1. Where is the Social world going to be in 12 months? 24 months?
People will continue to congregate on some organization’s Facebook page, but in reality I suspect that less than 5% of organizations have the type of offering that will bring together consumers to interact with each other in any material volumes. With rare exception, they will also not come to interact with staff for anything but getting an answer or something resolved. More organizations will understand that it is in their best interest to monitor activity regarding their brand across the entire Web and direct activity for follow-up as appropriate by relevant PR, Sales and Support staff. It will become clear that it is not in an organization’s best interest to cater to customers who are trying to bypass other support queues or grandstand with their “friends” to unfairly force a company’s hand and that what most consumers really expect is easy access to high quality support that quickly and accurately addresses their needs and facilitates open discussions with other relevant stakeholders to ensure broad perspectives are leveraged and that companies are accountable for their actions. Responding to this insight and the realization that the Web has put their offering’s value and support center stage, organizations will focus on building their core communications and support infrastructure to support many to many communications capable of providing consistent, high quality support across all support channels. Once they have done this sufficiently, organizations will be able to extend access to this infrastructure as appropriate to social network sites relevant to their stakeholders. When people complain in social networking sites about organizations that offer this type of infrastructure and accessibility, they will be apologized to and politely directed to the organization’s resources where they can choose to constructively resolve issues in an open or private communication resource. Consumers with fair expectations and intentions won’t care if clicking on a link within the social network to get an answer or seek a resolution results in opening a new browser tab or opens a tab within the social networking site itself. Under any scenario companies have forever lost much of the control they once had over consumers, but to totally abdicate to the consumer is certainly foolhardy.
2. How can businesses not be left behind?
Don’t get distracted by the hype and instead understand how being “social” with your customers, staff, partners and other stakeholders can impact the short-term and long-term health and profitability of your organization and execute accordingly.
3. What is going to happen in three years and beyond in the world of social?
Although some will see this earlier, many organization will just begin to want to expand this collaboration beyond consumers and some staff relating to consumer-related issues to include all stakeholders on all issues that impact the health and profitability of their organization’s ecosystem. However, the honeymoon period for “social” technology will be waning and the thought of free flowing communications without accountability will be considered unacceptable. Companies that have invested in both E2.0 and SCRM technology will need to spend lots of money to somehow blend this siloed content and expertise and more and more software will be sold as Social Business Software.