Global usage and reach of social networks has grown exponentially and we’ve seen immense advances in technology that can measure, track, and analyze valuable data about consumers and create entirely new ways to communicate and collaborate. These advancements go beyond marketing and impact every aspect of business.
Social media has proven to be far more than a megaphone that can amplify a brand’s message. These five social trends are already changing how different departments function.
With the help of data mining startups like Gnip, Topsy, and DataSift, businesses can now distill meaning from vast amounts of unstructured social data, giving them specific insights into how consumers feel about a product and its pricing, features, and convenience—as well as how it compares to the competition.
Big brands like Zappos have recently taken full advantage of this particular technology. The e-commerce brand uses data from Pinterest to learn about customers’ interests and passions, leveraging those insights to make tailored product recommendations.
Through this data, Zappos learned that users were 13 times more likely to share a purchase on Pinterest than on Facebook or Twitter. The company took advantage of this information by building an app that lets users match Zappos’ inventory to items pinned from Pinterest—almost like having a personal shopper. The impact: more sales referrals through Pinterest and a shorter sales cycle.
One of the biggest social advancements is users’ ability to collaborate with one another. In fact, entire virtual economies have been created around "collaborative consumption," which allows users to exchange goods and services (as well as rent, share, or swap possessions) with just a few clicks.
Perhaps one of the best examples of a platform leveraging this trend is Airbnb, which allows homeowners to rent out their rooms and helps travelers find affordable accommodations around the globe. For the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Airbnb is even analyzing complaints and making suggestions to disgruntled visitors so they can find more suitable accommodations.
Businesses can collaborate on everything from project management, video production, travel, and even doodling. Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote, Trello, Flow, and Basecamp are all tools that facilitate collaboration among teams and are from companies competing for a chunk of the software market.
2013 was named "The Year of Social HR"—a title that came with little surprise to anyone in HR. LinkedIn has been one of the most powerful recruitment tools for years, but more recently, HR professionals have begun to use gamification to improve employees’ leadership skills in a fun, competitive way. They’re also tapping startups like Entelo and TalentBin to find appropriate candidates by scanning social networks. These platforms help identify which eligible candidates might be looking for jobs based on recent updates to their social profiles and work history.
Until the last decade, marketers had a distinct advantage over consumers when it came to influencing behavior. They controlled the airwaves and other marketing channels and had vast amounts of research on consumers’ behavior and values. Social media has paved the way for a wave of new influencers—social-savvy consumers with a large and loyal following.
Influencers usually focus on a particular subject area, such as food, parenting, or fitness, which gives them access to a targeted audience. For example, niche gluten-free brand Udi’s Food wanted to reach the gluten-free audience, so it partnered with bloggers who already had a following within that niche.
Through collaborative content creation, Udi’s Food was able to increase brand awareness within the online community. When ABC News wanted to spread the word about its campaign to help women and babies in developing countries, Udi’s Food tapped almost a thousand influential content creators across the globe on blogs and social media to generate millions of impressions, raise funds, and drive awareness.
Customers’ ability to call out a brand on social media for poor customer service or the quality of a product has forever changed the customer service game. Complaints via email or phone may have little consequence, but when the complaint has the potential to reach a million people instantly, companies must make listening and responding to customer feedback a priority.
Social media’s impact on customer service doesn’t have to be detrimental for brands, though. Through proactive customer service, JetBlue has become known as a brand that not only responds to complaints and comments on Twitter, but does so quickly.
Our ability to listen, participate, track, and analyze the sentiment and engagement of millions of people is astounding—one of the most revolutionary technical advancements since the Internet itself. The businesses that leverage these and evolve with social technologies will be at the forefront of successful product development, recruitment, communication, and customer interaction.
Holly Hamann is the cofounder and CMO of TapInfluence, the industry’s only cloud-based software that automates the creation, management, and measurement of influencer marketing programs from a single platform. She has helped launch six web-based startups in the social, music, video, and entertainment spaces. She is a public speaker, board member of the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship, and American Marketing Association "Marketer of the Year" recipient. Holly is an entrepreneur, an active triathlete, and a pilot (in her spare time). Connect with Holly on Twitter.