Because the business environment is always evolving, evaluating currents trends in business and marketing (in and out of the social media environment) is a great way to help identify opportunities as well as threats. These continual changes in the social media environment impact brands and businesses, therefore they should be identified and analyzed frequently. Many times trend identification can lead to a great opportunity to fill a void and can also be a source of great strategic advantage. When discussing current social media trends in my social media MBA courses, there are three that I believe to be pertinent to any social media learner, beginner or otherwise. These trends are, in my opinion, ones that will contribute greatly to the success of a social media endeavor by creating and nurturing a relationship with customers and potential customers.
In no particular order:
A buzzword heard frequently in social media MBA studies is “content curation”. For example, you may provide your Twitter followers or Facebook fans with links to interesting articles (written by others) relating to your brand or genre that they would deem interesting. Many have begun to replace this with term “content marketing”, a form of generating your own content by way of a marketing staff having editorial skills. Thus the importance of including social media in business education. These ‘new’ marketers know how to properly blog, create video and slide presentations, as well as curate additional materials. Those currently in the marketing profession, or my students preparing for a career in marketing, should pay close attention to this skill set brands are now seeking and utilizing.
Content can be curated as it has been done in the past, but brands need to add their perspective and expertise to the material in order for it to be significant to their target. That being said, the blogger or content marketer should be one who can identify with the target audience and provide them with both relevant and valuable content. Often, outsourcing may be required. Outsourcing or crowdsourcing (see #2 below) may be viable options if a brand does not have adequate marketing staff or budget to include content marketing tactics in their social media strategy.
By utilizing content marketing, brands are able to improve SEO, connect and engage with leads, and build long-lasting, organic, and sustainable relationships thought the original and relevant content produced.
Crowdsourcing can help generate ideas, create content, and often comes from people in a given “brand community”. The major difference between crowdsourcing and outsourcing is that outsourced work is delegated to a defined set of people, such as employees. Crowdsourcing is on or offline, collaborative in nature, and many times is unpaid.
A brand that embraces crowdsourcing that we discuss in nearly all of my social media courses is Starbucks. The “My Starbucks Idea” campaign is used to obtain comments and ideas on anything Starbucks related for the brand while also providing information to consumers. This two-way dialogue creates an engaging environment for Starbucks that ultimately leads to the customer WANTING to help while it also strengthens the relationship between the brand and its evangelist customers!
Crowdsourcing can also provide valuable services. Consider iStockphoto, a source of photos supplied by amateur photographers, students, homemakers etc. In addition, nonprofits are using crowdsourcing to pool resources and save money. However, crowdsourcing is not for everyone. Businesses should evaluate what objectives can and should be met through crowdsourcing, not all activities are crowdsourcing friendly. As with all business decisions, not every option fits every business. Remember strategies are brand/business specific, goals and missions should be evaluated fully before embracing any specific strategy or tactic.
3. Location Based and Mobile Marketing
Mobile has become an exceptional way for marketers and businesses to connect with local consumers. Consider the ever-increasing purchases of smartphones and tablets; consumers are actually using mobile devices more than computers! Consumers are now demanding instant access and on demand information, brands must deliver. A major consideration for apps is that they allow for faster loading compared to web pages, which is a paramount concern for mobile users.
Yelp and Foursquare can be valuable location-based tools for both brands and business owners in relation to consumers researching products and services. For example, a customer can use both Yelp and Foursquare to research places to meet a client. With both Yelp and Four Square, the user can identify what establishments are close to them. Four Square can help determine which places are popular, access coupons or see who is offering special pricing, and Yelp can provide photos and reviews. Another great location-based App is ParkMe, a recent Appy Award winner providing assistance with locating parking meters, locations, and lots.
The use of locations based apps and mobile has opened the door for local businesses to really get involved in social media. Word of mouth marketing that locals have been providing has moved online, enabling the smaller local businesses to be found by folks like myself who like to support local business.
If your company or brand is not employing the three trends above that I teach as part of my Social Media MBA course, I urge you to take the time to investigate the topics further. You may be surprised to see the many ways each can be customized to fit your business. For those using one or all of these tactics, what words of wisdom or encouragement can you offer the “newbies”?