“Social media is no longer passed over as a fad or something that’s going away any time soon,” Brian Solis said about social media’s move into the mainstream in 2013. “Social media is now part of our fabric of society, like mobile phones and computers – it’s a staple of our everyday life.” And what will social media trends bring in 2014? Several social media consultants and media are already writing their predictions; and below is my summary on what I think might affect your social media activities in 2014.
In 2014, expect a shift in priorities: a bigger focus on social media monetization, user-generated content, a great acceptance of sharing information, and more.
An infographic from WebDAM (see below) offers a glimpse of what the new year will look like for marketing departments. Hint: Content marketing will be everywhere.
– Almost 80 percent (78 percent) of chief marketing officers think custom content is the future of marketing, and nearly 50 percent of companies have content marketing strategies.
– Make sure a blog is part of your strategy in 2014: B2B companies that blog produce 67 percent more leads than those that don’t.
Keep an eye on social media next year, too:
– More than half of all marketers (52 percent) found a customer via Facebook in 2013, and 43 percent of marketers found a customer via LinkedIn.
– It is predicted that social media marketing budgets will double over the next five years.
– Emails with social media sharing buttons increase click-through rates by 158 percent.
Social Media Trends 2014
1. Investment in Social Media Will Become a Necessity, Not a Luxury
While I’d argue that investing time and resources into a social media strategy is most definitely a necessity in 2013, I believe the tipping point in public sentiment from ‘should have’ to ‘must have’ will occur in 2014. Businesses are already coming to terms with the need to integrate their social media efforts with their content strategy, and are seeing the impact of social media in terms of lead generation, referral traffic, and revenue. As businesses see these very real and measurable benefits, I believe we’ll see a move away from assigning social media tasks to existing employees, and see even more companies hiring social media strategists or full-time social media managers.
The benefits of social media are many, but they include:
– Improved social signals (which are a factor in the search ranking algorithm).
– Company branding
– Improved brand awareness
– Word-of-mouth advertising
– Increased customer loyalty and trust
– Improved audience reach and influence
– Social media is also one of the three pillars of SEO.
2. Businesses will learn how to better monetize social
“The big question everyone wants answers to is how does social media make money?” Solis said. “Everyone thinks that if these platforms don’t make money at the outset, it’s not a viable platform, and that’s not true.”
Neither Twitter nor Facebook made money in the beginning, but Facebook has found a way – quarter after quarter – to beat revenue expectations. Expect social platforms to generate new revenue streams and try new things as the sector sets a precedent for the best new ways to make money.
3. Google+ gains momentum
While Facebook continues to lead the pack in terms of number of active monthly users (1.15 billion at last count), Google+ is quickly gaining steam, and in fact, now has the second highest number of monthly users (343 million)
With Google using the platform to collect personal information (think demographics, location, etc.), Google+ should no longer be thought of as ‘just’ another social network. It’s increasingly proving itself to be an integral part of Google’s grand scheme in terms of SEO, social signals and providing a more personalized search experience. This is especially apparent with the importance of Google Authorship, which I project will be one of the key components to Google’s search ranking algorithm by the end of 2014.
4. Facebook gains respect
After Facebook’s IPO flop last year, investors remained skeptical of the social network. In 2014, that will change, Solis said. “Facebook will finally be regarded as the powerful digital platform that it is. It’s incredibly undervalued because investors haven’t known what to make of it, and many of them probably don’t even use Facebook,” he said. “The same will probably happen to Twitter. It has tremendous room to grow into its own and will probably follow the same path as Facebook. The market will be a little wary and leery of it until it starts making money.”
5. LinkedIn Will Become a Major Player for B2B Business Growth
Still holding steady as the #1 social networking site for professionals with 238 million users, LinkedIn isn’t just sitting on its heels. With the launch of its Influencers program, LinkedIn is positioning itself as not only another networking site, but as one of the largest sources of content creation and curation for professionals. As it grows and attracts even more users, the advantages of being “linked in” will become enormous for B2B marketers.
6. Image-Centric Networks Will See Huge Success
We’ve seen a consistent trend in 2013 toward sharing through image and video, rather than text-based content. Visual content will increasingly become a critical piece of any solid content strategy, and social networking site Pinterest will continue to shed its reputation as a ‘women’s only’ network and become an integral part of retailers’ marketing strategies.
Other image-based social media sites like Slideshare, Tumblr, Path, and Mobli will continue to grow, and businesses will need to become more mindful about the ‘sharability’ factor of photos on their websites and blogs in order to derive significant benefit from their social media content marketing efforts.
7. Social media users will be comfortable sharing more
As people start to live a digital lifestyle, they open up and become less concerned about privacy. “We don’t lose the desire to have privacy. We change the value proposition of what it is. The more we share online and the more people react to it, the safer you think it is to continue sharing.” This is good news for Facebook, which has started pushing users to share more often. The social network recently allowed teens to share posts publicly and removed a privacy setting that prevents people from finding you.
8. User-generated content becomes more important
“Next year will be the year that retailers go bananas over user-generated content,” said Apu Gupta, CEO of the social analytics company Curalate. Expect to see more initiatives like the one from Urban Outfitters. The retailer encourages customers to take photos of themselves in its clothing and to post them to Instagram with a hashtag. The company moderates the content and picks some photos to include in a gallery that links to the pages where you can then buy those looks. “Not only is user-generated content free, but they’re interested in it because every business wants to measure the ROI of social,” he said. “This is a really easy and effective way to do that.
“SOcial, LOcal and MObile.” According to the Adobe 2013 Mobile Consumer Survey, accessing social media is the number one mobile activity today. Where do they do it? In their local backyard. How do they do it? Everyone has a smartphone. Do you know how to market via social media? Do you know how to advise your clients where to market via social media? If the answer is a resounding ‘no,’ quit going to those writing workshops and pick up something on digital. It’s no secret that today’s consumer is defined by reach, location and mobility. The secret is where are you when they figure that out themselves.
10. We’ll Witness the Rise of Micro-Video
It seems that writing 140 characters and taking 3 minute long videos is becoming too tedious for many of us. Micro video to the rescue! With the emergence of micro video apps like Twitter’s Vine and now Instagram’s video sharing feature, we’re seeing even more movement toward real-time video sharing. And not just any videos; with Instagram allowing 3-15 seconds per video, and Vine allowing precisely 6 seconds, users are even more likely to create and share videos from their smartphones.
11. Content is Still King.
Want to know why I heart Google? With its zoo of Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird, they are forcing PR professionals to be better writers. If you can’t diagram a complex-compound sentence (with a conceivable amount of panache), you may have problems. Review the four aforementioned trends coming to a PR agency near you in 2014. Social media? PR and SEO? SoLoMo? Micro-everything? They all require gripping, relevant and strategic content. Content is becoming less about text and more about direction to a visual or a CTA. Need lead generation or better traffic? Content creates organic SEO and an open door for paid SEM or a good PPC campaign. Content creates information. Good content creates positioning.