As we roll into 2012 companies are looking at ways to either boost their social media campaigns, or in some cases, launch them for the first time. One of the big questions they have is whether or not they're too late to the game. While I'm not going to lie and say it's the easiest it's ever been to get in the game, I can say more companies will find it easier to get involved today than they ever have before. I see six key reasons for this.

Reason #1 - Social Media has Reached a Saturation Point

crowdshowsup.jpgWhile I work with all shapes and sizes of business, small business is where my heart lies. Limited staffing and limited budgets leaves little room for "let's just try this" in the small business marketing budget and forces you to really focus in on what you want to accomplish and how to get there in the most efficient manner. That means I spend a lot of time watching social media outlets and making judgement calls on when they've reached a saturation point. I rarely suggest a company begin utilizing a social media outlet until it's crystal clear that outlet has enough members of their target audience to be worth the time and effort.

Social media as a whole has reached a saturation point. Forrester research now reports that 86% of the online U.S. population engages in social media these days. Its no longer a growing medium, it's simply an accepted form of communication. Facebook claims one out of every thirteen people on EARTH have an account. 86% usage rates means your customers ARE on social media, end of story. You'll still have to do some research to find out where they are, but they ARE there. You can stop wondering if it's worthwhile to be there and start worrying about what you'll do to reach them.

Reasons #2 - Social Sharing Continues to Rise

If you get involved with social media for no other reason, it should be to take advantage of the sheer volume of sharing that happens online on a daily basis. Add This shows astronominal growth rates for sharing on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, among others. Interestingly, copy and paste from the URL bar into emails, intant messages and other social channels still makes up an ever larger portion of sharing than simple "click to share" options. That means a ton of people are sharing, without even realizing they're taking part in "social media."

Very few businesses can't benefit from word of mouth. Unless you are one of them, you need to have a plan in place to leverage it online. Social media is what helps you do that.

Reason #3 - Social Media is Diversifying

EtsyPinterest.pngFor some reason, a large portion of companies still think social media equals Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. It's a short sighted way of looking at things and for specialty, niche and most B2B businesses, it's a mistake. Whether you're a small online clothing boutique hawking your wares through Polyvore, a donut shop in Youngstown, Ohio pulling new customers from UrbanSpoon, an extreme fitness studio attracting new students from LivingSocial or a Etsy shop driving sales from Pinterest, the options online are almost limitless. Sure, it's great to build at least a baseline presence with the major players, but more and more companies are finding success by building strong and loyal following on some of the specialty social media sites.

If you are only looking at the biggest players, the game is going to seem a little overwhelming. If you start digging deeper to find those pockets of conversation your audience is having online, there's wonderful opportunity to build a grassroots social media campaign.

Reason #4 - Staffing is Easier to Come By

Sure, there's still a distinct lack of people in the marketing world who really understand social media from the perspective of how it can impact your business...but it's way better than it was even just a few years ago. College students and recent grads understand the new environment and are constantly exploring new outlets. Find one with grea communication skills and provide them with a little direction from someone with actual marketing experience and an understanding of your business and you can go a long way in a short time. Whether you choose to hire a team in-house, hire out a consultant to help keep your team focused, or turn the entire thing over to an agency...there are enough workers out there now to actually give you a choice in whom you hire.

Reason #5 - Social Media Analytics Have Come a Long Way

Remember when people cheered because they gained a Facebook fan, or got X number of retweets? Those things still count, but we've finally matured social media to the point where we dig deeper. Social media isn't just about presence and engagement anymore. The tools are rising to the challenge issued by marketers and our ability to track actions across networks gives us more data than ever. We're understanding the need to create social media specific metrics like amplification and applause and we're finally getting companies to look at business goals and figure out how social media can be used to address them.

This makes it easier than ever for companies to carve out dollars for social media. It was one thing to say "we need to try this." It's an entirely different thing to say "we need to accomplish X and we have Y dollars to do it. Can you make this work?" Companies that embrace social media from the latter perspective will see far more success.

Reason #6 - Offline and Online Experiences are Converging

old_clown.jpg A girl walks into a bar and sees a cowboy, a clown and a priest having dinner. It may be a joke, or it may be a social media post. With the proliferation of smart phones and social media apps, our every day lives now intersect so tightly with our online lives that they're barely distinguishable. Congregations check in on Facebook on Sunday mornings to share their choice of church with their friends. People take pictures of the things they want for Christmas and post them to their Tumblr accounts for all to see. Live tweeting happens during everything from conferences to earthquakes. Brick and mortar stores are finding new ways to encourage foot traffic to broadcast their activity online by offing coupons, discounts or special experiences. Every experience is sharable and every share is trackable, giving businesses more insight into their customers than they've ever had before.

Do It, But Do It With a Goal

Here's the one down side to all this. The more options you have, the more likely you are to get caught up in the rush and get lost. Take the time to think about the goals you have for your business in 2012. Write them down. Then look at them and ask yourself if you can think of any way social media might be able to help you reach those goals. If you aren't certain, ask a trusted voice in the business. A good social media marketer will tell you if you just aren't ready, or if your goals aren't realistic. Once you find a fit though, it's time to map out a strategy to meet those goals and to get yourself to work.

Photos via Creative Commons license from Flickr users Fabio.Dilupo, laubarnes

January 11, 2012

Jennifer Cario is the Editor in Chief of Search Engine Guide and the President of SugarSpun Marketing, a boutique social media agency specializing in social media strategy for small to mid size businesses. She is also a well respected trainer and serves as the Social Media Faculty chair for MarketMotive and as an Adjunct Professor for Rutgers University's Mini MBA program. She's based near Pittsburgh, PA but serves clients across the United States and Canada.


I would say one of the hardest things for businesses these days is keeping up with all the different social platforms. If you are a company that has many locations it can be nightmare to keep up with all the locations and what is being said about each location on tons of different platforms. is a third party tool that helps companies see what is being shared across multiple social platforms.

Social media can be good or bad for some business depending on what goals a company is trying to accomplish. Sometimes the wrong audience can hurt a business by sharing harmful information that affects sales or service. On the other hand, a business can reach a highly targeted audience with social media and improve there business overtime with loyal customers.

The only reason for a business to not be involved in social media today is if they simply don't have the resources to do so. Social media success relies heavily on being active. Just signing up and creating a page isn't enough.

Well sure Nick...but that doesn't mean most of them still aren't. We see great adoption rates from big business, but beyond throwing up a quick Facebook Page they then's still just a small percentage of small business that really gets out there and leverages social media. The problem is, they get overwhelmed at what "active" means. They need help and resources to figure out where to spend that limited time to get the most bang for their investment.

The problem with the 86% number is that it doesnt represent active users to a great degree. Social metrics overwhelmingly point to women who use the systems. Men working and selling sheet rock or heavy equipment are not going to find a great advantage (TODAY) from posting about their new heavy earth mover on facebook, or, urbanspoon(lol). Of Course, Google's recent integration might change that... but,its going to be a WHILE...
IxNae on social for Infrastructure/professional/industrial/manufacturing and a whole lot of other arenas.

I'm not sure I agree totally with Matt. I was in the airport the other day and overheard an elderly - at least 80 - say, "I saw today on Facebook..."

I was only walking by and didn't stop to ask him about how he uses fb, but I was amazed that he was using it for something besides pictures of his grandkids. I think that fb might just be how people consume 99% of their media, advertising, news, and maybe even search in a couple of years. What a giant problem it would be for Google if fb decided to make their own search engine and integrate it at the top of the page somehow. There would be almost no reason to ever leave fb again!

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Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Cario > 6 Reasons 2012 is the Perfect Time for Social Media