Writing prediction blogs is always a dangerous game, especially in an industry as dynamic and as fast moving as digital marketing. However, the end of one year and the start of another wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t put our necks on the line along with others in the industry and make some predictions based on what we think will happen in the year ahead.
Today, we’ll take a look at the social media strand of the digital marketing industry; what do we think are going to be the biggest trends in this sector in 2014?
2014 is going to be the year when businesses large and small truly embrace the idea of real time marketing. This might seem easy to do. After all, businesses only need to get on social media and comment on what is happening, when it is happening, right?
That is the basic idea behind using real time marketing on social media, but the real trick is for a brand to be able to present their business in the context of what is happening right now. Simply saying, “Hey, look at what’s on television, by the way, check out our brand.” Real time marketing calls for clever use of social media, and will bring in the age where companies have a team of creative people watching television and manning social accounts ready to share content.
The great thing about this type of real time content is that it will then find its way into newswires and be prominent even if consumers look at their social accounts hours later.
Although the prominence of sponsored adverts on social media has grown in 2013, there is a feeling across the industry that businesses are going to become much better at “rallying” their customers to spread the word on their behalf. What remains to be seen is whether businesses incentivise the sharing of content with percentage discounts or other special deals, or whether they simply get better at inspiring content shares.
What is likely is that businesses will rein in their paid social media ad campaigns and instead look at whether they can see a better return on investment through trying to push word of mouth. It is likely that many businesses won’t succeed, so expect advertising spend to go back up in 2015 for those that haven’t seen the results they want.
We’re not saying that Twitter is going to be the dominant social network because it only gives you 140 characters to express yourself. Rather, we believe that when brands are linking to their own content using social media they will look to link to short form, “you can read this in five minutes/on the train/during your break” content rather than longer form articles of 1,500 words or more.
In terms of content marketing, longer form written copy will still have a large part to play, but social content sharing is all about the shorter stuff. What businesses will need to consider is how they can also inspire more social sharing through shorter format content. This might be through a voting system on their pages or by simply asking for a “retweet” or “like,” for example, on the social page itself.
There’s no way the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are going to disappear in 2014, but it is likely that niche social networks, whether they’re industry related or closely targeted towards a specific demographic, are going to prove a valuable revenue source for businesses in the next 12 months.
Businesses with lower social media marketing budgets will probably be the first to explore niche networks, as they’ll feel a lot more comfortable spending their time on a platform where they know their audience is specific to what they’re offering.
Just as image blogs, videos, and other visual content is emerging as a key component in content marketing, this will translate across to social media in 2014, too. In fact, it is already being seen from the social networks themselves, who are working to make photo and video content much more prominent and stand out on their sites.
There are too many case studies and research reports out there that talk about the increased engagement that can be enjoyed by using photo and video for it to be ignored any longer. One consequence of the traditionally text based social networks doing more to embrace visuals is that businesses might reduce their efforts on sites such as Pinterest and instead use Facebook and Twitter, for example, as “all in one” social platforms for all types of content.
This final point isn’t a social prediction for the year ahead, rather a mention of two trends that will continue to be important.
The first is “social listening.” Whether brands spend time hosting social Q&A sessions or merely employ research teams to dig into social media to find out what consumers are saying about them, finding out what the mood is online is going to be more important than simply logging on and spreading whatever message you’re looking to communicate.
The second is that brands who are not invested in social media as of the end of 2013 will start to see the light. 2013 saw record numbers of brands who weren’t already invested in social media get on board, and 2014 is likely to be the same again as everyone realises that social media isn’t a luxury you should invest in if you have some of your marketing budget left, but something that is an essential part of your budget.