Georgetown Lecture: Social Gets Bigger and Blander

Spring at Georgetown Campus

Later today I will guest lecture at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business on the general state of social media for the Social Technology Marketing MBA class.

I usually write out my thoughts before speaking. Here’s what I’ll be talking about today. Please comment if you’d like to suggest something, I’ve got a few hours to cram (yikes!).

1) Social Media Gets Bigger

We have entered the post adoption phase of social media in America.

Even a significant minority of senior citizens use social media. As of February 2012, one third (34%) of internet users age 65 and older use social networking sites such as Facebook, and 18% do so on a typical day Pew Internet.

Now that businesses realize social won’t go away, and they intend to invest more marketing dollars.

The most recent CMO Survey (August) showed social media investment continuing to rise. This year social commands 7.6% of the overall budget with an expectation to increase beyond 10% in the next 12 months, and to 19% of the total spend in the next five years.

Growth represents a great opportunity for you as social media takes one fifth of the overall marketing budget.

2) Social Media Marketing Gets Blander

vanilla ice cream
Vanilla ice cream by fruitcakey

Industry discussions about community engagement best practices, nurturing, blogging, conversing, commenting, liking, moderating, etc., etc. have become a redundant meme over the past five years. Sharing, commenting and liking are technology feature sets that have become an expected part of most web pages.

Look at social media marketing blogs as an ongoing professional conversation about best practices in two-way conversations, just like you would with other marketing subset like branding and public relations. Usually in social media this includes how to foster community, integrate with traditional online and print media, monetize social media activity, develop word of mouth, build better customer service, and more.

3) Technology Continues to Evolve

However, social technology continues to evolve. This represents another opportunity for online marketers who want to separate from the pack.

Augmented reality via Google’s Project Glass promises to change everything, bridging social and traditional data into our real lives. Facial recognition technology will further blur the boundaries of online networking and our physical world, expanding niche advertising opportunities while threatening privacy.

Image via UX Magazine

Perhaps the biggest current impact is in the mobile realm. The mobile revolution has forced many interactive designers and social media communicators to adapt in subtle and not so subtle ways.

Consumers use phones, tablets, computer and TVs to consume 4.4 hours of digital content per day. This creates all sorts of incredible consumption patterns, from simultaneous device use during social TV to file sharing across all screens.

On the mobile phone, we see strong app based social network activity that features photo intense and short text input. This is critical for strategists because mobile has become the starting point for brand engagement according to a recent study from Google. Creating meaningful engagement at the top of the funnel requires a simpler (and more thoughtful) approach than a long blog post.

Multiscreenworld Final


A current branding theory features the evolution and fragmentation of mature markets to support niche brands. Consider how the airline industry saw many competitors arise from Southwest to JetBlue. Recently, we have experienced a new era of consolidation in that sector.

The trend holds true for media as well. That’s why though Facebook is king, we’re seeing significant media fragmentation in the social networking space.

Like cable TV to broadcast, competitive social networks have arisen on a grand scale like Pinterest and Instagram as well as niche networks like Care2 and dogster.

Big Data and Marketing Automation

The proliferation of customer data elements across a wide variety of traditional and social media presents difficulties for marketers. There’s just way too much data. Identifying content preferences and lead maturation from email, social media accounts and interactions, webinar participation, white paper downloads, etc., create demand for sophisticated customer relationship management solutions.

Enter the world of marketing automation software, the power tool set of social media. The trick with automation remains great strategy, gentle lead management over time and copywriting/content creation.

This in turn requires a significant time investment, particularly for smaller businesses and entrepreneurs. However, costs are lower than traditional advertising and direct marketing so there’s a financial trade off.


More social media dollars, common best practices, technology evolution, fragmentation, and big data/marketing automation are my big five social media takeaways for Georgetown MBA students this year.

It’s always a privilege to return to my alma mater where I received my Masters from the Communications, Culture and Technology program. Special thanks to Jimmy Lynn for asking me.