Social in 2014: Names Don't Matter, It's What We Do That Matters
For the past number of years, we debated how the word "Social" was going to fit. While we were having the conversation, it was shoehorned in everywhere we turned. We have media that became social. We have businesses who are suddenly social. Knowledge, commerce and networks, all totally different and new, right? Because they are ... yep, you guessed it, social.

CRM itself is now social, from sales through marketing, to customer service and support. But in the end all that has really happened is that people are able to connect with people through digital channels in ways that allow their humanity to shine. From a simple thumbs up, to a like, 140 characters of prophetic prose, blog posts, Instagram, shared pictures and movies, we are all sharing our lives through digital channels.

All that said, when there is a problem at the bank, insurance company or with my car, I pick up the phone. This is where things happen, problems get solved and customers walk away happier. But -- there is a difference. There is an increasing likelihood that the person on the other end of the phone knows more about me than I think.

People Share, Businesses Listen

This is where we're at in 2014. While consumers believe that they are just sharing their thoughts, companies are listening very carefully. However, it may not be clear to the consumer that they are listening, nor what they are actually looking for. Businesses should use the information to treat their customers with respect, but will they? As the channels of communication explode, the needs of the individual and the needs of the business are starting to diverge.

Businesses are going to learn how to transform data into insight at the individual level. Some might call this big data, some might call it small data. I am not going to get into a buzzword discussion about data, just recognizing that there are enough tools available to help businesses know their customers: tools that allow you to listen for signals, like Nimble, or put the customer at the center of the conversation, like SugarCRM, Salesforce.com and others. Community platforms that allow customer conversations with each other and employees; Lithium, Jive, Get Satisfaction.

But what about the tools that are listening for signals only to protect the business, like an insurance company who is looking for a picture of you smoking a cigar (breach of policy) or with a trampoline in your backyard (another breach)?

Next Actions?

In the end it is not what marketers decide to call something, it is what we plan to do with it -- we are finally ready to do it at scale. Simply stated, we all know a lot more about everyone and everything -- but do we really?

For me, I am going to tuck the word Social away and go back to thinking about holiday parties and celebrations, that is the new Social ....

Title image by Cindy Lee (Shutterstock) 

Editor's Note: Read more from Mitch in Rethinking the Customer Journey: To Change Direction, You Might Need a Map