As I write the above title line, I am thinking that it sounds a bit trite and overused. For many years, we have been hearing about change. “We live in a sea of change.” “Change is the new stability”. “Change is the only constant.” “Change is accelerating”. And so on…
While I do not wish to add to the litany or the chorus about change, and while I am not an expert observer of change or a “futurist” by any means, I nonetheless feel the urge to write about some of the things I am seeing and hearing—from the clients and the industry leaders I interview to prepare my consulting and my public speeches.
My interaction with marketing people, in particular, has left me with the idea that 2010 will indeed be a watershed year for companies and their brands. So, today, I propose to mention briefly some of the trends for which I think this year will be remembered. Then, I will discuss each one in some more depth in the coming weeks.
We will remember 2010 as the year when social media became a mainstream affair. Of course, Facebook, Twitter and the like are not new to the marketplace, but it is in 2010 their influence reached something of a tipping point. Indeed, social media became a widespread, ubiquitous phenomenon that the world of enterprise could no longer ignore. Suddenly, everyone seemed to be talking about new ways to manage and communicate in the age of “social”. Social media’s dangers became apparent as well, as powerful companies such as Nestlé and Eurostar came under attack from consumers using popular social media sites.
2010 may well be remembered as the year in which marketers were forced to surrender their brands to the consumer. Social marketing empowers consumers to tell the world of their experiences. And, the stories users are telling will be far more credible than the “official” communication of the company. This necessary “letting go” of the branding machinery will lead to enormous disruption and to profound changes in the rules of the game.
2010 will perhaps be remembered as the year of the “community manager”. In 2009, this function came into being, and we saw the job title begin to appear, at least in some companies. In my travels, I heard people begin to ask questions about exactly what a community manager was, what she did, and why it might be useful to an organization. Now, in 2010, many companies tell me they are seeing the advantages of having one. Interestingly, some of the same people and organizations who were asking skeptically last year about community managers are now the ones hiring them. While I am not sure about the necessity for a specific job with this title, I will write soon on this blog about the important job of managing the brand community.
I think, and hope, that 2010 will also be the year of the story. Those of us who have long believed in the power of story to move an audience or community are perhaps more prepared for this phenomenon. But, from my perspective, the world seems to be embracing the concept of storytelling suddenly, and with unexpected speed. Nearly all of my public speeches—whether at industry conferences, book signings, or in university venues—have drawn crowds far larger than anticipated.
Of course, I would like to believe that I am attracting audiences because of my speaking ability or the success of the recent book, but I think it has much to do with an increasing acceptance of storytelling. Particularly in leadership training and in marketing, organizations and individuals are now seeing, and feeling, the value of learning to tell one’s stories of identity.
Finally, in 2010 email reemerges, as a means for reaching communities. Of course, email has never gone away, but some people seem to be predicting its demise. For example, several individuals have asked if I thought the “pull” of social media would replace the “push” of email. As I wrote recently, the best organizations will find ways to use these two channels in harmony. If anything, in 2010 email takes on renewed importance, as an essential gateway to communities and as a complement to social marketing.