2011 Social Media Predictions: Now Social Media Marketing Gets Tough

Social media does not make marketing any easier. Although it is a powerful tool for marketers to reinforce their brands, energize advocates and strengthen relationships, it is also yet another marketing channel that requires attention, investment and innovation. And much like the Web 15 years earlier, this is a channel that challenges the status quo and defies easy metrics.

In 2011, social media marketing doesn’t get any easier. Although the medium is maturing, that maturity brings with it a host of new challenges for marketers. Primary among those challenges is that social media is becoming an awfully cluttered and noisy space.  As more people adopt social behaviors and more marketers increase their social media budgets, it is tougher than ever to cut through the noise, reach an audience and make an impression. In addition, Forrester is seeing a marked increase in the number of people worried about privacy in social channels, and this concern is growing most significantly in boomers and seniors.

In our latest report, “2011: Now Social Media Marketing Gets Tough,” the entire Forrester Interactive Marketing team (plus a number of professionals who contributed in the Forrester Community) came together to predict the future and guide marketers on what these changes mean.  The report includes predictions such as:

  • New social spam filters will stop many of your tweets and status updates from reaching consumers. Social networks, in an effort to keep the signal-to-noise ratio manageable, will implement and tighten social spam filters.  These won’t just filter marketer-to-consumer messaging but also marketing messages passed peer-to-peer.  Those check-ins, hashtag sweepstakes and other low-value tweets and status updates won’t cut it in 2011.
  • Growing mistrust will make it harder to gather friends and followers or get them engaged in your social programs. With concerns growing about privacy and companies’ access to personally identifiable data, marketers will have to work harder to earn confidence, follows and involvement from consumers.  It will take more than a “Like” or “Follow Us” button on a website to get consumers involved in brands’ social programs this next year.
  • The most successful marketing programs won’t be contained within Facebook.  Facebook doesn’t own social media in 2011. Sure, the Facebook juggernaut will grind on, surpassing 600 million users in early 2011, but successful marketers will “think outside the Facebox.” Next year, winning social media programs won’t be on Facebook, at least not exclusively.

If you are a Forrester subscriber, you can read the entire report  along with recommendations.



Good stuff as always Augie.

On point #2, I don't think the hurdle is mistrust. Rather, it's "so what"? When every company of every size is trying to get you to "like" them and follow them, what then? When all companies have a special offer, yours isn't so special.

We saw this same cycle a few years ago, when companies put a ton of effort into growing their email lists. Smart companies are going to have to break through the insane amount of clutter and present RELEVANT reasons why their customers should interact with them in the social realm. Throwing out a coupon on Facebook ain't gonna cut it much longer.

Don't underestimate mistrust

Jay, on the one hand, I couldn't agree with you more. "So what?" is a legitimate question for consumers to ask. Too many brands don't think enough of WIIFM (what's in it for me--as in me the consumer).

But don't underestimate mistrust. We're seeing a sizable spike in people worried about privacy in social channels. People who are worried won't fan, follow, install apps, click or do the things marketers want them to do. Brands that earn trust will earn advocacy and engagement; those that don't, lose in social media.

Thanks for the dialog!

Trust and Engagement Go Hand-In-Hand

I think trust is often something that in earned through engagement, but how can a brand build trust first before they are even able to engage with their customers, especially if social media is the initial experience the customer has with the brand?

It's a bit of a double-edge sword, hence why so many brands fail to generate real dialogue with their community and it's more or less glamorized broadcasting. I think the best social media efforts in the B2C space are those who take the time to understand their customers and not only how to communicate with them, but exactly what entices their customers to voluntarily create a two-way dialogue with the brand.

So much of the social space has become you HAVE to do this or you NEED to do that and then we'll reward you - what happened to the words MAY or OPTIONAL? I've found taking a gentler approach and not bossing people around can actually humanize a social community not only with the brand, but with each other. It makes people open up more and feel more comfortable interacting with the brand's social media efforts, even after a brand has engaged with a customer, as it adds an additional layer of trust. Finally when the brand does ask people to do something, the community is generally more receptive as they feel they "owe" it to the brand for rewarding them so many times for not participating. It's all about "give and take", not "take and give", which so many brands forget.

Also as a bonus, brands will also find out who their brand "advocates" are as they will do what you have politely asked them to do, which is something many brands need to do as they should be a focal point for social media efforts. A brand would want them for a focus group, so why wouldn't they want to interact with them on a daily basis?

I always like to compare a social media page to a restaurant - if you're walking down the street and see a restaurant that looks good but it's empty you know something is awry; but if you see a restaurant with customers inside you might give it a shot because they must be doing something right.

tl;dr - If you give before taking and respect your community things will usually fall into place with your social community.

Restaurant Social Media

Pull vs. Push

We have a philosophy here as B2B2C social web practitioners, that true engagement is necessary before a brand can consider an influencer a true brand ambassador. Opting-in is still required before you will find success. Rewarding loyalty and sustaining this relationship is a key social media success factor. This is one reason that the term social currency is being discussed in more and more restaurant chain board rooms these days.

We focus our social media practice entirely in the restaurant industry, so our perspective may be limiting. However, this also provides a rich experience. We advise all of our clients to follow a 70%/30% rule: 70% conversation-pull and 30% message-push. There is a lot of noise and filters are a natural reaction to noise...read: email filters.

So, I agree with Matthew Brown; if brands fail to generate "real dialogue" with their community it's more or less glamorized broadcasting. The methods and technologies we use daily extend the experience for both brand and consumer and naturally create interest in a restaurant brand without being pushy. isn't this getting back to social media 101: join the conversation? If fact we don't even call what we do campaigns. We call them conversations. Campaigns have a beginning, a middle and an end. Conversations don't.

Social can help make the rest of marketing easier

It’s an understatement to say that social media marketing won’t be getting any easier in 2011 for all the reasons you’ve listed. However I think that you’ve left out one important point when you limit your discussion to social media as purely an independent channel.

Social marketing gets a lot of attention and the amount of investment is gaining by leaps and bounds. But in general, it is not given a seat at the same table as broadcast, email or Web channels. I believe the challenge in 2011 will be to find ways to go beyond social and integrate the treasure trove of information that a marketer can gain from the various social channels into the overall marketing mix.
When we formed our new company, Blab, a couple of months ago, it was in recognition that most marketers are leaving incredible opportunities behind by limiting themselves to either just listening about themselves or reactively engaging individuals, who may or may not wield any influence.

Based in part on your writings about peer influence in social media, we’ve set out to listen, not to what people are saying about specific brands, but what is important to them, in the moment. We’re building a platform that will allow marketers to not only cut through the noise and hear what’s really important, but to also be able to use those insights to contextualize branded content across multiple channels, and all within 72 hours. This is our version of real-time marketing.

So my advance to my peers out there would be to evolve your thinking about social and bring it to the head table where it can work together with all the other channels to cut through the noise, engender trust and open a world much wider than Facebook alone.

Fail faster


Read the full report. Some solid thinking here, but there is still no playbook. Not being critical, as no one really has one. We have tried nearly all of these things and have learned a lot from each one, even if they didn't work. My mantra, at least for now, is fail faster.

No Playbook

Thanks Steve. I very much agree--there's no playbook. I still see social media marketing (and heck, even all marketing) as iterative. Being willing to fail (and succeed) faster is vital. It's not about process but philosophy. I subscribe to your mantra!

willing reinvention

I agree that the winners are going to be the ones who are experimenting, failing and trying new approaches -- again and again. Canned social media is doomed to failure, yet so many treat it as if it were just another corporate message. My opinion is that anyone who tells you they aren't still figuring out how to work with social media aren't effectively using it. There is no invention that works right out on the first attempt. Fail faster is a perfect mantra!

Peggy, you said it

Peggy, you said it right.

Canned social media is doomed to fail. Most agencies out there are releasing canned junk.

I recently wrote about it here as well, would love to get some feedback on it -> Social Media is not a check list.

What do you think the future of Facebook is?

Do you think Facebook will go the way of MySpace or continue to become a larger and larger part of our lives? Do you think that FB will replace email in enterprises? I would love to hear your opinion.

Yes and no


Thanks for the questions. I think Facebook would have to stumble awfully hard to go the way of MySpace. MySpace lost when it stopped innovating, and Facebook is still iterating and getting more cash to do even more in the years to come.

As for email, I think Facebook will make a dent in person email but not email for enterprises. Utlimately, Facebook is about personal relationships, and I don't foresee it moving more into professional purposes any time soon.

What do you think?

Facebook and email

I think that the line between personal and professional will push FB into the enterprise. People--especially the younger generation are abandoning email for FB or FB-like applications where they have everything in one place. Enterprises already are having problems preventing people from using FB and that will only grow.
If I want to get in touch with my son who is 24--I do not send him an email anymore since he only checks it once or twice a week---I send him a msg on FB--of course a private message and not on his wall--in fear of getting removed from his Friends page...

Personal vs. Professional

You may be right, Nancy. My prediction is that personal and professional social networking will diverge and not converge. In 2009 and early 2010 there was this niave belief that we should all "just be ourselves" in social channels, but we're not just a single "person"--we're one person with our parents, another with our kids, another at work, and another when out drinking when friends. People have seen the dangers of having one's personal networking spill into the professional world (lost jobs, disciplinary actions, missed opportunities, etc.) and this is why people have their Facebook profiles more secure than they used to.

I could be wrong, but I think Facebook will serve the rich world of personal relationships but other social tools (LinkedIn, Quora, Twitter, etc.) will serve more profesional needs.

Facebook and B-C Relationships


I think Facebook will continue to develop as a perfect location for B-C relationships. Consumers are starting to look to Facebook pages for exclusive FB offers and discounts. This is a great opportunity for smaller businesses to compete. Georgetown Cupcakes in DC is one example. They ask a question a day and the first fan to answer correctly wins a dozen cupcakes.

As mentioned, many people check their FB private messages far more often than they read through email. Will businesses find a way to capitalize on this trend?

Thanks for a great blog post. We shall see how things develop in 2011!
Laurie :)

Facebook perfoect for B2C Relationships

I agree Facebook is and will continue to be an important weapon in the arsenal of marketers, and I agree with you it's particularly powerful for small, local businesses. I didn't mean to suggest Facebook isn't a vital tool in 2011, just that the best marketers will integrate Facebook into their overall efforts rather than making it their overall effort!

Shoutlet Saved My Small Business

After nearly one year of leveraging the powerful social media platform, Shoutlet, we have seen a tremendous return in both Brand Recognition and Lead Generation. The platform offers easy syndication of all types of Data with cool sharing features to the top social networks. Widgets made easy! That's right, social media will never be the same 2011 and beyond. Check out our "bling, bling" shoutlet widgets on Blacksonville.com!

Very interesting, I have

Very interesting, I have written a Social Media Training blog post on how to avoid social media failure in 2011; I thought you might be interested.

Niche Social Networking

I would definitely agree with #3. Niche social networking will continue to become a strong force; though, in order for niche social networking sites to thrive the will need to integrate with Facebook and Twitter.

I would also add a #4 to this list. The seams that hold FourSquare together will continue to tear as more people realize it's the Myspace of this decade.


Foursquare is Myspace?


Thanks for the note. I think Foursquare will be challenged in 2011, but I'm not quite counting them out. And they're certainly not the only one. Twitter and Facebook are quite secure in their position and growth, but there are others that still need to jostle for position and really focus on innovation.

For example, Yelp hasn't really innovated substantially in years (and no, it's weak checkin functionality doesn't really count). It owns the local rating space, but why can't I rate and review easily on my smart phone, and why should the recommendations I receive when I search for a business look like everyone else's?

And I'm still puzzled by the Groupon hysteria. It's an ad platform--for one ad a day! You want ads containing discounts, surf the net, search on a search engine, or open up your newspaper, and you'll find plenty of ads. Groupon doesn't seem that unique to me. I am curious to see how Groupon fares this year as others (Going Social, Plum District, etc.) rush into the space, as retailers jump on the bandwagon (Wal-Mart is doing something similar on Facebook), and as people begin to suffer from Groupon fatigue. (If I see one more offer for a damn spa day, I'm going to throw my laptop through a window!)

The Social Media Bandwagon


I think you hit the nail on the head, and I agree with you on all accounts. Foursquare will continue to be a player in the little leagues, but it's not even one of the top 100 sites (at least not in the U.S.). Like Groupon, countless social networking sites have risen because they've capitalized on an international economic crisis. People are bored because they're un-employed or underemployed, and they have little better to do than get addicted to another social networking site. I would be interested to see a comparative study on how social networking sites like FourSquare did when particular countries economies were strong or weak.


Privacy is a Waning issue

I think Privacy will actually start to decline as a concern in 2011. consumers will eventually figure out that all privacy was an illusion to begin with.

Privacy in social media

I disagree, but we'll see whose right. I don't own the market on forecasts!

Given the sharp rise we saw in 2010, I don't think we'll see a reversal in 2011. Eventually, there will be a loosening in attitudes about privacy, but that shift won't happen over the course of a year but a decade or longer. And even then, the brands that earn the most trust will get the most advocacy--even as consumer attitudes change, trust will still remain an important brand attribute, I predict!

Thanks for the thoughts.

Consumer engagement through

Consumer engagement through social media will need to be more than just 'Like' and 'Follow me' - even 'Retweets' not only due to mistrust but due to noise and complacency.

With so many messages coming through social media channels it is very easy for users to simply click these functions without actually paying any attention to what the message says. These actions are nice but becoming more and more meaningless.

Marketers need to work harder to open their eyes, break through the noise and convert the repititious clicks into meaningful actions.

Fascinating and provocative

Fascinating and thought-provoking as always, Augie.

RE: Clutter
The clutter is definitely a serious issue that is only going to get worse. But I don’t necessarily think it’s about spam. I think it's more about mental capacity. Or put another way, I call it the “oh no, not another inbox” problem.

People just don’t have the attention span and/or the mental bandwidth to process so many messages bombarding them from brands, their colleagues, their families, and their friends. As marketers, we just shouldn’t expect people to sign up for seven, eight, or nine different networks. They’ll participate in one or two (tops) between their PC and phone and we’ve got to make sure we’re engaging in ways that make us relevant participants (not annoying interrupters).

The ironic thing is that I thought the clutter issue was finally about to get licked with the rise of FriendFeed. I was saying for years that the "next big thing" was going to be the rise of aggregator tools that would provide consumers with one single place from which they can authenticate their online identity and participate in multiple social networks. I thought FriendFeed was going to become that single aggregation tool that would catch on, but I was wrong. It fizzled. Nothing has come close to replacing it.

RE: Privacy
It’s been a growing rumble that’s only going to get louder until it explodes. You’ve seen it periodically with the occasional “I’m quitting Facebook!” movements that have sprung up from time to time. Here’s the conundrum, though. For all the hoopla and hysteria over privacy, there’s a strong desire to keep these services free. Consumers don’t want to be tracked, but they also won’t pay to be a member of these free services. Advertising (i.e. tracking) is how these companies make money. Without it, there’s no free service. How that condundrum sorts itself out, I have no idea.

Thanks for the food for thought. As usual, it's a rich buffet with a lot to chew on.

At your service,

-- Michael E. Rubin, Social Media Strategist, Fifth Third Bank
Disclaimer: I am a Fifth Third Bank employee, and this is my opinion.

Spam and privacy

Thanks for the dialog, Michael.

The thing about "spam" is that it is in the eye of th beholder. How many people do you know WANT to see their friends' Foursquare checkins? Or that they "Liked" a brand of deoderant? Once these sorts of things overwhelm folks, they start rebelling one way or another. I think Facebook will take action to keep the quality of the experience high (which keeps people addicted.)

As for privacy, I don't think we'll see a mass exodus out of Facebook, but our data clearly shows a growing concern about privacy. People will still want their free services, but they also have an expectation of a certain level of privacy. Brands that earn trust will overcome those privacy concerns; one that don't simply won't earn the engagement they expect and want from consumers.

Appreciate the thoughts!

Are Friends & Followers a True Measure of Engagement?

Your second bullet point is significant because it makes me wonder if one's ability to gather large numbers of friends and followers was/is a valid engagement measure in the first place. The ability to gather large numbers of friends/followers shows an ability to be attractive or popular. But, I don't think having a large following automatically anoints the gatherer as a Thought Leader of merit or someone capable of more engagement or influence than someone with a smalller following (or fewer friends).

I would suggest this dialogue we're sharing and participating in is a more accurate engagement measure. There's more substance and context in a well-articulated blog post (like this one) and its accompanying comments than in a pithy 140-character tweet or clever Facebook update.

That's why it surprises me how few 2011 predictions / trends article mention blogging's importance in social media strategies.

I agree marketers will have to work harder to earn consumer trust and confidence. I see that as a huge opportunity because earning that trust isnt going to be that easy through tweets or FB updates. But, I find myself leaning towards Mr. Baer's earlier thoughts. Genuinely earning trust requires providing substance and context so consumers can make more informed decisions. I think a blog does that better than gathering even more friends or followers.

Or, maybe I'm already a dinosaur in my line of thinking.

Blogging and Twitter

I agree--blogging can give depth where Twitter and Facebook can't. But, I don't think it's an either/or proposition. Twitter and Facebook can create engagement and a network to which to promote the deeper thinking contained within blogs. I think the best solution is to combine the best of all social tools.

Thanks for the input!

Top Down Messaging = Spam

If social media is tightening up and messages are being blocked or relegated to spam, it's because the message is more about the company and less about the audience. Nothing will shut people down quicker than being subjected to advertising. There are more nuanced ways of getting people to pay attention, but it starts with empathy and delivering relevant information that a reader will be delighted to receive (or if not exactly "delighted," something that is at least useful...a resource.)

Be social

Social Media will grow but everyone who stays social and interacts with their customers/audience will reep the biggest benefits.

social media blog response

Thank you for your insightful view of social media in 2011. I find through my own experience that companies don't always go directly to the company website to find out information before engaging services. Rather, they look at a company and its employees on LinkedIn. Companies in the tech space are joining Twitter and following each other there at a much faster rate than in the past as well. My challenge as a marketer is seeing whether a presence on FaceBook is beneficial. Because we don't sell "widgets," I continue to question its value while monitoring its progress.

Facebook can fill many different objectives

Thanks for the comment, Pat. I agree that it can be harder for some brands and companies to find the right goals and objectives than others. For some brands, it might take a simple low-cost and -effort strategy of establishing a presence, monitoring for comments (service requests, questions, praise, etc. from customers), and posting on Facebook whenever there is news (new quartlerly earnings, chartable actiivities, product news, etc.) In this way, Facebook is just another communications channel, not unlike the Web or phone line.

Of course, many brands can do much, much more on Facebook, but I don't think every company has to look at Dell or Coca-Cola and benchmark their Facebook or social media strategies on this basis!

Thanks for the comments and input.

Mistrust - GDM - Customer Lifecyle Management

Good Article and Great comments.

India is currently behind in understanding the impact of Social Media. Companies have started entering this domain and have extended their footprints in this space. The "Me-To" force has made companies to think and act, rather than jump into it and react. Retailers are yet to get the benefits of this impact.

With India being the hub of outsourcing and offshoring, it is quite interesting to see how the outsourcing hub is slowly extending the Global Delivery Model in IT to other business segments. These days we are talking about, how India, Thailand, Brazil, Mexico can be a base for your social activities.

The important point to note is that "Trust" will be now shouldered on Brand Advocates and these guys can sit anywhere in the world. The world has indeed Flattened and social advocates will be ceasing the control of your brands. While mistrust is going to be an important caveat in the customer lifecylce management, it is important to note that , people will only TRUST whom others have LIKED or given a THUMBS UP. Sentimental analysis coupled with scenario/ topic analysis will act as a catalyst in identifying the benefits of social media in the future

Great conversation starters

Great conversation starters here. Thanks for this post.

1) completely agree. Filters will get better. The best marketing will still make it through fine because the best marketing does not look like marketing OR spam

2) I have to say I disagree here. I think consumers may begin to resist following or friending brands, but I think that is already what we have out of the gates, before all this social media brand interaction even started. Hence why Facebook ads and giveaways and Like gated pages are the most successful methods for getting fans today. Compare it to email. Email subscriptions are a stronger relationship than Facebook and Twitter following, and yet marketers still manage to create massive lists and results with the right offers.

3) Not all successful social media campaigns are on Facebook today. Not sure what you mean here. You would be safer to say MOST successful social media efforts are on Facebook, but can't see how that one will change either.