Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Forecasting Social Media's Future & Yours!


No surprise, according to Veronis Suhler Stevenson's (VSS) infamous "US Communications Industry Forecast", 2009 advertising spend is down by 7.6% overall, with a 1% decline to follow in 2010. The segments hardest hit - newspapers, consumer magazines, radio and broadcast television.

There is good news. VSS predicts that in the U.S., the media industry will become the third-fastest-growing economic sector in the next five years. Most of that growth will come from the internet, mobile devices, branded entertainment, word of mouth marketing and public relations. What this means is marketers right now need to develop strategies around mobile, social networking and digital video (for phones and computers).

You know, corporate America is by nature, not social. Most corporations are still wedded to a traditional marketing approach, based on TV, radio and print ads, and aren't sure how to integrate social media channels or where to start. There is also this sense of panic that comes from ignoring the profit potential of millions customers who are consuming media in new ways. Except for marketers with their heads in the sand, many of us fear that the train is leaving without us (not Charlene Li and her team at Altimeter of course, who are on the train). I believe that the customer experience holds the ticket.

Companies want to know how to begin and offering up simple solutions to complex issues is a good place to start. First steps should include discovering best practices in their industry and understanding their customers' current perceptions. Then they should take a look at improving the customer experience. I start with customer experience because it is, after all what social media is all about - engaging the customer through helpful and ethical dialog (not shouting out and hoping they'll hear you). And it goes without saying, but I'm saying it anyway, customers are how you make your money.

With customer experience improvement as the overall goal, the strategy will naturally include traditional methods and can be enhanced by offering up social media tests. Starting with small moves in new territory is less daunting but can lead to some wonderful long term success.

Of course, long term success looks like one thing now and will be completely different in 6 to 12 months. Business needs to understand, that social media is a tool and while waiting to employ it is not an option as it involves loss of audience share, its inherent benefits are so revolutionary that it will take time for the technology, the methods and the key players to solidify.