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Social splashes: Google, flash mobs and metrics, oh my!

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As 2011 comes to a close, it's worth taking a look at a few of the more impressive social marketing happenings of the year. You may have others you'd like to cite, and I encourage your input sent to me directly. • Google jumps fully into social media. Not to cast aspersions on the vast array of other social channels, but when Google Inc. jumped more fully into the social arena in June with Google+, the proverbial 800-pound gorilla spoke with a resounding voice. Now with more than 50 million users, Google+—leveraged by the world's No. 1 (Google) and No. 2 (YouTube) search engines, plus paid search dominance, mail dominance, Maps, image organizer Picasa, the Android mobile OS, the Chrome browser and the No. 1 analytics solution—may be the year's biggest social launch. Some have said G+ doesn't stand a chance of nudging into a field already dominated by the big three of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. And, yes, previous social efforts like Google Buzz and Friend Connect are now relegated to the dustbin of history. But G+ is much more than a social media copycat. Jay Baer, a social media and content strategist, in his Convince & Convert blog makes things clear. Baer says marketers will always want to be where their customers are, and currently that's the big three. But, he adds, “If Plus gets any sort of real momentum among end-users—and I firmly believe it will—Google's unique ability to finally tie search and social together in one package will force the hand of business, making Google+ the place to be for interaction between companies and their customers.” • Social flash mobs. The power of social media never was demonstrated more powerfully than in its ability this year to mobilize groups toward a common good (or ill). In the purely social sphere, Facebook in particular was given credit for helping organize real revolution in the Middle East. The flash mob phenomenon, first cited back in 2003, not only helped spur social change this year (not to mention “flash mob riots” in certain cities), but also was used for business purposes. Video marketing company Pixability Inc. organized a social marketing flash mob as part of the weeklong FutureM marketing conference in Boston in September. In March, as part of the Interphex 2011 pharmaceutical convention in New York, life sciences company EMD Millipore had customers meet their sales people in front of the exhibit hall, where a flash mob of choreographed dancers sporting EMD Millipore costumes went into their routine. To help promote its annual conference in October, the Direct Marketing Association staged flash mob-like events on the streets of New York in the form of free outdoor marketing seminars. The seminars, featuring “celebrity CMOs,” were announced on the day, and the resulting videos had a significant impact on event registration, the DMA said. More examples can be found here, along with some marketing suggestions, including leveraging social channels in support of the event, publicizing it on YouTube and elsewhere, and making sure the performance stays true to your product. • The maturing of social marketing metrics. You know things have gotten serious when both CRM and marketing automation companies rush to add social media analytics to their packages. As many companies moved rapidly this year from the puzzled-but-willing into believers in strategic social marketing, sales and marketing vendors have been quick to follow. Last month Salesforce.com launched its Social Marketing Cloud, an integration of social analytics and nurturing with its CRM products. The suite uses social monitoring with Radian6, the company Salesforce acquired last spring, as well as social analytics to parse sentiment and influence, an engagement module and an automated response tool, among other elements. Salesforce has become a funnel nurturing tool. This brings us to marketing automation. Eloqua launched a social media suite this summer. Aprimo added social capabilities, and so have IBM Coremetrics, Marketo, Neolane and Silverpop, to name a few. Marketing ROI and measurement firm Lenskold Group has done a concise analysis of the adoption of social marketing metrics, and BtoB has developed an extensive study. Yes, there are plenty of standalone products, and many—such as HootSuite, Klout, Tweetburn, et al.—are just fine. For the mid-market and enterprise, however, the integrated sales and marketing suite of the future, with the tail of social wagging the head of everything else, may well become the norm. Christopher Hosford is east coast bureau chief at BtoB. He can be reached at chosford@crain.com.
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