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 also 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.
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
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…
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!