Sometimes, it is a lonely road to see things too early.

Many of you loyal readers who keep up with this blog among others have been the internal champion for social media since LinkedIn came onto the scene in 2003.  You've probably endured a lot of questions, harassment over ROI, criticism from fellow employees, etc.  Lord knows that while I was preaching the good word at Microsoft in 2007, people probably thought I was a bit off my rocker.

If the previous paragraph describes you, you've probably had a pretty good 2010.  Social marketing (broadly) is probably at the forefront of many of your laggard colleagues' minds.  Budget is likely no longer an issue and you're probably no longer the crazy visionary guy/gal in your company.

In fact, your company/brand probably now has a presence across all the major social networks.

So we've entered a new phase for the enterprise — one where the social concept has more or less been sold as an important part of the marketing mix.  When this happens in any maturing industry, problems go a level deeper — beyond the basics of "should we do this?".  Opportunities exist because people put their heads together to think of how the concepts can make the enterprise more efficient and more profitable.  We're just at the beginning.

So are the elements of the next wave of social in the enterprise?

  • rationalized - Management of disparate assets, once created by well-intentioned employees seeking to meet customer needs, must be rationalized.  Once distributed decisions about tactics must now be rolled up into a clear, rational strategy for how social fits into the marketing mix.
  • "metric-ed" - "Soft" social benefits will increasingly be rolled into higher level metrics to indicate health, engagement, and ultimately profitability of marketing efforts.  I'd contend that executives have sought this for awhile (e.g. debates over the ROI of social) but this is the year some of those metrics can be collected and believed.
  • integrated - Social has clearly been disconnected from other marketing programs in many companies, non-profits, etc.  As people fully realize the extent to which Facebook social plug-ins can help them, they''ll integrate campaigns more.  Social will be a part of the strategy, but not *the* strategy.  The same goes for mobile as well, but maybe in 2012.
  • optimized - As sophistication increases in the enterprise, marketers will need to make sure their efforts get the most bang for the buck.  This applies to content marketing, social advertising, and any attempt to take a campaign cross-platform.  So this will be a year where marketers focus more on things like Edgerank and positive outcomes from Facebook advertising (which will need a much broader set of tools to allow for tracking and intelligence).
  • de-risked - Marketers who seek more "engagement" with customers in the form of likes, comments, contest submissions, reviews, and other user-generated content will see more of the dirty side of user-generated content.  A "de-risking" of the system will be called for in 2011. Facebook has already added a rudimentary Spam filter to Facebook Pages, for example. Companies like Southwest Airlines, Chick-fil-A, and Ferrero Rocher among many others have endured regrettable incidents on their Facebook Pages.
  • applied to new areas - Finally, I think you'll begin to see some examples of the use of social technologies and concepts to new parts of the enterprise:  finance, HR, operations, etc. Products like CubeDuel and Honestly are fascinating yet scary in the HR space.  Expect more in this area.

Overall, the maturation of social in the enterprise means that we're witnessing the birth of a cottage industry of social services/software for corporate marketing and operations.  I don't know how long these battles will be waged, but clearly times are changing an opportunity is being unlocked all around us.