Predicting the future is always tricky business, especially when you are attempting to forecast events in an area as fluid and quickly evolving as social business and community. Yet, the intrepid folks at The Community Roundtable have done just that, and CMSWire thought it would be interesting to summarize their predictions and then compare and contrast them with predictions made in our own (virtual) pages.

HR, Strategic Focus, Depth among 2013 Trends

The Community Roundtable made seven key predictions:

  1. Going Deep with Content -- Consumers are so overloaded with constant messaging and content designed by behavior experts to trigger certain responses that its effectiveness is diminished. To combat consumer content fatigue, some marketers will “go deep” with more meaningful content that takes longer to absorb, delivered less frequently.
  2. Strategy, Not Tools, Drives Success -- Although social tools receive most of the press, social strategies actually determine whether digital marketing efforts succeed or fail. Digital marketers need to first align their community and social business initiatives with broader company strategy and then find the right tools to fit specific internal business needs. Companies that adopt a “tool-centric” approach will most likely fail.
  3. Community Professionals Need Understanding -- Organizations that do not understand what goes into creating and maintaining a great community too often blame their community managers, who are put in a hopeless position. This has led to high turnover among community managers, who in 2012 went to agencies and vendors in large numbers. This trend will accelerate in 2013 unless enterprises educate themselves about proper community building.
  4. Social Media Teams Think Strategically -- As social media becomes a mainstream marketing tool, its competitive benefits diminish. Thus social media teams are starting to think more strategically and moving from a simple “push” marketing model to a more advanced community model.
  5. Internal Communities Come of Age -- HR departments are starting to realize that social communities can also deliver significant internal benefits as a means of developing a store of institutional knowledge that remains in place even when employees who possess certain knowledge leave.
  6. Executives Get More Social -- Higher-level executives who have adopted a “wait and see” or hands-off attitude toward social media are discovering its benefits and will take a more directly hands-on approach in 2013.
  7. Gamification Debate Continues -- There is no clear consensus on the long-term value or future of gamification -- some experts think it is the coming wave of customer experience design and others think its impact will be minimal. A definitive answer will probably not reveal itself in 2013, but debate will rage on.

IBM social business evangelist/2.0 practitioner Luis Suarez analyzed several of the 2013 community and social business trends discussed by The Community Roundtable in a recent CMSWire column. One trend he agrees will prove important to community/social business in 2013 is the increased involvement of HR.

This is going to be the final opportunity for HR to be back at the forefront of facilitating something we have been missing for decades: employees owning their work, taking more responsibility, making the right decisions, earning their merits and (digital) reputation, to eventually become recognized for what they do best — their job(s),” said Suarez, concluding that internal communities and social media will become channels for “talent management.”

Suarez also basically agrees that as the competitive advantage of just having a social media program diminishes, companies will need to get more strategic and deep in how they use social media and communities to create brand awareness and engagement.

Brands and businesses will be striving for authenticity, for uniqueness, for what makes them special, against everyone else,” he said. “Customers and employees will be striving to belong to those brands and businesses whose commitment is one of wanting to transform themselves into the next generation of how we get work done in the 21st century.”

Gamification – No Clear Answer

A look through CMSWire coverage and commentary on gamification supports The Community Roundtable’s assertion that a large gamification debate is going on and probably won’t abate this year. In November 2012, CMSWire covered a Gartner report concluding that 80% of current gamified applications will fail by 2014 because companies have not invested in skilled game designers. In other words, “the games being used to motivate people suck, and it is causing those efforts to fail.”

That same month, CMSWire reported on a virtual session, “Good to Great Marketing,” hosted by Badgeville VP of Marketing Chandar Pattabhiram, where Pattabhiram said reputation and social mechanics, which are aspects of the larger gamification strategy, now allow marketers to offer instant gratification and recognition that spur consumers to spend longer amounts of time with a brand online and make more and larger purchases.

Gamification is not about games,” advised Pattabhiram. It’s deeper than that. Gamification is the intersection between technology and psychology that drives the right set of behaviors.”

Of course, we will not know for sure how accurate these predictions are until January 2014 rolls around, and undoubtedly a few unforeseen trends will pop up during the next 12 months. But, The Community Roundtable certainly seems to have a good grasp on where things with community and social business are right now, and where you are now has a lot to do with where you wind up tomorrow.