Trends To Watch (And Use!) For 2015

Being active in social media and content generation is a must for all businesses in 2015, especiallystock-exchange-295648_640 small businesses. In order to effectively utilize those tools, it helps to be on the front side of the trend curve whenever possible. One of the biggest trends in social media in 2015 is the move toward less disclosure. While this may seem counter-intuitive, understanding the reasons for the move helps put things into context.

To illustrate, let’s look at the struggles of the biggest social media platform in the world, Facebook. Facebook grew to prominence on its enormous appeal to Millenials and youth because it allowed them easy access to the comings and goings of their friends. Last year was a watershed moment for Facebook because they actually lost users for the first time in almost a decade. It would be overly simplistic to attribute this loss to any one cause, but there can be no doubt that a big part of the reason is that Facebook use is now skewing toward older adults rather than Millenials and youth. Facebook’s struggle is the fact that Millenials don’t want to be “friends” with their parents and grandparents, and don’t want to have their online activities patrolled just like their real world activities. This is precisely the reason for the move toward less disclosure on social media.

Those Millenials and youth who cause rapid growth on social media platforms are fleeing toward other options that allow them to still connect with their friends without the older generations being privy to those interactions. Believe it or not, one of the hot new trends this year is the comeback of chat rooms. Users can enter the chat room, have their interactions, and leave, all without anyone unknown hopping in alongside them. In most cases, when the chat is done there is no enduring record of the discussion.

Another reason driving the desire for less disclosure is that social media has been widely adoptedshield-107860_640 by citizens of countries all around the world where censorship is used to quell unrest or prevent freedom of speech or expression. The need for instant communication with mass numbers of people is beautifully filled by social media, and in a very real sense, people’s lives may depend on disclosing less information about the identity of those users.

Another trend that has continue to grow is that of visual social media, especially on mobile devices. Platforms like Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat have experience massive growth and show no signs of stopping, confirming the truth in the old saw that a picture is worth a thousand words. Video platforms are coming up quickly, too. In addition to YouTube, newer services like Cinchcast and Screenr seek to make it easier than ever for anyone to create and publish their own videos about any topic of choice. As mobile devices continue to get more powerful, and as readily available broadband public networks continue to spread, the hurdles of mass video distribution have become very low.

Another big trend that appears to be emerging is that of new and creative strategies about how to use social media. For example, rather than simple brand marketing through social media, many companies are moving toward influencer marketing to make more genuine connections with potential customers. If a popular or well-known figure endorses something they use in social media, it is likely that many of their followers will do the same. Similarly, as consumers get more social media savvy, they expect more personal messaging than a typical Twitter hashtag or Facebook pay-to-play ad. A growing number of large companies use social media to interact directly and personally with customers — and have done so with great results — and small businesses will be expected to follow suit quickly. One example is airlines quickly re-routing lamp-432246_640stranded travelers via Twitter after mechanical or weather problems. Some companies, like Lego, have created entire user communities where enthusiasts can meet and interact without any direct involvement from Lego itself. However, by paying close attention to these communities and tapping into their leaders for special projects, Lego has essentially created a system of free idea generation and innovation guidance while simultaneously building loyalty through active user engagement. The bottom line is that an emphasis should be placed on creatively making meaningful connections with customers and providing real value to them rather than simply pushing information at them. Companies who are able to do that will develop a loyal and engaged following that improves their bottom line, especially as more and more social media platforms build payment services directly into their service.

There are a few honorable mentions I wanted to toss out there, too. Wearables are just starting to hit their stride, and it’s too early to estimate the magnitude of effect they will have on the social media space. Some think that social media outlets will become reservoirs of information in themselves, and it will just take the right interface to tap into those reservoirs to create a vast searchable hub of real time information. Aggregation is on the rise, as well, whether in the form of big data analytics for corporations, tools to help small businesses better understand which social media is working for them (and which is not), or being able to blast out content to multiple social media platforms in a single click.

All of these are merely guesses at this point; time will tell which of these become fixed in our society and which will not. Regardless, it is wise to do everything possible to stay on the forefront of the industry. Using social media is no longer just a fun little side gig. Instead, it should be viewed as a core part of the business’ strategy to reach, attract, and retain loyal customers over the long term.

Social Media Marketing Strategies in 2015

Social MediaMarketingStrategies 2015

If there is anything we can count on in the digital world, it’s that it changes quickly. As the speed at which information is exchanged improves, consumer response to that information becomes faster and businesses want to be the first to know, and react in kind, to the consumer response.

Analytics are and will remain important for businesses. Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest all have rolled out analyzation tools for their users. The new information will allow businesses to pinpoint which aspects of social media are drawing interest, and which are falling flat. In order to use this information effectively, businesses will have to be flexible, willing to discard strategies that aren’t working and acquire new ones, sometimes implementing strategies that are novel and creative.

Businesses have to be aware, and not just aware, but engaged with the public profiles of their employees. As businesses learned from this past year, a business, and the public profiles of its employees, don’t have a private life on social media. Everyone markets. On a public profile, employees of a company are representatives held up to consumer expectations.  Consumers have the expectation that the companies they buy from reflect their own values. Which means employees have to be careful what they post on their public profiles and how they represent the brand.

Consumers are also wanting authenticity because it’s more relatable. As video and visuals become more common, there will be an upswing in the number of promotional videos that “sell” via real customer reviews, or through telling a great story. Consumers give greater points to a company that is doing more for the community than just making money off them.  They will want to see the human, personal side of a company because it gives the impression that it’s local and approachable, versus an immense and untouchable thing that happens to employee people. Companies will find their videos going viral if they can make the consumer’s heart melt, by promoting caring rather than persuading them to buy.

But attention spans among adults are starting to change. Studies have shown that we actually read differently after a constant exposure to social media.   Businesses concerned about consumers losing their ability to “read deeply” might focus on having quality posts of a longer length. But businesses who want to tap into the consumer trend of focusing on the most pertinent information in the shortest number of words, will use focus on implementing shorter posts and more of them. Microblogging, especially, will be useful for businesses interested in shorter, more frequent, posts.

Bigger companies will rely on an approach that incorporates both the digital tech and creative aspects of marketing. This means knowing a modicum of html speak will be of huge benefit to the social media marketing job-seeker. At the same time, smaller companies will discover that social media and blogging companies are catering to the DIYers by making their interfaces more user friendly.

Regardless, some argue that the age of the blog is starting to wane as companies discover other avenues of social interaction that work better for their business, and microblogging via tumblr and twitter take over. New social media outlets that are specific to certain subsets of people will begin to become more common. Purchase of ads tailored to these subsets of people will increase as consumers begin to make use of the hobby/interest-specific social media.

Hence, business owners will have social media managers who are given specific parameters of interaction – as much to ensure that there aren’t any social media faux pas which escalate into media debacles, as to ensure that the interactions are appropriate to the audience.

Immediacy continues to be an important aspect of digital commerce and, as such, will continue to force the direction of digital technology. As social media outlets attempt to shorten the distance between idea and action by experimenting with platforms that allow direct purchase of products, we’ll see the beginning of the end of third party distributors. Consumers will no longer have to go to a different website to purchase the product, but can purchase it right from their media outlet of choice.

This in turn will lead to a rise in ad sales on social media, as well as opportunities for individual bloggers to make more through affiliate links and acting as distributors of products endorsed on the blog. Because of this, authenticity will be even more important to the consumer who may not trust a blogger whose sole purpose in owning a blog is to make money off followers.

Overall, in 2015 we can expect to see a more tailored approach to the individual consumer. With every generation that passes the exchange of information has steadily grown swifter. The speed of that exchange has made a huge impact on the marketplace, both digital and otherwise. It will continue to do so and businesses will need to be prepared to take advantage of improved social media changes. Technology stops for no man.

Sources:

http://www.business2community.com/social-media/7-top-social-media-trends-will-impact-marketing-2015-01107054

http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/social-media-in-2015-predictions-and-potential/

http://www.toprankblog.com/2014/05/digital-marketing-2015/

http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/7608-2015-small-business-predictions.html

 

The Far-reaching Effects of Social Media

The following post is not intended to endorse or support the actions or in-actions of those whom it discusses.

If you ever had any doubts of the power of social media, lay them to rest.

Recent events triggered various social media firestorms which lead to raised conventional media awareness. News agencies, wise to the utility of Twitter and Facebook as an indicator of “the people’s voice,” further fomented discussion by continued coverage and sometimes baiting. This, in turn, resulted in a call for action and authorities becoming more involved than they might have otherwise.

hello!According to the New York Times, #Ferguson is what thrust the Ferguson, MO shooting incident into the national limelight.

It has spurred a new iteration of discussion with the hashtag #iftheygunmedown, which had hundreds of participants posting dual photos of themselves on twitter. One, in which the participants were dressed in clothing and posing in ways that might indicate they were a gang member, and another which indicated they were upstanding, law abiding, and community contributing citizens. All this posing the question, which photo would the media use “#iftheygunmedown”?

Their point to conventional media outlets? One hopes their point was that they now understand the media’s attempts to manipulate the populace and whip them into a frenzied race-based flame war. Because controversy sells. But it’s possible that such techniques on the part of money-hungry news agencies have only confirmed to blacks that white bias exists on a large scale.

A month later, we are still seeing that the incident is fresh on people’s minds as social media and conventional media feed off each other. Protesters attempted a shutdown  of I-70 and Attorney General Eric Holder has promised to launch an investigation. One has to wonder if such efforts would have been expended if news social media discussion of the incident had faded away.

The recent rash of NFL controversies have sparked social media outcry, as well.

As news of Adrian Peterson’s suspension for alleged child abuse broke, the world was still reacting to the interview Reggie Bush gave for WFAN’s Boomer and Carton Show. Social media users have had plenty to say about Reggie’s less than prudent words. (#ReggieBush)

The indefinite suspension of player Ray Rice from the NFL only came about after public pressure via social media was brought to bear on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The populace is enraged at the thought that the NFL hoped to brush the incident under the rug. Paul George, who tweeted a comment in support of Ray Rice, felt an immediate social media backlash that had him scrambling to apologize.

All of these incidents are cautionary tales for both businesses (of which the NFL is one) and individuals alike.

If business practices are anything but above board, one would do well to view social media with a wary eye.

Before social media came along, businesses and high profile individuals could afford to anger people to a degree. They could count on the powerless isolation of consumers. But social media allows people to find, interact, and discuss with strangers, like-minded and not. All of a sudden, consumers aren’t so isolated and the people’s voice has more economic and political clout than it ever had before.

Many businesses and bureaucratic powers that be are still trying to play catch up. Some might be mystified at the immense pressure that can be brought to bear via the seemingly innocuous social media platforms.

Will social media change how businesses do business?

If the Goodell case is any indicator, we the people want transparency. It upsets consumers to realize that business owners (or government officials) might be looking at preserving their own interests over preserving their integrity.

To rehash an over-used parallel to ancient Rome, we can say that modern social media has shrunken the nation to such a degree that the star movers and shakers of this world can rise and fall as easily as the politicians of ancient Rome rose and fell by the voice of the mob.

Nevertheless, there is no way to guarantee your business will never experience a stock-shaking scandal. At that point, all you can do is act with integrity and hope that you have built up enough of a relationship with the public that they are willing to believe any apologies made or mistakes owned.

Look for Part II of this article next month: The Social Media Takeaway on Recent Events

Social Media Trends To Watch (And Use!) In 2014

This should be an extremely interesting year in social media.  Knowing what’s coming in social media is pretty much like predicting the future – you won’t ever be exactly correct all of the time, but you can make some pretty good guesses that are pretty likely to work out.  Here are some of those guesses.

Cross-Platform is Key

Facebook is still the big dog, of course, but others are getting bigger, and getting bigger fast.  Whereas 70% of social media users have a Facebook account, 50% of them diversificationalso have a Google+ account, and that number is still going up.  In fact, Google+ now gets the highest number of monthly visits, at 1.2 billion.  Ignoring Google+ used to be an option, but to do so now would be a detriment to your business.  In terms of sheer growth, Pinterest is considered by most to be the fastest growing platform, closely followed by Instagram, which has activity levels (i.e. checking frequently and overall time spent) just shy of Facebook.  If you have a business that can capitalize on any kind of image, these will also be key areas to tap in the coming year, especially because survey after survey shows customers are highly influenced by (and more likely to pass on) posts with pictures.  In fact, one recent study showed that in 2013 social media posts with images actually drove more revenue that standard display ads!  Tools like Hootsuite, IFTTT (if this then that), or Buffer can make it easier to manage the generation of content on multiple sites, but it still pays to know and understand the unique characteristics and benefits of each service.  Each major platform has its challenges and benefits, but the key takeaway here is that 42% of all Americans currently use multiple social media platforms regularly, so you need to broaden your presence into as many of those as possible.

Go Mobile

Over half of Facebook users and 35% of Pinterest users now access their accounts solely through a mobile app.  The numbers for other platforms are smaller but show the same trend.  Perhaps even more importantly, over 60% of Americans now own a smartphone in particular, a jump of 15% in just one year!  There’s no reason to think this trend will slow down soon until saturation is achieved, so the bottom line here is that if you want to get your business and your content out there, you absolutely must orient toward mobile.

Content is King

content-magnet

Social media has evolved to the point where following a person or company simply for the sake of following them is no longer enough.  There needs to be a compelling reason for the follow now.  Your social media posts need to provide either entertainment value, utility value, or (preferably) both.  Once you have a substantial body of work built up, pay attention to the posts that got the most interest and engagement, and try to understand why…then do it again.  And don’t be afraid to change it up every now and then – even the most useful content provider will get stale from time to time, so throwing in some inspirational quotes or just-for-fun off-topic stuff can help keep things interesting. Above all, you must be willing and able to tell a story.  Brief standalone nuggets of information are fine, but don’t exactly inspire loyalty.  A good story, however, sucks people in and compels both interest and a desire to come back again and again.  And that brings us to…

Engage!

engage-gears

If there is one trend to capture in the coming year, this is it.  You must listen to, understand, and engage with your customers.  One recent survey shows that just 6 hours

invested per week created a noticeable increase in traffic for 74% of respondents.  Over half of these respondents acquired new customers by directly engaging with Facebook followers, and over a third gained new customers by engaging with Twitter followers.  Don’t look at social media as a marketing platform, but rather a way to engage your customers on a conversational level with the intent of building relationships and satisfaction.  These things will ultimately generate repeat business, positive word of mouth, and growing social media presence for your brand.

Jobs to Watch

The rise and popularity of the social media industry also means there is a whole new set of jobs available for talented people to fill.  One great example is analytics – having a mountain of data doesn’t do much for you if you don’t know how to interpret that data into actionable solutions.  Search engine optimization (SEO) specialists and social media strategists are also likely to be in high demand in the near future.  If you have these skills or are willing and able to learn them, you might find yourself riding the wave of these social media trends in a very literal sense!

Six Pinterest Tips for Business

With Pinterest’s roll out of promoted pins last month, I figure it’s time to revisit Pinterest as a tool for business. Pinterest will test sponsored pins for a while, and I’m sure they will roll out more options and features to advertisers in the future. In the meantime, here are six tips for improving your Pinterest presence, which can lead to increased traffic, sales and leads!

While Pinterest easily makes sense for food, clothing and events, Pinterest-ers share all images, so get creative with your brand! Teachers are sharing classroom worksheets, marketers are sharing infographics and news outlets are sharing memorable quotes from their published content.

1.    Connect your Social Media Accounts

By connecting your Pinterest account with your Facebook and Twitter account, you can tweet pins to followers and show what you are pinning in your Facebook friends’ feeds. This allows followers on Facebook and Twitter to easily see what you are sharing and by clicking can repin or follow you on Pinterest, gaining followers from your other networks. For brands that aren’t run by a specific person, do note that it is not yet possible to connect a Facebook business page to the account.

I recommend including a link to your Pinterest (and all other social media accounts) in your Facebook about section, as well.

2. Write a Keyword-Friendly About Section

Once a user decides to check out your page, the About section is the first thing they see – and the main section you have to describe yourself in words rather than images. You can write up to 200 characters (just over that Twitter bio you so carefully crafted). Bonus: This section is indexed by Google and the other search engines, so include your focus keywords here. You can also include your geographic location, which is helpful if you do have a storefront that people can visit.

3. Follow Other People/Brands To Grow your Reach

When users are followed or their images are repinned, they may be alerted. They will also see that you follow them in their follower list and may be likely to follow you back, growing your reach. Start by following influencers in your industry, brands you have worked with, and people you already know.

If you connected your social media accounts (as mentioned in my first point), Pinterest has made it easier to find your friends and connect with them. Click on your name in the top right corner of Pinterest and then select Find Friends to find friends and followers from other networks to follow on Pinterest.

If you are looking to find new people with similar interests or influencers in a certain industry, search for one of your focus keywords. Pinterest will show you pinners, boards and pins that contain this keyword. Then, begin following people and boards who share similar pins to what you share and plan to share. Some of these people will follow you back, which is an excellent way to grow brand awareness and follower count!

4. Create Relevant Boards and Post Useful Pins (and place the best ones near the top!)

Since Pinterest is a great way to drive traffic to the site, share relevant images and pins on your focused boards. (Tip: If you only have one or two images to share on a board, maybe you aren’t ready to create that board yet.) Boards that are positioned at the top of your page will receive the most views, so take time to craft the order of your boards. I love how Pottery Barn – in the image above – has repositioned their boards to highlight the upcoming holidays. They know that their audience is looking for ways to celebrate and decorate for Thanksgiving, so their first two boards are Thanksgiving themed (and include those keywords for improved searching!) Also, note that their boards stay focused on their theme – you won’t see a winter craft pop up on their Thanksgiving board!

By creating focused boards, you are more easily able to keep with your brand image. Don’t think though, that you can’t create a few boards that are outside the box! Show some personality with your boards and pins and like with all social media, share other content and products. (If you are scared of copyright issues, maybe having a group board could take some of the ownership issues away) By sharing useful content from other authoritative sources, you increase your authority and make it more likely a follower will return to you for more information.

To keep content fresh and to stay visible for users who visit the site at different times of the day, try your best to post at regular intervals. If you use Pinterest frequently (and are like me), you may get annoyed when one person has repinned a bunch and is hogging your home page!

5.Update Your Website with Pinterest buttons

Now that your Pinterest page is a rockstar, it’s important to let your website visitors know you are pinning! Pinterest has created several different options for your website and I recommend considering how they can be integrated onto your site. The Pin It Button reminds people to pin images from your website onto their Pinterest pages; the Follow Button lets visitors follow you from the comfort of your website; the Pin Widget allows you to embed one of your pins on your site; the Profile Widget allows you to show up to 30 of your latest pins on your website; and the Board Widget allows you to show up to 30 of your favorite board’s latest pins. These options let you show your users you are located on Pinterest and pinning great stuff, which will generate traffic to your Pinterest page and back to your website.

6. Always measure!

It’s always fun to jump right in to a new social tool without a game plan, right? Sometimes. While you take time to craft how you are going to use the tool, remember to take time to figure out how you are going to measure your efforts. Why spend 4 hours a day on Pinterest if you aren’t gaining any traction for your brand? With the following tools, you have more options to build and measure your campaign.

Pinterest Analytics:

As a verified business Pinterest page, Pinterest allows you to use the free analytics tool. This tool is fairly basic, but you can track how many people are pinning from your website, viewing your pins and clicking your pins. Through this information you can see what pins are getting the most pins and who those influences are, which can inform your Pinterest strategy so you don’t waste a lot of time on images or information people aren’t thinking about.

Curalate:

If you have some money to spare, this paid tool allows you to respond to interactions through the platform, as well as schedule pins, which allows you to be more efficient and plan out your week. Other options with this platform are monitoring keywords for sentiment and purchase intent and create visual promotions. The Curalate dashboard allows you to measure entrants, impressions, organic growth, your top images and your ROI.

Does your business use Pinterest as part of the marketing strategy?

Pinterest is an awesome visual marketing channel and a great way to organically convert followers and brand ambassadors. It’s responsible for the majority of traffic for many brand websites through  unique storytelling. I’d love to hear your success stories and challenges with Pinterest! Have contests worked for your brand? Have you tested group boards? Do you comment on pins or mention people in posts? Which of your pins get the most shares? Share your stories and questions below.