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Earlier this month we published 2013’s Social Media Management Systems Buyer’s Guide, which saw 18 vendors of technology and services profiled, and the state of the industry discussed.

Before we put together our guides, we often seek the input of professionals from the vendors and elsewhere, to give us their views on current and future trends in their industries, and these quotes are included in the guides.

Fortunately, many of our industry experts were generous with their quotes for the SMMS buyer’s guide and we received far more input than we could include in our report, so we would like to share some of it here.

One of the questions we asked was, “What are the most important trends occurring in the Social Media Management Systems (SMMS) market?” Due to the variety of SMMS providers included in the guide, we received a range of responses depending on the focus of their platforms. The thoughts of some of the industry professionals are below, starting (and ending) with Jim Rudden, CMO of Spredfast:

Jim Rudden, CMO, Spredfast

As social gets a larger share of the marketing budget and more parts of the organisation become involved, managing social has become increasingly complex. Companies are now looking for ways to be more efficient with their social media management. They’re grappling with ways to distribute responsibility across the organisation and empower various social teams to manage their own social media programs. At the same time, they’re trying to ensure that they’re maintaining the right tone, personality and voice across multiple accounts.

Social extending throughout the enterprise was one of the main trends highlighted in the Buyer’s Guide. Vendors spoke of the need for social media objectives to be formed and agreed across the organisation, rather than having siloed objectives decided by individual teams or social channels. This philosophy was termed by Scott Doniger, at Sprinklr, as “being social”, as explained below.

Scott Doniger, SVP Strategy and Services, Sprinklr

There is a difference between “doing” or “managing” social and “being” social. It’s the difference between publishing new product content to Facebook or YouTube (i.e., “doing” social marketing) and creating a unified profile of every customer so that every conversation is built upon the knowledge and experience of the previous one, while speaking to that customer with a single brand voice, regardless of where, or through which social channel, the connection with that customer takes place.

One of the products of social media marketing is a huge amount of data. So much data, in some cases, that marketers are struggling to know where to begin in gaining actionable insights from them. Some SMMS providers specialise in using this data to contribute to the ‘single customer view’; adding detail to an existing CRM and using this to target campaigns, on social and elsewhere, to the most suitable individuals. One provider of social CRM, Comufy, gave the following explanation:

Brad Cross, Sales Director, Comufy

There is a current trend being driven by the social media network owners as much as the brands to go beyond the focus on content and placement, and start to focus on the target audience to improve conversion rates. Taking Facebook as an example, many companies are using Custom Audiences to target media at specific individuals. This trend of going from an anonymous audience to individuals will continue as brands try to improve visibility of customers, results attribution, and to view social activity in the context of the wider business. Providers that offer a cost effective way of maximizing your data asset and ability to deliver highly targeted and relevant content to individuals will become even more relevant.

The experts were also asked to look ahead to the next 12 months, commenting on what they thought were going to be important issues affecting the industry. Anna Drennan, Marketing Manager at Conversocial , highlighted another key trend covered in the buyer’s guide; that of the increasing use of social as a customer service channel.

Anna Drennan, Marketing Manager, Conversocial

Social customer service is set to be a complete customer service channel over the next 12 months, rather than just a surprise and delight tool. Consumers are beginning to use Facebook and Twitter as preferred channels to reach out – a recent study by NM Incite states that 47 percent of social media users have used social care, with the percentage rising amongst 18 – 24 year olds. Scaling social customer service operations, with the capability to offer real resolutions completely through social media will be key in 2013.

If the predictions about social customer service in 5 years’ time from IBM’s Global CEO survey are correct, the traditional contact centre as we know it, is set to be transformed, social media moves in and brings these operations into the heart of brand strategy. Measurement will be key in 2013 for such a significant communication channel, and we will see businesses determining revenue, retention and reputation goals for social engagement.

Privacy issues have always followed social; with so much personal information being published online there will always be the temptation for companies to use this data, and the extent to which they do so becomes a contentious issue. Henry Ellis, of agency Tamar, stated this as an on-going issue for 2013:

Henry Ellis, Digital Marketing Director, Tamar

With many social platforms having spent 2012 focusing on monetisation, this trend is bound to continue throughout the next 12 months. But with the focus on money will come a greater realisation by the users that THEY are the product - and this in turn will lead to consumers having more desire to retain 'ownership' of their content. The Instagram rights fiasco just highlighted this - as more of these events happen, the more consumers will be aware of what they're actually signing up to when they join a social media website. Privacy will continue to be a concern - so how the social giants react to this will be key.

Finally, Jim Rudden showed that the issue of scaling social across an entire business is not just a current trend, but one that is set to be a feature throughout 2013. Due to the sometimes slow rate of organisational change within large enterprises, it could be some time before the silos are broken down and social becomes a channel which is embraced and coordinated across all departments.

Jim Rudden, CMO, Spredfast

The challenge of scaling social engagement will continue to be at the forefront of social practitioners’ minds in 2013. Organisations have to think through how teams, that sometimes have hundreds of members spanning multiple departments across multiple regions, effectively coordinate and respond to social activity to ensure that the content being published is reaching the right audience at the right time. Technology will play a key role in scaling this with rich permission structures, collaboration tools to facilitate content development and detailed analytics to show what is working. However, companies adopting SMMP technologies also have a lot of work to do from a policy and culture perspective. What types of social engagement do they want to respond to? Are they focusing on proactive (outbound) social or responding to questions? What is the right mix?

Amy Rodgers

Published 22 February, 2013 by Amy Rodgers

Amy Rodgers is a Research Analyst at Econsultancy. You can find Amy on Google+

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