It's that time of year again, and the prognosticators are out in force.
One site has gone so far as to compile predictions for 2013 from 50-plus social media "thought leaders." Unfortunately, these re-heated ideas range all over the map, from telling us there'll be growth in mobile (really, you think?) to the suggestion that companies can use Twitter for customer service.
There's even this contrarian prediction: "More and more advertisers will be leaving social media and returning to snail mail, print and other traditional ads. Social media will continue to be a dating hook up, gossip fest and avenue for 'gurus' to sell seminars." At least she has a point of view.
Every working marketer understands in a broad sense that social media matters, that these maddeningly multifarious channels deliver tangible benefits. That argument is settled. Moreover, many marketers -- but sadly, not all -- grasp that social media isn't an outbound, unidirectional marketing channel, and that crudely using it as such misses the point.
So what's the problem?
Right now, there are, in my opinion, two problems in social media, both of them holding back many companies from realizing the technology's full potential.
Who owns the social media in your company? Is it siloed in the marketing or PR department?
To repeat: Social media is not an outbound marketing channel. It is also an input. Therefore, the events and insights flowing from this realm have relevance for numerous groups, including sales, customer service, product development, and perhaps even engineering.
Unfortunately, relatively few companies have established the connections between social media inputs and these other business functions. The result? The valuable intelligence to be gleaned from social media languishes in a silo, never to become used.
A November study by IBM underscores the issue. The study, "The Business of Social Business: What Works and How It's Done," found that while 46 percent of the companies surveyed increased their investment in social technologies in 2012, only 22 percent said managers are prepared to incorporate social tools and approaches into their daily practices.
"Businesses are struggling to make sense of the vast amount of data generated from social networks," said Kevin Custis, VP-global leader, social business and mobility services, IBM Global Business Services, in a statement about the study, which collected responses from more than a 1,000 companies across a dozen industries.
Indeed, along with integration, marketers aren't effectively applying data analysis to the social media streams available to them.
A study released this month by KPMG, the auditing firm, finds that while many companies have adopted some form of data analytics, 60 percent of management teams don't seem to have the right access to marketplace data needed to make strategic decisions about their social media or mobile media efforts.
"Data generated on the Internet by customers and vendors can help offer new predictive opportunities to anticipate market changes," said Jeanne E. Johnson, who leads KPMG's Data & Analytics (D&A) innovation initiative, in a statement. "But it remains a huge challenge to harness this kind of data as it is not only generated from disparate reporting systems, but is generated by a wide variety of external stakeholders."
Separately, just half of IT professionals characterize IT's relationship with marketing as good or excellent, according to InformationWeek's 2013 Analytics, Business Intelligence and Information Management Survey. Almost one in five say that relationship is only poor or fair.
So, simplify your priorities in 2013 by focusing on integration and analytics. You'll be in a better position, come 2014.