Forrester just published a report titled, "Social Relationship Strategies That Work." It costs $499 to download, but it's summarized pretty well in this blog post by author Nate Elliot. Basically, the Forrester report says that by Facebook killing organic reach, it's killing its utility as a social network. It talks about socializing your own site, and also talks about how Twitter is headed in the exact same direction.
As someone who works with hundreds of brands in the social space, I thought I would offer my perspective on what this means for you.
1. The old social media model is over.
No, this doesn't mean the end of relationship marketing online. But the concept of brands as "people", and one to one conversations being the epicenter of a social strategy is long gone. The networks needed to monetize, and people are tired of having brands creep them out by individually reaching out at bizarre moments. The new social media model for brands is one that should actually be much more comfortable for them-- networks are places where humans communicate with other humans-- usually those that they either know, or with whom they share common interests. Brands can target those people based on common interests and serve them advertising that fits naturally into the format and platform. As I said in my speech titled "Own It" at Social Fresh this year, it is important that your conversation and content link back to something owned on your own site in order to both measure conversion and also to create a house for content in an ever-changing network landscape.
2. Just because it's paid doesn't mean it's not social.
You may find that first point concerning. Are the big networks just billboard advertising sites now? The answer is absolutely not. The difference between these ads and other ads is that users can respond and interact with these paid placements, giving you instant feedback and interaction. Listening is still key, responding to customers is still key, but primarily, in the new model, when you're speaking to customers on networks that have built to scale, you will have to pay. That doesn't mean it's not "social". Any correspondence, paid or organic, which can be used for a 2-way dialogue is social.
3. Everyone (even the networks) are focused on ROI
Gone are the days of "we are on social media because everyone else is". Gone are the days of measuring "likes" on a fan page. We are measuring reach, impressions and engagement, sure-- but we're also measuring conversion and sales. The networks were under pressure to show that conversion, and one to one communication can yield that, certainly...but not at scale. The new advertising mechanisms on these networks have a depth and complexity that are able to show a return for marketers that is more than anecdotal, which has led to increased social media budgets from marketers.
Ultimately, Forrester is right. If you want one to one social marketing, niche and emerging networks are the way to go. And that is definitely a piece of your overall puzzle. But to ignore the most highly targeted, highly used social websites in the world because they're no longer social" is simply not correct or smart for marketers.