Can your organization survive without internal email? Will everyone be curating and creating content? Here are some predictions about the New Year.
The holidays are over, the secret Santas have been outed, and bits of tinsel from the tree in the lobby linger on the floor under your desk.
Now is the time for communicators (and publishers like Ragan.com) to look ahead at trends for the coming year.
We asked communicators and other experts for their prognoses and tips on what's to come in the industry, particularly in social media.
Several predicted that what IBM is calling "social business" will spread as everyone from sales to internal communicators increase their use of social media tools.
"Social is not a silo; it's part of everything we do," says Belinda Wong, communications manager at Yammer. "Soon enough we can hopefully move past the 'social' moniker and into accepting that social is part of every business and affects every functional area."
Here are some trends to watch for:
We're all publishers now.
Advocates such as former CBS News correspondent David E. Henderson, author David Meerman Scott, and our own CEO Mark Ragan assert that a new Gutenberg revolution has arrived, enabling brands to tell their own story. This is often done through newsy sites such as HSBC's Business without Borders or on curation sites, including Verne Global's Green Data Center News.
But content doesn't all have to look like CNN or The Wall Street Journal. Content marketing strategist Joe Pulizzi predicts that 2012 will bring an increased focus on brand media platforms, including Procter & Gamble's Home Made Simple, Citrix's Workshifting, and American Express' Open Forum—"educational sites that are in line with the brand's goals and objectives."
Please don't leave. It'll get better.
2011 was the year many companies embraced the need for content, says Ann Handley, chief content officer at MarketingProfs.com. Apart from the standouts, much of what was produced was dreadful.
"In 2012, businesses will rise above the din of mediocrity and retool their content efforts to create a sustainable, workable model that produces stuff that has merit," she predicts.
The death of internal email?
Say it ain't so! We use email every day to let our colleagues know about Sandra Bullock sightings downtown or to blast reply-all screeds that we soon regret. But Jon Bishop, marketing manager for Socialspring, says some companies are finding that they can live without email—and the floods of spam and other distractions it brings.
He cites companies such as Altos, which adopted a no-email policy in favor of instant messaging and Facebook-style interaction, as well as collaboration tools such as Socialspring's Stream.
Paolo Tosolini, an enterprise social video consultant, also mentions Yammer and SalesForce Chatter. A no-email policy requires executive buy-in (see Altos above), an internal campaign, and an employee readiness program, he says. "This is a tough one, because it can't happen overnight," he adds.
The social intranet catches fire.
"A key trend that we think we'll see in 2012 is that the intranet will become vastly more social," Wong says. This will require intranet managers will who not only post and publish content, but start and facilitate conversations.
The invasion of the community managers.
As social intranet spreads, watch for this role to increase in 2012, says Karen Lilla, IBM's global communications manager. Traditional communicators can't always handle the additional responsibilities of internal and external "social business" tools. Managers will be needed to measure effectiveness, educate the workforce, and build and maintain online locations.
Social analytics speeds up business decisions.
For communications and marketing pros, analytics of internal and external social networks will increasingly enable better listening, examining, and connecting, says Lilla.
"It's valuable as a communicator and marketer to be able to conduct sentiment analysis across these platforms, to find out who's reading whose blogging, who's subscribing to whose social bookmarks and specific communications," she says.
Leadership adopts social communication tools.
This allows bigwigs to cozy up to us wee folks, advocates say. "I expect 2012 to be a breakout year for intra-company social products," says Tony Surak, CEO of Socialspring.
Learning becomes child's play.
Companies like Cisco and Yahoo! are using games to foster internal competition and to teach otherwise dry topics such as workplace ethics. Experts say the trend will accelerate.
Gaming "has the opportunity to transform how employees work inside the enterprise and will certainly be something social businesses explore in 2012," says IBM's Alistair Rennie, general manager of social business.
Employees choose their weapon.
Who cares what implements we work on if we get the job done, right? In the coming year, more employees will select their tools to accomplish their work in the most effective way, from laptops to mobile devices to software, Tosolini says.
Mobile applications will also continue to extend beyond email to business applications, adds Laurie McCabe, partner at SMB Group.
Ask the world.
The crowdsourcing of content, ideas, and solutions will grow, Tosolini says. Rather than creating all content on its own, an understaffed training department might draw on internal experts and repurpose it properly to the rest of the company.
Clouds form above.
The cloud will expand the horizons of businesses. Most small and mid-size businesses don't have the staff, expertise, or budget needed for do-it-yourself IT—and they can't afford the time needed to vet, install, and deploy in-house, McCabe writes in a blog post she shared with us. Demand for mobile access to applications will also accelerate cloud adoption.
McCabe notes that big companies "have already begun their cloud shopping sprees." Oracle bought online customer service company RightNow, and SAP snapped up cloud-based human resource management solutions firm SuccessFactors. Intuit, Microsoft, Sage, and others will be joining in.
Video grows in internal and external comms
Tosolini, who launched an internal YouTube-like platform for Microsoft, has highlighted video as a means of educating employees and helping raise talent internally. With the growth of brand YouTube channels, the trend is going to accelerate.
Hospitals in particular are finding video enhances communications. Mayo Clinic launched an internal video platform in 2011, and Cleveland Clinic powerfully tells stories, including that of an opera singer who had received a double lung transplant.
Smartphones and Flip-type cams make it easier to livestream brief events. TV stations that once refused to run B-roll from corporations are now so short-staffed, they're willing to air your footage of a factory floor or an employee interview.
Volkswagen created a stir this year with an augmented reality campaign in Canada. But it's not limited to marketing, says Shel Holtz of Holtz Communication + Technology. At Wimbledon, an app enabled smartphone users to "see through the wall" and view live play from courts that were out of view.
On sprawling hospital campuses, Holtz has said, such technology could enable a patient to hold up his or her smartphone and follow a line drawn on the floor, mapping the way to radiology or the cafeteria.
What trends do you foresee for communications in the New Year?
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