Exploring Social Media’s Future: 3 Key Trends that Will Define the Social Evolution

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Social media strategist Ekaterina Walter predicts which concepts and tools will have the biggest impact on the evolution of B2B social media marketing.

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When I began my marketing career with Intel in 2005, helping the multinational technology company develop go-to-market plans for its new mobile platform products, I was naturally drawn to social media’s potential to help businesses achieve a wide range of important marketing goals.

Social media was a blank canvas then. A game-changer. And what excited me more than anything about the social landscape was its potential to completely reshape the way companies communicate and connect with their customers.

That was seven years ago, but my fascination with — and excitement about — social media has only multiplied.

Not for the reasons you might think, though. While it’s been incredible to see what big brands like Old Spice, Coke, IKEA, and, yes, Intel have done to successfully leverage the social space, what excites me more is the impact that social media is having — and will continue to have — on much smaller businesses.

In fact, when people ask me which companies I think are doing the most innovative things on social media, my answer is simple: smaller startups and growth-stage businesses.

The reason? It really boils down to agility and authenticity.

Because of their size and relative willingness to push boundaries, smaller businesses can more intimately connect with their customers and prospects by being more responsive, authentic, and far more human. Those qualities, quite simply, can’t be understated in today’s business environment.

But you already knew that (especially if you’ve read each of the previous posts in this series). And, hopefully, you’re already executing a social media strategy that’s positioning your startup or expansion-stage company to create meaningful relationships with its customers.

The question that needs answering then is what does the future holds for social media marketing?

Check out these additional articles in our B2B social media series:

One thing we know for sure is that change is inevitable. When I started with Intel in 2005, there were really only two or three big networks. Today, there are about a dozen. Ten years from now, that number might double or triple. So how will the continuing social evolution change the way we market with social media? And which new tools will reshape how we use social media to communicate with customers?

Here are a few of my own predictions for the future:

Social Media Specialization

As a startup founder, you might be your company’s social media manager, sales rep, and product developer, among other things. Your time and resources, inevitably, will continue to be limited, so, as social media continues to explode, resist the temptation to jump on every bandwagon that comes along.

Instead, identify the social networks where your biggest influencers, trendsetters, and customers hang out and go there first. For example, if your customers are highly visual or have shown a tendency to interact most with multimedia content, you might explore SlideShare, Tumb.lr, Instagram, or Pinterest. The idea is to focus only on the networks that can help you connect with your customers. Don’t distract yourself with anything else.

Agile Marketing and Real-time Response

As I told Social Media Examiner in January, social media marketing (and marketing in general) is — and will continue to be — about listening closely to your customers and responding to their requests or feedback immediately.

It’s no longer acceptable to take a week to respond to customer complaints. Today, customers expect real-time support and that won’t change in the future. Companies also need to embrace opportunistic marketing by capitalizing on trends, buzz, and market shifts as they happen, rather than taking months to develop a strategy around them.

Targeted Aggregation and Curation

As then Google CEO Eric Schmidt pointed out at a conference in 2010, we now create as much information in two days as we did from the dawn of civilization through 2003. That’s a lot of content and a lot of noise.

In the coming years, the process of aggregating and curating that content in a way that makes it consumable and valuable to your customers will be critical. If the content you produce or share doesn’t add value or solve your customers’ specific problems, it’s likely to get lost in the shuffle or ignored completely.

I could go on, but let’s leave it at that for now.

Ultimately, companies that think outside the box and work together with their customers to co-define their brand will have the biggest impact on the evolution of the social landscape.

It’s not longer about whether you’re a B2B or a B2C business. It’s about P2P, or Person-to-Person. Which is why the best companies are no longer speaking at or marketing to their customers. They’re working with them to identify problems and build solutions that solve them. Social media has played a big role in that ideological shift and I can’t wait to see where it takes us from here.

Editor’s Note: Continuing OpenView’s multi-week series on how to effectively leverage social media for your B2B Business, the following is a guest post by Ekaterina Walter, @Ekaterina, a social media strategist at Intel and a member of the company’s Social Media Center of Excellence.  Last week, Jesse Stay, @Jesse, a social media technologist, consultant, and the author of the new book, Google+ for Dummies provided 3 Reasons Smaller B2B Brands Should Take Google+ SeriouslyPrior to that, OpenView’s Kevin Cain delivered “The 411 on Corporate Blogging.”