked someone today how much value their website creates, and they weren’t running an ecommerce operation, they very probably would have no idea. But, at the outset of last year, I felt fairly sure people would be asking about this more and more for social media because they were all strapped for cash.
Twelve months later and the economic situation is probably even worse, but I think social media could be becoming one of those things you just ‘do’, like websites.
This is actually probably not a good thing because it means companies will be even more lax with their pennies. As an aside, I have to say, the way comms are run by the vast majority of companies out there makes my jaw drop, and this is why monetisation probably isn’t a problem, because people just don’t measure it. This benefits the people running the comms because they conveniently sidestep the difficult issues. But it just ain’t right, surely…
I still feel my temples throb when I meet up with digital colleagues at PR agencies, who recount phrases they continue to come across such as “Let’s do some blogging stuff” or “Maybe we should send some tweets out.”
What I Think Now: There are actually some clued-up agencies who are walking the walk as well as talking the talk.
It tends to be one or two individuals in a team who really ‘get it’, and who I sit down with and take them through it all. That, plus training for an entire group, seems to work well.
But yes, on the whole, I think PR is getting its act together. It’s doing this by bringing in specialists, or developing its own in-house resource, or working with digital agencies. Which makes it harder for freelancers…
I admit I haven’t found the past year easy by any means.
What I Think Now: It’s still tough out there. I’ve been successful in winning new business, but find retaining it very difficult.
As a freelancer/contractor, what you tend to find is that you get involved with individual projects without any real, long-term, strategic involvement. People are not interested in integrating across platforms, so you might get a Facebook gig that has no input from a web team or Twitter channel, which kind of defeats the purpose of social media.
Last year, I did wonder whether I would continue with this work. I’m actually astonished I made it through this year without going utterly insane. Some would say I didn’t.
While I find PR people don’t ‘get’ digital, I do find digital ‘gets’ PR. My prediction here is that, far from PR subsuming digital, it will eventually be the other way around.
What I Think Now: I haven’t seen any evidence that this has happened. We still have dedicated digital operations such as We Are Social, 1000Heads, Razorfish and so on, alongside PR agencies that have their digital teams.
I guess that, if anything, what I’ve noticed is that a lot more companies, whether PR, comms or client-side, have their own in-house capabilities now. Which does make my job harder, it has to be said. See previous point.
15-minute YouTube clips are cheaper to disseminate but 135,000 views is NOTHING compared to 2 million viewers – regardless of trendy notions of ‘engagement’, ‘dialogue’ or ‘the network effect’.
What I Think Now: This is related to the monetisation issue. People simply don’t seem to think about the money. So, they aren’t disappointed. It’s a bit like the smoker who read so much about the damage smoking causes, that she stopped reading.
I think people are probably not as disappointed with social media now because they realise it’s not going to make everyone stupidly, instantly rich, popular, or influential. This is a good thing because it means we’re a bit more realistic. But it’s bad because I’m basically just in it for the money and fame.
Facebook is a juggernaut and it’s not going to slow down any time soon.
What I Think Now: Facebook is a juggernaut and it’s not going to slow down any time soon.
This is even with the advent of Google+. The critical difference between the two networks is that Facebook is a platform on which other people can build their apps, whereas Google tries to second-guess what people want by giving them apps to play with. So Facebook has long legs and Google+ has little tiny stumps. Facebook will continue to dominate.
Dashboarding and curating
I truly believe that every company should be monitoring what people are saying about it, its issues and its competitors, on a daily basis.
What I Think Now: I’ve had a lot of success demonstrating this to people, because they really have understood how important this is.
I would say this time last year, hardly anyone really took dashboarding seriously. I just could not convince them. A year later however, by taking some time to demonstrate how quickly and effectively you can set up a dashboard, I’ve now helped several clients with this and they are very well informed about what’s being said about their clients online. I actually think it’s wilfully negligent not to know this nowadays, and any agency that does not know this will, sooner or later, be very embarrassed indeed.
Social media only works when it scales up. If you don’t have enough followers/members/contacts, it won’t work.
What I Think Now: Again, this ties into the monetisation issue. It depends on what you mean by ‘work’.
There was a brief period during the year where everyone was gassing on about ROI for social media. That noise seems to be distant and quiet now. I think this is because people are thinking that social media is something they just need to do. But this is a pity because if they take an integrated, strategic view, with everything joined up and working together, then you really can work along the chain sequence and figure out how it all contributes to real, monetary value. So maybe that’s where companies should be going, says the social media strategist.
So this ends part one. This post actually turned out to be a lot longer than I expected, so I’ll do part two in a bit…