For too many businesses, the discussion of social media  gets stuck on debates about which platform is the best to use. But launching a Facebook page or a Twitter account is a small part in the much larger shift that needs to happen within a company to make social media happen.
Carol Rozwell, a Gartner VP and analyst, writes that companies need to understand that social media will be as valuable a communication channel as phone and e-mail. Increasingly customers want and expect their favorite businesses to be reachable through social means. If your business is socially deaf and blind, it could hurt your customer retention and acquisition in the near future.
For businesses wondering how to best orient themselves for 2012, Rozwell lists three important social business trends to keep in mind.
Emergence of what Gartner calls the nexus for four forces: The convergence of cloud, social, mobile and information into a unified set of forces shaping almost every IT-related decision. The key is that social does not live alone.
Increasing customer expectation for engagement via social channels: By 2014, refusing to communicate with customers via social channels will be as harmful as ignoring emails or phone calls is today.
Increased interest in social analytics: This includes not only the collection of social intelligence information but also the organization competency to use the intelligence for more informed decision making. Yes, we’ve been talking about data-driven decision making for years, but now its feasible and there is additional insight to be gleaned from social network interactions.
For more on social business in 2012, read Rozwell’s post on the Gartner blog .