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What is the social, mobile, analytics and cloud (SMAC) framework?

Customers live in a world that’s both social and mobile – so it’s important to reach them where they are

Social, mobile, analytics and cloud (SMAC) is a powerful way of thinking about how you do business, but it’s focused more on processes and platforms than solutions. You still need to identify your needs and goals within a SMAC framework.

This feeds into the larger topic of digital transformation – another buzz phrase that basically means updating your business model for the digital age. You might think you crossed that bridge many years ago, but SMAC reflects a sea-change that many haven’t yet caught up with. It’s even been described as the successor to the web, because it represents the new ways that customers interact with online services – ones that are multidimensional and reciprocal, in a way that the original web experience never was.

In other words, SMAC might not lead you directly to your goals, but it can light the way. Think of its elements not as merely a checklist, but as the pillars of your next digital transformation. We explore what SMAC is, how it’s applied, and why it might be worth exploring in today’s age.

SMAC is another of those marketing buzzwords, right?

Yes – but it’s more than that. Standing for social, mobile, analytics and cloud, it certainly does tick the boxes for a LinkedIn search term. Before consigning the phrase to the buzzword bin, though, it’s worth taking a moment to consider what it encapsulates. The combination of these terms constitutes a broad manifesto for interacting with your users and collecting data that can drive smarter business decisions.

How will this faddish ideology keep my business going?

Let’s be clear: SMAC is not a detailed game plan. It’s a helpful mnemonic for a multi-pronged approach that can help you reach your customers effectively. At a minimum, the social aspect means having a presence on social media, so your customers can talk to you, and you can, in turn, learn about their interests and activities. 

Mobile means recognising that they might want to interact with you via a smartphone or even a wearable, which again gives you an opportunity to collect valuable insights.

Do we really need to be reminded that people use social media and smartphones?

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It’s true, the fact that “social” and “mobile” are mentioned explicitly (and separately) does rather date the acronym. People first started talking about SMAC back in the days when social engagement was an exciting new currency, and a custom app was a necessity – not merely for the sake of brand cachet, but because the mobile browser wasn’t able to reproduce the desktop PC experience.

Now the situation is almost reversed, and social and mobile activity is so ubiquitous it’s easy to overlook. But it’s crucial to keep abreast of how these spaces are expanding and evolving, as they continue to throw up huge new opportunities to sell, communicate and learn more about your customer.

Do we really need new technologies for analytics? 

Big data analytics doesn’t have to mean multi-sheet Excel workbooks or expensive online dashboards. My late cousin used to make parts for submarines, and his analytical process fitted on a beer mat.

The important thing is to learn from the data you collect. That often means letting the information speak for itself – start by looking for the peaks and troughs on the graph, as it were, rather than diving in with filters and queries. This can require a “big data” mindset, which calls for modern tools and methods.

Why does the cloud always need to be involved in everything?

The cloud part of SMAC may seem a bit bolted on, as it doesn’t directly shape your relationship with customers. But building your business on a public cloud platform such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure allows you to quickly scale, iterate, segment and customise your offering to suit the demands and opportunities that are revealed by your social, media and analytics activity. 

In fact, for most businesses, that sort of flexibility is worth having even if you largely ignore the other three ingredients – which answers your initial question.

Is SMAC too vague to be actionable?

The looseness of SMAC as a concept is part of what makes it useful – its principles can apply to almost any business. And thinking about its four parts together can help point you towards joined-up solutions, such as launching a social media campaign to encourage a certain demographic to install your app. Since the four initials are handily encompassed in one PowerPoint slide, it’s also an easy way to break down activities and costs into silos, and decide where next to focus your attention.

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