It’s time to say goodbye to the year 2013. It’d have been good for you. Or maybe, it’s just the kind of a year you wouldn’t want to live through again.
With regards to social media strategy for your business, we are sure it could all have been in fits and starts.
You could have gotten it right. Or perhaps, you didn’t.
But the “show must go on”. We’ll ease into 2014 with a new hope. Opportunities will knock as usual and we’d have a lot to look out for. Social media started as a fad and then grew into a humongous opportunity for startups and small businesses.
Not all businesses get it right. Jennifer Lonoff Schiff of CIO.com lists out at least fifteen social media mistakes companies make. Kate Cooper on The Guardian points out a few ways companies can increase their social impact.
Social media, when used appropriately, is an effective medium and it gives small businesses the chops necessary to survive, or even thrive.
Likewise, it can work for large businesses too.
Social helps companies achieve Power Shift, according to CMO. It allows companies to put customers first. They also point out that while there are roughly 30 billion online searches each month, that’s about the same number of pieces of content shared on Facebook (not to mention the responses, comments, and shares originating from them). While most websites are more or less optimized for search, they are barely optimized for social.
Levi’s, for instance, gets 40% of all its traffic from Facebook alone. In another example, American Eagle’s single addition of a Facebook button to every product page made referred visitors spend an average of 57% more money than visitors who weren’t from Facebook.
There are numerous success stories on the web to testify how social media has transformed even seemingly bland online business ideas to profitable businesses.
So, what’s coming up in 2014? What do we have to look forward to? What do you think happens as this year draws to a close? Let’s explore:
Trend #1 – Face the rush hour on social media
Pick a network and the number of fans or followers will in the millions or billions. Combined, there are just as many social accounts as the number of people on planet earth. With more than 1.2+ billion users, Facebook alone is just as big as India and slightly smaller (in numbers) than China.
We didn’t even start writing about pieces of content shared, comments, responses, and all other content on each network.
As more businesses start taking social media seriously, there’ll be a plethora of new accounts, more traffic, and more businesses vying for space. You’d have to be exceptionally good to make any sort of an impact on social media. But that’s true for most of the channels on digital marketing. It’s not just social media that’ll be crowded.
More business blogs will come up, and the fight for thought leadership will continue.
Ever been through the rush hour? As you wait in your car for the traffic to clear, you’ll look about without intent. You’ll look around trying to see if there’s anything that’s worthy enough to get your attention.
Social media traffic is going to be something like that, except this isn’t morning rush hour at all. It’s a medium with opportunity. If you are somewhere out there tweeting and engaging as you might normally do, aim to make a difference. Somehow.
Trend #2 – Engagement will become more important; not content
So, the gurus told you to share your own content. They also advocate that you share others’ content. You can do all that and much more but eventually, it won’t be content that’ll help you build a meaningful presence on social media.
It was, is, and will be about engagement.
While we aren’t taking content out of the equation at all, we should admit that there’s just too much content floating around the annals of social media networks. There’ll be a time when social media would just be as important as your morning newspaper – a glance here, a read there, and then you’d forget about it.
Social media networks, however, have something your books or newspapers can never give you: the ability to interact and the gift of engagement.
What matters for you starting 2014 and beyond is your ability to start small conversations, ease into chats, and make some friends. Stop focusing on the number of updates on a daily basis and the number of followers or fans you have. Focus on conversations.
Trend #3 – Social media will finally generate leads
For a long time now, social media was full of confused enthusiasts. Everyone was excited about it. Some realized that it’s a great medium for brand building, nurturing trust, and building a network.
Now, that’ll continue with social media. While we were busy wondering, almost every social network has been growing wings to shoulder the burden of making their respective social networks work for businesses. LinkedIn is already seen as a resource for businesses looking to promote content, build a targeted following, and for hiring. It even has specific solutions for businesses such as the LinkedIn Sales Navigator and LinkedIn Talent Solutions.
Twitter first launched its advertising adventure with promoted Tweets, accounts, etc. It then launched Twitter Cards – a tool built exclusively for lead generation, opt-ins, and for other such direct calls to action. Facebook has ads, promoted posts, and embeddable Facebook posts.
Social media is still meant for businesses to be “social”. Yet, it’ll position itself as a great resource for creating trust, building credibility, and generating leads.
It will, finally, make some sense for marketers and businesses to invest in social media.
Trend #4 – You’ll be retargeted everywhere, including social media
The ads will not stop haunting us anywhere soon as long as the gene for capitalism is still kicking and alive. Digital marketing saw the birth of paid advertisements, which involved into media-rich ads.
We then saw retargeting sweep the digital marketing scene but just when we thought the retargeting is limited to traditional website properties, the ads are about to make a full turn into social channels. Facebook retargeting was already an option and now Twitter is planning to make retargeting work for its own platform. According to Ginny Marvin of Marketing Land, Twitter recently launched Tailored Audiences to bring retargeting to Twitter Mobile.
Pretty soon, the other social networks will also make it to the scene.
Soon, you’ll have your ads following you like colored ghosts.
Trend #5 – All social networks will gain prominence
Not all social networks are built equal. LinkedIn works great for B2B companies while Facebook is good for B2C. Instagram is also racing to the front as the preferred network for many brands to showcase their brands and tell their stories.
Thomas Clayton – CEO of Bubbly – wrote for Huffington Post about how Instagram is well on its way to kill Twitter and Pinterest.
Google+ has slowly emerged not only as a social network in its own right but also as a social media network with an increasing prominence for search listings and to match website content with user intent.
Dave Llorens of Fast Company writes about the Future of Google+ and its path to social media domination. He points out the massive size Google+ is growing to be, and many other features such as Google Hangouts, events, and Communities that can all turn out to be too big for businesses to miss.
Meanwhile, Pinterest is opening doors to many businesses to help further strengthen brands and small businesses, even though it’s a strictly visual medium. Apparently, Tumblr has many more use cases than what we thought was possible with it. Jim Lodico has about seven business use cases for Tumblr on Social Media Examiner.
Of course, all social networks are already mobile ready. As more and more consumers get social just as businesses are hustling to get to every network, social media is finally coming of age. It just is too big to miss.
So, what do you think the future has in store for social media managers, social media enthusiasts, marketers, and business owners? A lot more social networks to handle. While most of them have potential for branding, lead generation, and for exposure.
You are welcome to the crowded party that’s social media.
What do you see in the future? What are some of the trends that you think we’d have missed? Share your crystal gazing with us.
Pratik Dholakiya is the Co-Founder & VP of Marketing of an internet marketing company, E2M Solutions & a creative design agency, OnlyDesign. He’s passionate about startups, entrepreneurship & all things inbound marketing. Catch him on twitter @DholakiyaPratik.