Social... Is It Just Trending?

As the CEO of Spredfast, the largest independent social marketing platform, I am often asked - "Is Social Just A Trend"? It's been almost ten years since the launch of Twitter, but this remains a fair inquiry to make. What was once seen as innovative and revolutionary must now strive to prove its worth or step aside for the next big thing in a technology space that continues to expand and create. When I hear this question, I'm reminded of Geoffrey Moore's book, Crossing the Chasm. As Moore explains, the most difficult step for any trend is to branch out from the intrigued group of early adopters to the pragmatics. As such, it does beg the question if social, can, in fact, make the leap from the initial visionaries to the long term investors who see its usefulness and trust in its role to help lead their business practiced? I would venture to say yes, and luckily for my bottom line, 78% of C-Level executives agree.

As seen in Forrester's "The 2014 State of Enterprise Social Marketing Report," social is moving up on the corporate agenda. This study examines the growing responsibility of social marketing - citing that 67% of enterprise companies now integrate social with broader (non-social) marketing efforts. After over a decade of livelihood, it's safe to say that social is no longer just a trend. However, the role of social in organization's business plans is now beginning to change drastically.

Center of Excellence

For years, companies have had small digital teams focused on social day in and day out. These social evangelists live and breathe social - they are, what we call, the center of excellence. This year we see that the majority of organizations (69%) report that they're planning to increase their social marketing staff in 2015, with 33% planning to increase by at least 10%. But is it enough?

In order to cross the chasm, companies must leverage this group cross functionally, to educate other teams on social's role in meeting overall business objectives. As social continues to be tested, it's the center of excellence that will be tasked with defining practices for measuring success.

C-Level Buy-in is Key

In order to operationalize social, to take it beyond the walls of the center of excellence, senior-level buy-in is key. The center of excellence is essential to enterprise-wide education, while C-Level buy-in underscores the high-level value.

There are many roles within an organization that need to have a line of communication with consumers; more people that need to pick-up the phone for consumers than just the social media manager. Operationalizing social gives the organization more external touchpoints.

While virtually all companies surveyed in the Forrester Report reported that marketing is the primary business function associated with social programs, this year, 67% of enterprise companies have also said they're integrating social with broader marketing efforts. We're seeing Marketing, PR, Legal, HR and IT having a hand in an organization's social media voice and strategy. With time, training, and education on how social impacts day-to-day business operations, social will soon start to align with business goals outside the focus of just the center of excellence.

As more teams across the enterprise understand social's abilities, the value continues to grow.

Moving The Needle

Social has been a priority for the center of excellence and it's time for it to trickle down. Now that social has C-level buy in, it can become ingrained across the company. All of these various departments - ranging from HR to legal, IT to PR - are all in a position to benefit from utilizing their social touchpoints as part of their roles. They just need a nudge from the senior leaders and a helping hand from the social experts to make the move.

Employees who know the company and customer service procedures are in the best position to take advantage of social because they know their audience better than anyone else. When the center of excellence has C-level support to operationalize social, a new layer of targeting and monetization takes effect. Suddenly everyone can share more benchmarks: consumer engagement and reach metrics, industry trends, praise/complaints and even top weekly posts. As a result, social continues to move from being viewed as a passing trend, and instead is establishing a place in businesses as a much needed tool for company success.