As we approach 2014 faster than you can say “nostopwait!”, the predictions for the next big things in digital are coming in thick and fast.
We like making predictions – and I’ve especially enjoyed putting this together, because it really does feel like social media marketing is going to come into its own and take the marketing world by storm…
1. Social media will be relied upon more heavily in content marketing strategies
Social media and content marketing go hand in hand. Obvious, right? Apparently not – not to everyone yet, anyway. Until now, we haven’t quite seen enough integration going on between brands’ various marketing channels (digital and/or offline). But we will in 2014.
Integration has, for me, been the key message of 2013… So I predict that next year, we’ll see this message really take hold in practice, particularly when it comes to social media and content marketing.
Rather than brands driving traffic to their websites from the SERPs by optimizing their sites for long tail and short tail keywords, PPC etc., brands will become better at understanding how to drive traffic to their websites from their social media channels.
Instead of filling up their Facebook Page with pictures of a cats and sunsets, and relating them tenuously to their brand, brands will begin to create onsite content that’s primed for social media shares (so content that’s bite-sized and rich-media heavy). They will also become more confident at seeding content out with social advertising.
Also, brands will start to learn how to use Google+ to appear in the SERPs (in-platform blogging, knowing how to get their latest posts to display in the right-hand side of the SERPs etc.).
Brands will begin to take hold of the idea that by using social media channels to seed its onsite content, it’s pushing that content out to a warm, primed audience that’s already interested in what it has to say. And, of course, that’s only one of the many tangible benefits of developing a solid social media strategy…
2. Shy brands will be forced to surface on social media
The big pointer towards this for me was Ryanair recently making its debut appearance on Twitter. Ryanair, whose customer service is notoriously poor, launched proceedings with a bang by having its infamously caddish CEO to host a live Twitter chat, #GrillMOL – which was hailed by some as a fail, but by me as a splendiferous PR success… If you go by the old adage, “there’s no such thing as bad press” (Ryanair certainly seems to).
Ryanair has opened the door for swathes of dissatisfied customers to unleash fresh hell on them, right out there in public. But they clearly feel confident that they can deal with that, so bravo – and about time.
2014 will see more and more shy brands come out of the woodwork to stake their claim on some prime some social media real estate and validate their very existence. It really is all about trust and transparency now, and not having a social media presence these days is frankly rather shifty.
3. Jobs in social media customer service will boom
While previously, teams monitoring social media for customer service enquiries and complaints may have generally consisted of between 0.25 and 2 people, we’ll see social media customer service become a thing.
Companies will either seek out candidates with previous social media experience, or will start to train existing employees in-house, and we’ll see new job titles pop up for Social Media Customer Service Specialists etc. Move over call centres – your days are numbered…
4. Social PPC becomes a discipline in its own right
Selling social media in to boards is still a tough gig, even in 2013. But it does feel distinctly like we’re on the brink of a social media revolution, from where I’m sitting. Oh yes. While the term ‘ROI’ in relation to social media is just a bit passé now (yawn), it’s still THE clincher. Of course it is.
How do we unequivocally track, measure and prove ROI? Social advertising.
In addition to Facebook’s growing advertising offering, e.g. Custom and Lookalike Audiences, and FBX (a retargeting tool that will allow retailers to show ads to people who have previously visited their website/mobile app), the backend of 2013 has seen a lot of developments in the social advertising sphere.
The recent cluster of announcements about new advertising offerings from various platforms – Foursquare Ads, Twitter’s Promoted Accounts/Tweets, Pinterest’s Promoted Pins, and Instagram’s promoted photos/videos – heralds 2014 as the year that we start to see social PPC take off… And to cater for the demand, we’ll specific job roles (Social PPC Strategist and the like) also becoming part of the digital marketing recruitment vocabulary.
(If any of the advertising options mentioned above are news to you, I implore you to swot up – understanding the amazing capabilities of social advertising will prove to be the secret weapon in your marketing arsenal.)
5. Everyday social media users will flock to Google+
There’s a lot of cool stuff going on over on Google+. From its unique Hangouts and Helpouts features being harnessed successfully by big consumer brands like Sephora, Weight Watchers and Toyota, to the fact that it offers users some pretty cool image improvement/sharing functionalities, it’s rapidly becoming the fun social hub it needed to be to make everyday people (not just SEOs, digital nerds and the odd forward-thinking mummy blogger) interested.
I’m confident that the things Google+ started offering in the latter half of 2012 and throughout 2013 are unique and exciting enough to grab the average social media user’s attention in 2014.
Keep an eye out for more schmaltzy Google+-related TV ads like this:
6. Google will open up its API to enable more scheduling options and data capture by social monitoring tools
OK, so this one might be a bit out there… However, it feels like the time is right.
While Google has previously been quoted as not wanting to “disrupt something very special” by allowing third-party apps to auto-post to it, I don’t think there’s as much of a danger of this kind of activity ruining Google+ anymore, now that it’s much busier.
From my regular-social-media-user perspective (as opposed to my professional one), I’ve been enjoying consuming and sharing regular content on Google+ more and more, and the features it offers are brilliant.
Various brands and individuals have really made the platform their own and are posting content that’ll just instantly drown out the rubbish. Plus, anyway, if users start to see poor content in their feeds too often, they’ll simply remove the offending source them from their Circles.
Marketers are crying out to understand what’s being said about brands on Google+, as well as where and by whom, and would also love more flexibility when it comes to which tools they use to schedule their valuable content.
So 2014 could be the year that Google actually allows developers to come and play on their platform, and make it easier for users to implement their high-quality content strategies with it.