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4 Jan 2012

2012 Social Media Predictions

Wayne Burns

What has social media likely got in store for the corporate public affairs management functions in organisations (private and public sectors) in 2012?

The Centre for Corporate Public Affairs has collated knowledge from its own work with corporations internationally, as well as our research and insights, and identified some of the big trends and developments that we believe will bump up against the socio-political environment (including stakeholder) in 2012. We note that while some of our Predictions may overlap or affect also other management disciplines and stakeholder segments (e.g. sales and marketing, consumers), our focus here is on the corporate public affairs management function, and an organisation's socio-political or non-market environment.

Our Top 10 Social Media Predictions for 2012 are:

1. 2012 will be the year of Social Media Strategy
Social Media Strategy will be a more important focus for corporations than social media channels. Social media channels and applications are growing faster than the number of out of work US investment bankers. While channels are an important consideration for organisations, corporate public affairs in 2012 will be more interested in strategy to achieve reputation, stakeholder engagement and communication outcomes by engaging with and using social media tools. As well, Boards and executive leadership teams want to know what the strategy is before signing up to social media budgets and action plans that engage with channels that they may not understand.

2. YouTube will become a favoured child for stakeholder engagement and issues management
Pictures can paint a thousand words, and do. Especially when supplementing fenceline stakeholder engagement, framing issues and making claims around issues, YouTube is increasingly seen as a widely accessible (well, not in China) channel that is underused by corporations, and whose power is underestimated. Expect to see more CEOs, customers, stakeholders and independent experts featuring in corporately produced, low-production value videos on YouTube and channels such as Viddy.

3. Corporations will grab and stake out their territory
As part of stewarding their reputation and engaging stakeholders online, more organisations will stake out their preferred social media channels (guided by strategy) and build and nurture their presence there, including employing tactics to attract stakeholders to their online presence and conversations.

4. It's The Year of the App
Look for CSOs (civil society organisations), government departments and agencies and then corporations (often the laggards), build and develop their own online mobile apps specifically designed to engage stakeholders outside the transactional customer space, including pushing information out, as well as collecting feedback and having conversations.

5. There will be more, and specific, stakeholder communities of interest online
It is happening in the consumer marketing world, and it will begin to happen in the shareholder, community and issues stakeholder activist and CSO world — aggregated online comment/rating/sharing of information about organisations and their performance, policies and agendas. Expect apps on specific industry sectors, companies and government agencies, bringing together critics, commentators, mainstream news, blogs, chat rooms and even areas for company feedback and comment.

6. Smartphones Rule, OK
Asia and Australia lead the world in the rapid expansion of smartphone take-up and use, and online access via mobile telephony. With the number of people they need to reach, or who are talking about them, their issues and their reputations — and doing so online via mobile telephony — companies will begin to move to make information about them more accessible via smartphones. The company website will remain. But it will not be enough.

7. Attention Marketing Department — please step back from the keyboard — and now!
Either via gaffes or good strategy and common sense, more organisations will insist that the corporate brand and an organisation's corporate reputation cannot be seen as separate to the manner and tactics employed to market and sell online. 2012 will see more executive teams insist that the organisation's online sales and marketing presence and behavior should be aligned with the dialogue it is having online with its socio-political stakeholders.

8. Content will be a Prince, if not yet King
Corporate public affairs management teams will broaden the way they generate and manage their information and seek to engage stakeholders by extending their inputs and outputs so they are fit for purpose to strategic social media channels. Many organisations will outsource or contract in-house specific expertise to generate content for social media engagement around issues management, communications, and campaigns. This will be paid for primarily by budget increases, or by reallocating or cutting traditional PR agency budgets.

9. Position Vacant, Social Media Executive
More integrated corporate public affairs teams will employ and house a social media specialist, who will either build a small team over time, or work with discipline leaders in government relations, internal communications, media relations, issues management or stakeholder relations to develop and assist execute strategy.

10. The credibility gap
2012 will be punctuated with instances where organisations that are engaging well with social media and understand it, are better able to manage issues and steward reputation than companies that do not.

We'll revisit these predictions in early 2013. In the meantime, please give us your feedback and predictions, and join the conversation with us on twitter — @TheCCPA or @waynemlburns

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