Today, pretty much everyone has a social media account and it is clear that social media has grown and evolved dramatically from obscure websites used by college students that no one really understood. Businesses now take advantage of social media to foster relationships with clients, while people from all ages and from around the world have embraced social media to make new friends and reconnect or keep in touch with old ones.
As social media has grown as a technology and as an industry, a lot of changes have taken place over its emergence in the past few years. There is no sign that the changes or evolutions of social media are going to be letting up any time soon, and in fact there may be more exciting new developments and changes coming in 2014. In this new age of SEO without Google analytics, being active on social media is more important than ever before.
For those who use social media marketing, it is essential to be on the cutting-edge of these changes and to embrace new developments and technologies to craft an effective social media marketing strategy.
Here are a few things to watch for in terms of the evolution of social media marketing throughout 2014 and beyond:
- Increasing monetization of social networks and social media marketing. For a long time, advertisers have been able to take advantage of low-cost or even no-cost social media marketing through the creation of brand pages and through developing networks. Now, however, all of the major social networks including Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn are in monetization mode and are aiming to reach their full profit-making potential. More and more often, advertising is going to be sponsored and/or businesses are going to need to pay in order to use these services to reach consumers.
- Pay-to-play is likely to become much more common. This is closely related to the increasing monetization of social media networks and the new trend towards charging for the use of social media marketing. The transition has already begun, with Facebook making changes to its news feed algorithms in order to hinder organic reach and instead to require companies to pay if they want to access consumers with their new information.
- Social listening will take on increasing importance. Marketers have an opportunity that they never had in the age of social media. They can listen to the needs and concerns of their customers in real-time and respond almost instantly in order to respond to trends and meet customer concerns. Brands need to take advantage of these opportunities and interact directly with consumers. Smart social media marketers will take the time to listen to what customers are saying; to consider the context of the conversation (whether customers are reaching out to your brand with problems or just complaining to friends) and respond in a way that shows you listened. Remember, anything you put on social media marketing can go viral instantly, so be careful about how you address customer concerns.
- Increasing integration of email and social media marketing. Although social media has become a dominant force in online marketing, email marketing still can be a good way to connect with customers. Many companies use email marketing still, and as social media marketing becomes a more mature industry, you can expect to see marketers looking for new ways to combine these different methods.
- A rise in graphic software: Posts on Facebook already got a lot more attention (measured in likes, comments and click-throughs) when a picture is used or when the post is graphics based. Thanks to services like Tumblr and Pinterest, pictures and visual graphics are also taking on increasing importance. Companies who want to attract attention and who want to reach the widest audiences will need to embrace the focus on great graphics and will need to create visual advertising.
- Increased automation: There are important shifts in auditing social media marketing tactics and tracking. As more companies see the benefits of automation, these technologies are likely to catch on and free up social media marketers to focus on content and genuine social media interaction.
These are a few key trends that you should be on the lookout for this upcoming year. Social media marketing is all about knowing what’s popular today and what’s coming next so you can reach out to clients at the sites they frequent most.