A colleague asked me for my thoughts on trends in social media today. I can sum it up in one word: Convergence.
Social media blasted into the world around 1997 with the birth of blogging, AOL IM’ing, and early social networks. In the 16 years since then, practitioners and the industry itself has defined and redefined “social media,” and almost every form of communication has become social. At the same time, practitioners, communicators, sales, customer service, project administrators, and everyone in the C-suite has grappled with how to use it, measure it, work alongside it, master it, and conduct business (nonprofit and for-profit companies alike). So it’s not surprising that the social media sector has expanded, splintered, redivided, and finally…converged.
When I responded to my colleague, I did so with four specific examples in mind: the convergence of social media policy, the communications sector, measurement, and job responsibilities. They are all converging in beautiful ways so that social media is no longer siloed, farmed out, or disconnected from the organization. At work, our social media use is no longer “just personal” or “just professional.” At long last, both the industry tools and the communications industry integrates social media metrics with organizational and communication metrics. Convergence.
Shonali Burke just published a moving blog post about how marketing communications and public relations are both about relationship building and should not be siloed. She advocates for an “integrated communication strategy” combining communications/pr/social media. Shonali is the prototypical communications professional of 2020, with an integrated outlook and expertise. Most Communications Director positions should require social media competency and understanding in order to support an integrated communication strategy. Five years from now, social media positions will no longer exist; they will all just be communications jobs.
A year ago, I presented at South By Southwest Interactive with a stellar group of co-panelists (Amy Sample Ward, Jess Main, Vanessa Rhinesmith) on Personal/Personnel Social Media Boundaries. In 2012, the audience asked us a ton of questions about how to keep the personal and professional separate. In 2013, I was honored to be part of another rock star panel at the Nonprofit Technology Conference about the same subject with Jess, Vanessa, Maddie Grant and Megan Keane. This year, the conversation was entirely different; it wasn’t about how to separate our online selves, it was about how to bring the personal and professional selves together to be most effective as community managers and professionals. Convergence. (More about the panel here and my podcast interview on the topic with colleague Allison Fine here).
Two years ago, when I spoke about social media metrics, it was all about social media metrics. Today, the goal is to develop organization-wide metrics dashboards linking communications and social media with organizational KPIs and goals. Dashboard convergence.
In 2011, I was on a panel at the Nonprofit Technology Conference with Steve Backman, Laura Quinn and Judi Sohn entitled “Social Media and Contact Relationship Management: The New Mix.” Ahead of the session, we panelists acknowledged that our panel was just enough ahead of the field such that there were very few examples of social CRM, and no software other than Salesforce’s Chatter available at the time. Judi demonstrated a Salesforce “hack” that worked as social CRM for her organization Fight Colorectal Cancer (where she was the Executive Director), and we kept telling the audience “this is around the corner.” This year at NTC, “social CRM” was a huge buzzword phrase. I attended a fabulous session on how nonprofits are using social data, and felt like the future was finally here. Talk about convergence; social CRM is the data nerd’s fantasy convergence!
What convergence is next I cannot say. But I trust that it will facilitate efficiency, user experience, and relationship-building. Here’s to convergence!