While Social Business continued to evolve in 2012, 2013 will see the emergence of digital business as a new strategic theme for many firms. What's driving this shift and what does it mean for CIOs, CEOs, and chief digital officers?
The Communications Evolution
Communications continue to evolve. Consider how humans have transformed communications over the centuries: signal fires; semaphore; Morse code; the telegraph; the telephone; telex; fax; email; SMS; Facebook; and Twitter. I have no doubt that this evolution will continue in 2013 and beyond. Perhaps beyond 2013 we will eventually achieve the ability to communicate our thoughts directly — whether we’ll want to is a different question. As people the world over learn to use new social networking tools, they drop older tools that are no longer useful to them. Regardless of where you are in your personal communications evolution, the undeniable truth is that over the past decade we have significantly changed how people communicate; we are no longer dependent upon email. But social tools and 24/7 mobile access have not removed the complexity or decreased the volume of information we must process. Time remains our most precious resource and we’ll always seek ways to use it more effectively — but social tools are not necessarily the silver bullet we might think. In 2013 we need to rethink business processes to take this new communications paradigm into account.
I am delighted to announce that our annual report on The State Of Consumers And Technology: Benchmark 2012, US is now available. This report is a graphical analysis of a range of topics about consumers and technology and serves as a benchmark for understanding how consumers have changed over the years. For those of you who aren't familiar with our benchmark report, it's based on Forrester's annual Technographics® online benchmark survey that we've been fielding since 1998 and for which we interview close to 60,000 US online adults. The report covers a wide range of topics, such as online activities, device ownership — including penetration data and forecasts for smartphones and tablets — media consumption, retail, social media, and a deep dive on mobile.
We analyze our findings through a generational lens, including Gen Z, Gen Y, Gen X, Younger Boomers, Older Boomers, and the Golden Generation. Age is a key factor behind consumers’ usage of and attitudes toward technology. However, one finding spans the generations: Consumers of all ages embrace the opportunity to find information and connect with people and brands wherever they are. And while online penetration in the US remains the same as a year ago — at 79% of all adults — the depth of Internet usage has grown; more consumers go online on a daily basis and they connect on more devices. The graphic below illustrates our point: US smartphone owners use their device almost everywhere. They aren’t just connecting at home but wherever they go; in fact, they’re more likely to access the Internet on their phone in a store than in their own kitchen.
Don’t link to your Facebook brand page from your B2B corporate home page just to show your CMO you know what Facebook is.
Forrester has long-viewed our POST — people, objectives, strategy, and tools/technology, in that order — methodology as a primary tool for social marketers to use when developing a social strategy. This requires thinking about your audience and their social behaviors first (people), then your business objectives that you are using social to meet, then what your strategy should be, and finally, what tools, technology, and platforms will help you reach your goals. Yet I’m having more and more conversations with B2B marketers who haven’t articulated their audience’s business social behaviors about social platforms they maintain a corporate presence on and link to on their corporate home pages.
Your customers’ and prospects’ use of social is exceedingly context dependent — and you only care what they are doing in a business context in relation to your solution. Forrester’s data consistently shows that Facebook is not very influential in the B2B purchase process. For this reason, before you decide to put a link to your Facebook group (or page) on your B2B corporate home page because your peers in other organizations have done so, or your CMO requested it, consider the following questions:
Does my audience use Facebook in the context of my solutions (e.g., to talk about networking hardware or financial services), or just in a personal context (e.g., to look at photos of their children’s soccer game or talk about their upcoming vacation)?
Do I have an active community on Facebook so that when a customer goes to my Facebook page, they will have a positive experience with my brand?
For social media evangelists, the question on everyone's mind is this: "How do we effectively measure the business value of social initiatives?"
Even when we get close, there's always that pesky issue of causation vs. correlation — can we really prove causation even for examples with high correlation between social initiatives and business outcomes? (Read Freakonomics, or watch the documentary, for insights into the challenges of causation vs. correlation.)