Let’s face it: Social Business, and social media in general, is in constant flux and evolution. The same goes for my predictions for 2014: I don’t foresee anything radically new on the landscape that will become mainstream in 2014 (and I don’t see how anyone could), but there are a number of trends that we will see further evolve in 2014 that every business and social media professional need to pay more attention to. These social media trends for 2014 are in no special order, but they are listed in the order in which they evolved from my thoughts into this blog post – which was actually originally created to provide a prediction for Social Media Examiner’s 11 Social Media Marketing Predictions to Watch for 2014 (my Employee Advocacy prediction, along with those from 10 others, appears there, so make sure to check it out as well!) :
Employee advocacy will become a strategic initiative for more and more large (and some small) companies. Companies are always looking outside corporate walls for brand ambassadors in social media, but many of their most passionate advocates are also those who have deep ties to their company: Their employees. Each individual employee has influence in their own unique social network, so the more employees that can help share the company’s social media messages, the broader reach a company can yield in social media. To think of it in simple terms, if you had a sales and marketing team of 25 employees, your social media messages could be shared by either your singular corporate account or by your corporate account and potentially 25 more people. The exponential power of employee advocacy, especially on professional networking sites where it is most relevant like LinkedIn, is beginning to be realized by many and I predict will have a breakout year in 2014. Creating a successful employee advocacy program has its challenges, but the evolution of both social business as well as employee advocacy platforms (such as GaggleAMP, PeopleLinx, and Addvocate) should progress this program forward in many companies in 2014.
Google Plus will finally win its respect from the social media marketing community. Just as companies questioned why they should be on Twitter a few years ago, the same questions continue to be asked about Google Plus. Once companies realize that Google Plus is not just a community like other social networks but is also a social layer for all things Google with many entryways leading into G+, it becomes a no-brainer to establish a presence on the site. Google Plus at the moment does not allow campaigns and has only just released advertising to a very few partners, so marketing on G+ will take a different form than what we are used to seeing on Facebook. But the ability to use Hangouts to engage via video with customers other social media users, the growing number of communities that exist on G+, the potential power of circle sharing, and the undoubted increase in users and activities on the site points to 2014 finally being the “breakout” year for companies to get started on and engage daily in Google Plus.
My prediction for 2014 is that Paid Social becomes truly mainstream. While some companies still question as to why they need to pay for social media advertising, Facebook’s recent announcement made it clear that without paying to play, your effectiveness in your social media marketing to rise above the noise will be limited. Social media was never free due to the investment of time and resources needed, and if online ad budgets are available, it only makes sense to shift some of this money into social advertisements to help make your social media program more effective. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have all developed micro-targeting options that allow you to deliver your message to only your most relevant target demographic, and experiments in advertising on Pinterest, Instagram, and Google Plus mean that similar advertising options might become available in 2014 on these new platforms. I still believe that Paid Social is one of the most under-utilized aspects of social media marketing, but 2014 should see more companies utilizing paid advertising on more social networks to help make sure, above and beyond their legacy social media program, that they are found by relevant audiences throughout social media.
My prediction for 2014 is that companies will place more emphasis on content creation as opposed to content curation, community management, or other forms of engagement. At the end of the day, it is unique branded content, whether it be in the form of blog, photo, video, audio, presentation, or other embeddable format, that becomes a shareable corporate asset in social media. From Facebook’s recent algorithm changes to the new Google Plus ads to SEO algorithms, unique content is the killer asset that will become all the more important for businesses in 2014. Together with the rise of content marketing, a content-centric social media marketing strategy will become all the more important to help businesses rise above the noise and be more effective in their social media practice.
The emergence of visual social media marketing in 2013, especially with the rise of Pinterest and Instagram, is no mystery to anyone. Now we see how this emergence of visual social media marketing will affect the other social networks in 2014: From changing the specifications of visuals that you publish together with your blog posts, producing more micro videos on Vine or Instagram, creating more visual memes to engage your social media audiences, or simplifying your presentations that you add to SlideShare to emphasize the visual, 2014 will be the year that you should be rethinking and optimizing all aspects of your visual social media marketing for maximum effectiveness.
The final trend is one I have seen evolving rapidly due to the time and connections I have in Asia. You see, there are well known consumer brands in Japan that have more followers on a mobile communications app called LINE than on Facebook. Similar to LINE, which is popular primarily in Japan, we have seen the emergence and popularity of a mobile communications app in China called WeChat (which, if you were curious, was the most downloaded mobile social app in countries like Brazil, Mexico, Italy, Spain, and South Africa earlier this year). Both apps, almost out of nowhere, have more than 300 million registered users which primarily joined in 2013. Some of those that I met at my recent Facebook said that they look to Asia as being the future of mobile, so I see this trend expanding outside of China and am calling it Mobile Personal. What is Mobile Personal? As we spend more time on mobile devices, we are also changing our communication habits and the way that we use social media. I always define social media about being the convergence of information and communication, but too many, it is evolving back into a personal communication-centric platform. For these social media users, it is about being able to communicate directly – and in fun and unique ways – with their personal friends. For this growing demographic, LINE and WeChat are the perfect solution. What about in the rest of the world? I believe that the recent introduction of Instagram Direct – as well as the addition of stickers to Facebook Messenger – is a direct reaction to this trend and growth of these apps, which undoubtedly compete with the major social networks vying for time of the mobile social media user. By the way, if you’re an audio type, you can listen me to speak about these trends in my own voice on my Maximize Your Social Podcast here:
Are any of these social media trends for 2014 new to you? Any others that you would add to the list? Which one is the most important to your company in 2014?