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The State of Social Marketing 2012 – Brian Solis.

The following report is brought to you by the Pivot Conference taking place in New York on October 15-16, 2012. You can download a full copy of the report for free by clicking here.

At the end of 2011, Social marketing stands at a profound crossroads. Some organizations are finally embracing the importance of social networks and, as a result, increasing investments in creative engagement, marketing, and service programs. Others see the future value, but lag behind in execution. At the vanguard, Social Businesses drive a virtuous cycle of discovery: Their successes in Social marketing lead to new data, which lead to insights, which lead to new and more effective programs as well as the business systems and processes necessary to improve internal and external collaboration.

In 2012, social media marketing, driven by these innovations, will only continue to mature. Bottom-up learning about what really works in Social will be essential for this expansion. Research conducted by IBM in 2011, for instance, revealed a gap between consumer expectations toward the businesses they support in social media, and executive assumptions about what these consumers wanted. This “Perception Gap,” as defined by the IBM study, demonstrates the importance of bottoms-up, informed social marketing programs, as opposed to the traditional top-down strategies tied to the usual monologue-marketing channels.

Not all customers are created equal. So, businesses are learning that there must be more than one approach to reaching and engaging customers through the emerging Social channels.

This year, at the second annual Pivot Conference, we explored the evolving landscape for consumerism as colored by the emergence of Social Consumers. Brands, agencies, academics and thinkers examined how Social Consumers find and share information, how they influence and are influenced by engagement, and also how they make decisions. In the end, it was clear that the Social Consumer is fundamentally unlike a traditional consumer and, as such, compels brands to rethink sales, service, and marketing strategies across social, broadcast, and mobile networks. At stake is a business’ relevance to the Social Construct, which is the new key to consumer connection and success. For brands today, if you don’t establish this connection, Social Consumers will just connect themselves and collaborate without you.

To help brands more effectively plan for improving customer engagement and experiences in 2012 and beyond, the Pivot team, along with The Hudson Group, surveyed 181 brand managers, agency professionals, and experts. Their answers paint a picture for how businesses intend to reach their Social Consumers. Additionally, the results serve as a benchmark as you, the Social Business leader, assemble your strategies over the next year.

The Rise of the Social Consumer

Who is this Social Consumer and how does he or she differ from traditional counterparts? Let’s start with a working definition. A Social Consumer is someone who first goes to their social networks of relevance to learn about products and services. Though somewhat influenced by their overall social graphs, Social Consumers emphasize the input of those who define their interest graph – like-minded individuals on any given subject who share common interests and experiences with them. In this way, Social Consumers evaluate the shared experiences of those they trust, and expect businesses to respond to their socialized questions. As a consequence, Social Consumers don’t follow a linear approach through the classic ‘interest to intent’ funnel during their decision making process. Rather, they follow an elliptical pattern where their next steps are inspired by the insights of others, and their experiences are, in turn, fed back into the cycle to inform the decisions of others.

Reprinted from The End of Business as Usual, Chapter 14

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