Wednesday of this week found me at Maggiano’s in downtown Chicago, for the Publicity Club of Chicago‘s February lunch panel on social media trends for 2013. What did I learn?
The link between social media and mobile is rock-solid, meaning brands have to evolve how they generate content, amplify it and respond with real-time engagement, especially in a crisis situation.
Sound like a tall task? The panel – Josh Anisfield from GolinHarris; Andy Crestodina from Orbit Media Studios; Amy Guth from the Chicago Tribune; Lisa Larranaga from Cision; and Michelle Molise from Molise PR, along with moderator Deb Lawrence of the PCC Board of Directors – made it perfectly clear that that’s the price for maintaining a brand’s reputation and heading off problems before they careen out of control.
"Consumers are starting to make decisions with their hands," said Molise regarding mobile, and I think she meant it in the context of interacting with brands for purchases, but I viewed it another way when Guth pointed out that "People get excited in a crisis and are willing to say things." That includes posting on their social media channels about a brand; hence the absolute necessity for brands to respond in real-time. But that response should be well-thought and tailored.
In a crisis, Anisfield said, a brand’s community managers should focus on real-time listening and targeted engagment with key influencers. Jump the gun, and a PR person can become the crisis, Molise added. Guth added that social media is really a return to the person-to-person business model.
Since consumers are making more decisions with their mobile phones, Crestodina was adamant that brands need to optimize their websites for mobile, to create a better experience for users. That also includes content delivery; Anisfield said that "brands need to let people get content from wherever they are, and they all aren’t doing that."
Other trends the panel noted:
-Social amplification tools are going to grow in 2013. They bring a brand’s community together to optimize message delivery through blogs and social media posts, and can help determine ideal posting times.
-There is probably going to be some consolidation with how brands use channels this year. Anisfield said Twitter will "boom" and so will LinkedIn, because they are places for users to discover content.
-The panel also talked about the notion of executive participation in social media. Anisfield said his perception is most executives realize they need to be online and social, but may shy away for a variety of reasons – concerns about time, company reputation, investor perception, etc. Data that shows the potential influence of their participation can be a powerful sway, and the posting approach should be in thirds: 1/3 about what they do, 1/3 about industry-related content; and 1/3 just simple engagment.
Plenty of food for thought as we get into 2013. Erin J. from Walker Sands in Chicago, who was at the lunch and exchanged tweets with me during and afterwards, agreed.
"Social is ever-evolving," she posted today. "We must be where our customers are or be left behind. Being a leader means participating."