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Video: Why Businesses Should NOT Neglect LinkedIn

Is your business taking advantage of LinkedIn? According to Sean Jackson, a founding partner of Copyblogger Media, businesses should tap into this social media platform due to its high value. SugarSpun Marketing had the opportunity to catch up with him at Pubcon in Las Vegas and hear him explain how LinkedIn consists of people and businesses (with incomes!) that are looking for business solutions. These are the people that are key influencers when it comes to making purchasing decisions. Read more

How to Really Connect with Your Facebook & Twitter Audience

Connecting on SoMeAs social media has grown and evolved, the reasons people use it vary. In the past, many users would keep their Facebook accounts more personal and reserve LinkedIn for strictly business. Though some still try to stick by these rules, the lines have gotten blurred. I often hear people say they would like to delete their personal Facebook accounts but can’t because their attached to their business’s page or because that’s how they keep up with their family. What’s more, people seem to be going back to the idea of wanting a more private network such as Instagram. What do you prefer?

It’s actually a bit of a catch 22. We marketers wanted social media to grow. We wanted to draw consumers in and convince businesses that they should adopt marketing through their social channels. Yet, as this has happened, each network has become much more saturated making marketing much harder.

News & Social Media                                  

In a new study from the Pew Research Center and John S. and James L. Knight Foundation called “The Evolving Role of News on Twitter and Facebook,” 63 percent of the more than 2,000 U.S. adults surveyed said they viewed both Twitter and Facebook primarily for news. Understandably, Twitter is considered the best channel for breaking news with just 31 percent going to Facebook for news to break.

Pew & Twitter and Facebook's Impact on News

Other interesting findings from this study include:

  • The rise in the share of social media users getting news on Facebook or Twitter cuts across nearly every demographic group.
  • When it comes specifically to news and information about government and politics, Facebook users are more likely to post and respond to content, while Twitter users are more likely to follow news organizations.

Marketing Impact

Does this information matter to marketers? Yes! Marketers need to know the reasons their audience goes to each social channel. Now, most small-to-medium-sized businesses do not always relate to hard news, but since statistics show a large portion looking for news, marketers need to tailor their content accordingly. Here’s how:

1. Avoid Fluff Content

Audiences everywhere have gotten smarter, but this is especially true for social media audiences. No one has time for fluffy, salesy content. It doesn’t make people want to follow your page or buy your products or services. Instead, it turns people off.

2. Be Authentic

If people have their eyes opened for news, they don’t want to play games. This doesn’t mean that humor can’t be incorporated, but it does mean that every business should have a clear and direct strategy. In other words, don’t post just to be posting. Keep your goals in mind, watch audience trends, and honestly communicate with your audience. It’s really not difficult, but so often, marketers neglect being real, which can severely hurt them.

3. Piggyback on News Event (But Use Caution)                                                                                                                      

When possible, use a news event to your advantage. For instance, if a famous person passes away, use an inspirational quote from them and turn it into a meme. Another situation could be that your state or the government is passing legislation that could help your industry or businesses in general. Political involvement can be controversial, but if your business is passionate either way on an issue, you should let your voice be heard. If you have correctly identified your audience, they will likely support your stance as well.

It’s important to understand that the “when possible” mentioned above has to carefully be taken into consideration. It’s up to the business, but we would not recommend trying to piggyback on the recent SCOTUS ruling or Iran, for example. While these are no doubt very popular topics on Facebook and Twitter, these topics could alienate your business. Your posts could go viral, but not in the way you want. And, when it comes to social media, bad publicity is very real and brings a host of reputation management issues.

Doing this correctly is more about taking a tragedy and creating an online contest to give your audience an opportunity to contribute. Or, creating a meme as suggested above. It’s also about thinking on your feet like Arby’s did with Pharrell Williams during last year’s Grammy awards.

Ultimately, connecting with your Facebook and Twitter audiences depends on how well you know them. Studies like the one from Pew Research Foundation and John S. and James L. Knight Foundation help to show trends that may create opportunities for better engaging with your audience. But, it’s up to you as a marketer to do your research and see if it applies.

The Ever-Changing Social Media Landscape

With all the changes to social media, it can be very challenging to keep up. The big players like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest are always adding new features and abilities, and the newer, more niche networks are coming and going at an even faster rate. This challenge to stay on top of these happenings even hits marketers that are in and out of these sites on a daily basis.

To make life a little easier on all us, we want to provide a summary of some recent changes and updates that will impact your social media strategy.

Facebook

Apart from Facebook’s recent algorithm changes, namely the drop in organic reach for page owners, the largest social network has been relatively quiet. This is good news since businesses and marketers have had their hands full dealing with said reach issues. While these changes are no doubt frustrating, if Facebook is a really valuable channel for your company, the cost to improve content and/or take on paid advertising will be worth the investment.

In other much less noteworthy news for Facebook, the company has killed off the “Poke” feature and Facebook Camera. The “poke” has been around for some time and was apparently very rarely used anymore. The camera app has also been around for a while, but likely could not compete with its new cousin Instagram.

These moves are simply part of Facebook’s growth and development. We’ve seen it abandon and consolidate products before, and we’ll likely see it again as the company continues to gain knowledge of what its audience wants.

Twitter

Twitter has actually had quite a bit going on of late. Apart from its struggling stock price, the popular microblogging service has had its share of platform changes too. Last month, Twitter announced a new layout for user accounts. The new profiles are much more visual with larger imagery as well as the following features:

  • Best Tweets: Tweets that have received more engagement will appear slightly larger, so your best content is easy to find.
  • Pinned Tweet: Pin one of your Tweets to the top of your page, so it’s easy for your followers to see what you’re all about.
  • Filtered Tweets: Now you can choose which timeline to view when checking out other profiles. Select from these options: Tweets, Tweets with photos/videos, or Tweets and replies.

First Lady's Twitter Profile

The consensus is that the new look strongly resembles Facebook. Ironically, when Facebook rolled out user Timelines, many people remarked of its resemblance to Myspace. Regardless of user feelings, the new Twitter profiles will be active for everyone by May 28.

Twitter also recently announced a new “mute” feature that will allow users to essentially silence users within their feed. After these users are muted, their tweets won’t appear in your timeline anymore. Also, you won’t receive push notifications from them, but the @ replies and mentions will still show up. The feature is actually very similar to Facebook’s “hide” feature. While users may find this feature useful, it brings some concern to businesses.

Over on Marketing Land, Matt McGee spells out why some marketers aren’t fond of the new ability:

Until now, brands had some assurance that their Twitter activity could be seen by every Twitter follower. That was one of the differentiating factors between Twitter and Facebook; Twitter didn’t purposely show updates to only some of your followers the way Facebook does. And Twitter’s still not doing it algorithmically the way Facebook’s News Feed does — Twitter is putting it in the user’s control. But the point is that Twitter visibility isn’t a sure thing anymore. Some followers may not see your activity, and you have no way of knowing.

As this function rolls out over the next few weeks, marketers will be able to see the full impact.

LinkedIn

The professional network has been somewhat low-key of late. In April, the company did away with its Services tab on company pages and introduced Showcase Pages. In summary, Showcase Pages allow companies to segment the various divisions of their expertise. The idea is to deliver specific messages to distinct target audiences.

From what we’ve seen, these pages work well for large companies with multiple divisions. For instance, Microsoft can segment its Office products:

Microsoft LinkedIn Showcase Page

However, it’s harder for small-to-medium sized businesses to do this. Some marketers don’t feel that Showcase Pages are very useful, but since it’s still early, the verdict is still out on their value.

LinkedIn did also recently unveil a Content Marketing Score that measures unique and engaged members. In other words, the tool helps businesses determine what content works and doesn’t work. The functionality also allows users to publish content in various ways across the platform including through LinkedIn Groups, company updates, employee posts, writers’ posts, etc.

Again, this is very new, so time will tell what this really means for businesses.

Pinterest

Pinterest has had some excitement recently as the company announced a paid test of Promoted Pins. If you remember, last fall, the company said it would begin experimenting with ads with a select group of brands. In this week’s announcement, Pinterest is expanding this initiative. Some of the participating brands include: ABC Family, Banana Republic, Expedia, GAP, General Mills, Kraft, lululemon athletica, Nestle (select brands), Old Navy, among others.

This move is significant for two important reasons. First of all, it’s important that Pinterest is finding a way to monetize itself, and secondly, it’s creating more business opportunities for marketers.

The world’s favorite pinboard also recently launched Guided Search and Custom Categories. Through Guided Search, Pinterest is aiming to help pinners search better and discover pins. For instance, if a user begins searching, Pinterest will start pulling categories and keywords, much like Google search works.

Pinterest Guided Search Example

Pinterest Guided Search

In terms of its categories, the new Custom Categories allows users to go beyond the somewhat arbitrary 32 initial categories. Pinterest also made improvements to its Related Pins feature as part of this announcement.

With more than 70 million users, 30 billion pins and 750 million boards, Pinterest is evolving. To accommodate this rapid growth, we need to expect more changes to come.

And to avoid overwhelming you like we talked about at the beginning, we’ll stop here since this is more than enough to digest. J

10 Years of Facebook & Its Influence on Social Media

“…People often ask if I always knew that Facebook would become what it is today. No way.

I remember getting pizza with my friends one night in college shortly after opening Facebook. I told them I was excited to help connect our school community, but one day someone needed to connect the whole world.

I always thought this was important — giving people the power to share and stay connected, empowering people to build their own communities themselves.

When I reflect on the last 10 years, one question I ask myself is: why were we the ones to build this? We were just students. We had way fewer resources than big companies. If they had focused on this problem, they could have done it.

The only answer I can think of is: we just cared more.

While some doubted that connecting the world was actually important, we were building. While others doubted that this would be sustainable, you were forming lasting connections.

We just cared more about connecting the world than anyone else. And we still do today.”

Above are the words of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. It’s been 10 years since his dorm room project came to life. And what a decade it has been! We’ve witnessed tremendous growth, transformations, impact, business capabilities and even an IPO. But, as anyone knows that has even somewhat followed the social giant, the past decade hasn’t just been a bed of roses. There have been challenges and backlashes along the way including privacy concerns, competitors, legal issues, financial alarms and more.

Facebook CEO and Founder Mark Zuckerberg

But, 10 years in, Facebook is a successful, global company that has had a tremendous impact on all society. We would be here a very long time if we went back through all the Facebook milestones and the effect they have had on both the company and overall culture. But, we do want to take a little time to reflect on the big picture of Facebook in the past decade, and more importantly social media and the role it has played.

To do this, let’s back up. In 2004, when Facebook was built, what was your social media life like? At this point in time, MySpace was a big deal, forums were hot, instant messaging platforms such as ICQ were all the rave and Friendster was a means to connect with people online whom you already in the offline world. Other platforms such as Orkut, LinkedIn, and Classmates, among others, existed as well, but the social evolution that we now are familiar with was not present. It was then that blogging really started taking off too.

For me, I remember being in college and getting asked if I had Facebook from a few of my friends from other colleges and universities. I had no idea what it was. But, when it became available to my university, I readily signed up. Funny thing, I remember it blowing up across campus to the extent that there were rumors the president was going to ban it. I was part of the on campus news station, and in covering the event, the overall student response was: “My life would be over if they take Facebook away.” I wonder how many people view Facebook in this same way today…

As Facebook began to grow among the college crowd, it then expanded to include high schoolers, and shortly after, everyone. Although this move took the social network to the next level, Charlene Li from research firm Altimeter Group tells CNET it was “counter-intuitive.”

“If [Zuckerberg] had asked users, “What do you want?,” they would have never said “Add my parents,” she said.

She’s right, but we know now that it was successful for the company that now has more than 1.25 billion users and a reported $2.59 billion in revenue this past quarter. However, beyond this, I think it’s fair to say that social media would not be what it is today if Facebook were not a factor. Like it or not, Facebook has largely influenced the overall social media marketplace. Think about how social we are in everything we do from shopping to cooking to sharing opinions to conducting business and the list goes on and on. Though some would say, if Facebook hadn’t come around, something else would have. While this may be true, the circumstances would still be different. For instance, would MySpace have remained a leader? Whether it did or didn’t, would the road have still been paved for Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and others to enter the social space?

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Though history does not allow us to answer this question, it is clear that Facebook has been very formative in molding social media as we currently know it.

Now, the question becomes, where will it take us next?

“…I’m even more excited about the next ten years than the last. The first ten years were about bootstrapping this network. Now we have the resources to help people across the world solve even bigger and more important problems.

Today, only one-third of the world’s population has access to the internet. In the next decade, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to connect the other two-thirds.

Today, social networks are mostly about sharing moments. In the next decade, they’ll also help you answer questions and solve complex problems.

Today, we have only a few ways to share our experiences. In the next decade, technology will enable us to create many more ways to capture and communicate new kinds of experiences.”

Zuckerberg does not give us any exact information on the next 10 years of Facebook in his above post, but he does indicate that it will become smarter and create new experiences. Hopefully, the social network will continue to grow and transform the way consumers act and think. It’s already helped develop an industry that not only connects a large portion of the world and provides a very valuable tool for businesses, but it also has created a whole new job market.

There have been many headlines declaring that the younger generation was abandoning the site, but new research from Pew shows that 73 percent of children ages 12-17 are Facebook users. So, while Facebook doesn’t appear to be going anywhere but up, it is possible that it could diminish in value at some point. IF this were to happen, the impact is has will still be felt, which is an awesome concept. The way people communicate, react, think, and ultimately, live has been revolutionized in the last decade, all thanks to the influx of social media and led largely by Facebook. Will the next 10 years hold as many changes? We’ll see, but I, for one, am so excited to see where it takes us.

How has Facebook impacted you? Does it play a large role in your life? Has Facebook changed the way you communicate? Could you live without it? Is there a particular event in which Facebook changed your life for the better or worse?

Images courtesy of Facebook.

2013 Social Media Year in Review: Old & New Players Make Impact

 

Social Media WorldAs we reflect back on 2013, it’s clear that it has been a very full year. Social media has had another very big year. Digital Insights put together a fantastic infographic showing the growth and impact that social media has had. For starters, Facebook surpassed a new milestone with more than 1.15 billion users. On average, there are 400 million tweets sent out every day. Every second, 8,000 users like a photo they see on Instagram. A whopping 80 percent of Pinterest pins are repins. There are more than 3 million LinkedIn Company Pages and over 1 billion LinkedIn endorsements. Some 4.2 billion people use their mobile device to access social media.

These numbers are impressive. But, how did we get here? Let’s take a look at some of the events that took place and led to this growth.

Let’s start with what is now one of the older players – Facebook. 2013 proved to be a big year for the largest social network after it went public in 2012. Not only did Facebook grow in numbers and stock price, it also made several changes that impact marketing. For starters, it dramatically updated News Feed. Facebook rolled out “Story Bumping” that pushes older stories to the top of users’ feeds allowing them to see any they may have missed, a move that should help marketers.

Also with this update came the news that EdgeRank was dead. Though the term is no longer being used, Facebook still has an algorithm for News Feed in which affinity, weight and time decay continue to play a vital role.

Facebook additionally took a tip from Twitter and made the move add Verified Business Pages and to integrate #hashtags, the latter much to many users’ dismay. The company also added a 5-star rating system so users can rank business pages and updated Graph Search.

Lastly, Facebook made changes to its Promotion Guidelines making it easier for marketers to advertise and promote content through the network.

Moving on to Twitter, the microblogging service also had a number of noted events. In 2013, Twitter made the change to notify users when a tweet you have been mentioned in receives an additional action such as a retweet or mention. Twitter also added images to its timeline, so users don’t have to click elsewhere to view them.

For marketers, just last week, Twitter rolled out a retargeted ad program called tailored audiences to allow advertisers to target users based on their browsing history, which is a big win for marketers.

The biggest news for Twitter, however, has been its IPO. The company did not face the same drama that Facebook did when it went public, and so far, the stock has been high. Time will tell how the tech company will fare in a very volatile market.

The professional network of LinkedIn has also made headway this year for marketers in particular. LinkedIn unveiled Sponsored Updates as well as a robust analytics platform. Beyond this, it gave company page administrators the ability to act as their brand through posting updates, commenting and liking on their pages. All these developments help to position LinkedIn as a competitor among the other social networks.

We must also talk about Google+ in regards to social media happenings. For Google’s social network, 2013 has brought it growth, but it’s also brought some controversy. Earlier this year, Google began embedding Google+ into each of its products making it nearly impossible to use its services without adopting the social network. Many people feel that Google+ has been forced onto them for Google’s benefit and not their own. This is why Google+ numbers have been somewhat skewed in the past as well.

Google+ Meme

Google+ has also recently faced scrutiny for integrating Google+ further into YouTube. The biggest area in this move is the fact that YouTube’s long criticized comment system has changed. Now, users comment using their Google+ profiles, a.k.a., their real names in most cases.

But, regardless of your feelings about Google+, we do have to keep in mind that its parent is the search and advertising giant Google, and therefore, it cannot be taken lightly.

Pinterest, though somewhat of a newbie compared to the others, had its share of happenings during 2013 as well. Last year, the company rolled out business pages, and earlier this year, it released an analytics platform to go along with it.

Pinterest Analytics

Everyone’s favorite pinboard also introduced Rich Pins to give users valuable information about a pin, thus improving the user experience. Going right along with this, Pinterest rolled out price-drop notifications on pinned items. This move greatly opens the door for brands to turn “pinners into shoppers.”

Pinterest also introduced Place Pins to allow pinners to create boards around vacations, restaurants, wish lists, and more.

Another trend that we’ve seen in 2013 is the rise of some new social networks such as Snapchat, Vine and others along with the continued growth of Instagram. Younger generations are gravitating toward these platforms for the visual appeal and quick, short messaging opportunities. Images and micro-video are driving the younger generation’s communication. It doesn’t stop there though, marketers have embraced these visual-driven networks as well.

One of the biggest drivers of these networks and short-form messaging is the accessibility on mobile devices. As we saw above, some 4.2 billion people use their mobile device to access social media. This trend is only going to grow. Mobile is quickly becoming one of the primary, if not the primary, channel with which people communicate and obtain information. Given this direction, marketers need to be mindful and accommodate.

Marketers also need to recognize that social’s influence on search is continuing to grow. In new search rankings factors released this year, it’s evident that search is evolving to accommodate a social-centric world, which indicates a thing or two about the future significance of social media.

What other changes did you notice with social media during 2013? Have any of these updates or developments made your life or business easier? And how do you think these changes will impact what we’ll see in 2014?

Images courtesy of EkaterinaWalter.com, Reddit and Pinterest respectively.

Why the Buzz around Content Marketing Matters

 

Editing Content

“Content marketing” has become quite the buzz phrase in recent years. Why is this? Is it just hype, or is there really something to it?

To be honest, there are a couple things going on with content marketing. One is that it’s not a new idea. The concept has been around for quite some time, but companies have only recently realized its value. Two is that some of the buzz around it is merely hype because the term is often misused. For instance, it is often confused with social media marketing. While the two work hand in hand and while there is some cross over in what they each do, the distinction is that a content marketing strategy needs to come before a social media strategy.

Joe Pulizzi, the founder of the Content Marketing Institute, and who has written 3 books on the subject defines content marketing as:

“Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

In a nutshell, content marketing is designed to be a soft sell to customers. Instead of pushing promotional items that they don’t really care about, content marketing adds value. If you, as a business, consistently provide information, FAQs, news, and more that is relevant to your audience, you are delivering content marketing. By doing this, you are giving your customers a reason to continually come to you.

In case you haven’t noticed, traditional advertising is not as effective as it once was. In the digital age of two-way communication, consumers have learned to turn a blind eye to it. Their expectations are high, and in order to reach and connect with them, you must add value.

Where does social media fit into the picture? For starters, social media serves as an incredible distribution channel. Whenever you publish content, you have the opportunity to tease and send your message out on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and the list goes on and on. The great thing about social media is that you can serve your audience content based on their preference. So, for instance, if your customers are very visual, Pinterest or Instagram may be the best options for you to connect with them. If they prefer video, utilize YouTube. This is not a one-size-fits-all game – it’s completely customizable, which is the beauty of it.

Does it make sense now? Content marketing would not have the buzz that it has without the integration of social media. And on the social side, the content would be less than valuable if there was no strategy behind it.

But, as great as content marketing is, there are some stipulations. First and foremost, your content must be good. It seems basic enough, right? But, sadly, there are many companies that are fooling themselves into thinking they have a content marketing strategy when they really do not. In other words, if you are simply putting out promotional materials via social media channels, understand that this is NOT content marketing.

You have to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Do you care about something that only boasts the company such as an award? While it is a great feat, this is not something that adds value to customers. You also have to become an authority. You and your business will be respected more if you speak with authority. And in all honesty, you are the expert. Show off your knowledge to your audience and be confident in it. This is your time to shine, so showcase it.

You also must ditch corporate voice. As much as businesses want it to work, it doesn’t, especially not on social media. You have to speak the same language as your audience. Show that you are passionate about what you do. In today’s world, pretense is lost. Honesty and realism are appreciated.

It’s definitely a different way of thinking but there are brands that are getting it. In a recent post from Econsultancy, Ben Davis highlighted some companies including Red Bull and Louis Vuitton that are doing content marketing right. These companies are taking themselves out of the spotlight and are focusing on what their customers care about. What’s more, they have set the bar high for their competitors as well as other companies that are new to content marketing.

The overarching idea behind content marketing is that by constantly being in front of your audience, when they have a need or a want, they will come to you without a second thought. Why would they go somewhere else? You have enabled them to become smarter and more efficient at what they do by being a reliable resource for them. In turn, they will naturally become loyal, which is a win-win.

Display image courtesy of UndeniableTruth.com.

Growing Your Business the Social Media Way

Growing Your Business with Social MediaEveryone wants to grow their business, right? But, in order to grow successfully, a business needs a firm foundation. While the foundational elements can be disputed among different business owners, at the center of this foundation lies the many relationships that keep the business going. From relationships with partners, vendors and suppliers to the relationships with clients – these drive the business.

Building these relationships is only half the battle. The maintaining and strengthening of them is the challenge. Since the majority of business typically comes from repeat customers, these relationships are even more important.

In today’s world, relationships do not only consist of face-to-face time, or even phone time, but a big part of relationship building happens online.  In her book, The New Relationship Marketing, Mari Smith is known for advocating this term in regards to social media. It seems rather basic, but so often businesses and marketers neglect the “social” side of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Expanding Sales

Relationships and thus, business are built in so many ways across social media. For starters, social media can be used to expand sales. Though there is still a lot of talk and misconception about ROI and social media, social platforms actually do play both a direct and indirect role in driving sales.

The indirect role, of course, comes in the form of brand awareness and visibility. It’s on this side that many leads are generated by techniques including having a presence and sharing relevant content. The direct role, on the other hand, occurs through calls to action, driving customers to your website or your brick-and-mortar store, advertising, among other creative means.

Customer Service

Another extension of growing a business through social media is with customer service. If you haven’t figured it out by now, social media is an incredibly valuable tool for customer service. Although many social platforms are useful in this area, Twitter specifically shines. Companies such as Nike and JetBlue recognize the value and have witnessed success as a result.

Customers are impatient, especially if they’ve received poor service. So, combining this with a real-time platform seems like a match made in Heaven. Businesses can set up notification alerts for high priority keywords on Facebook and can utilize social media management tools to track and respond to needs in a timely fashion.

Brands do take on a lot of responsibility when they put themselves out there for customer service, but the impact could be far-reaching. While the customer is affected by the customer service, his or her friends, followers, and network can see and, in turn, be affected as well.

Product Reviews

Word of mouth is still one of the most powerful means in referring a product or service, but product reviews are essentially the equivalent to WOM online. More than 80 percent of consumers go online to research a product before making a purchase.  In other words, if your business isn’t doing well on product review and social sites, you could be missing out on some very big opportunities.

If you have bad reviews, try to turn it into something good. There may be some truth in it that helps your business become better at what it does. Or, it could be that you have the opportunity to turn a negative customer experience into a brand advocate for your business.

Also, if you’re not listed on specific review sites or if you don’t have reviews on your social channels, encourage customers to do give reviews by incentivizing them. Customers want to feel empowered, and the outcome could positively influence you.

Above all, businesses need to understand that social media exists for a reason. Many businesses both big and small are using it to grow, so why not join the club?

Image courtesy of EmmoAllen.com.

 

 

 

Social Media & 2014: Early Indicators of Coming Trends

 

What's trending?

It’s not even Halloween yet and speculation about social media in 2014 is already starting. While it may seem early, it’s actually rather beneficial before the busy holiday season ascends on us. Thinking about these issues now will actually help you better prepare your strategy for the upcoming year.

Where will social media go in 2014?

It’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? Although we’re not going to delve into it completely, thinking about the new year and what trends it will bring naturally leads us to look at 2013. This year has been an exciting year for social media as it has brought many new developments and trends.

One such trend relates to images and photo-sharing applications. This area has absolutely exploded throughout 2013. In fact, a recent study from Socialbakers found that photos make up 93 percent of the most engaging posts on Facebook:

Photos Most Shared

No doubt as a result of this trend, Facebook also began allowing users to embed photos into comments. Another likely result of the rise in images is the dramatic growth surge in applications such as Instagram, Snapchat, and, of course, Pinterest. The most popular pinning board also just made an announcement regarding “promoted pins” that shows it is serious about becoming profitable.

Another trend that has occurred this year has been the decline of daily deal sites. A few years ago, these were all the rave, but the fad has steadily weakened as market leaders Groupon and Living Social continue to struggle from a financial standpoint.

On the positive side, LinkedIn has had an exceptional year after making several announcements that puts it at an even better position among social networks.

We can’t talk about social media without talking about Facebook and Twitter, both of which have rolled out new features and thus setting themselves up to see even more growth. Twitter, in particular, recently tweeted out news that it had filed its S-1 to the SEC for its initial public offering, which means there will be a lot more to come in this regard.

While these events in no way cover all that has happened in 2013, they do help to lead us into thinking about what 2014 may bring.

For starters, we’ll have to watch Google+ closely. The search and advertising giant’s social network has experienced significant growth over the last year. Granted, Google is essentially automatically opting any user with a Google account into its social effort. Still, because it’s Google and the fact that the company is linking it to virtually all its properties, we sort of have to take it seriously. The fact that Google just linked YouTube’s new commenting system to Google+ only reinforces this idea.

Secondly, it appears that check-in services such as Foursquare may be on the decline. While these services may not completely go away, they do not seem as relevant as they once did. What’s more, they don’t offer much to marketers.

Thirdly, it appears that the image trend will continue throughout 2014. Consumers today are so visual that they essentially expect images when they’re searching, to read a story, etc. Going right along with this, the short video services such as Vine and Instagram’s video offering will likely grow too. Users today are busy and therefore want to gather information as quickly as possible. In 2014, I think we’ll see more marketers using these tools to reach their audience.

Furthermore, we will likely see Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn grow and develop toward a new level of maturity. With all three companies being public in 2014, they have no choice but to appease stockholders with valuable products, which in turn, works greatly in the favor of marketers.

As these changes and trends begin to unfold, the importance of social media will drastically increase. If companies fail to get on board, their marketing efforts will fall noticeably short. Social media is simply becoming more engrained into society both on a personal and business level making it a must-have for any business that wants to be successful.

Images courtesy of Thinkhandy and Socialbakers respectively.

Why Social Media Is NOT a Fad

Oh my. Here we go again. The question over whether or not social media is a fad has been sparked once again. A few years ago, this debate was really hot as social networks – namely Facebook and Twiter – were figuring out how to monetize their services. It has died down in recent years but, every once in a while, it gets revived, which is what is happening now.

To understand why social media is here to stay, let’s back up to the days before Facebook and Twitter. Even back then, social media existed. At this point, it primarily consisted of forums. Then, between 2004-2006, blogs really began taking off. The glory days of MySpace, of course, fell into this time frame too.

Although forums had been around for years, an interesting shift in communication began taking place over the course of these years. As this occurred, people, meaning regular, average Joe individuals, started realizing that they had a voice. These regular people could connect and converse with their peers. And as a result, these conversations provided value.

With the power of this concept starting to sink in, the shift in communication began to evolve. What helped this concept grow and evolve even more, however, was largely due to free blogging platforms such as WordPress and Blogspot as well as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter coming onto the scene.

As these events started to unfold, businesses also started seeing changes. Now that essentially everyone had a voice, their job became harder. Businesses could no longer dictate the message they wanted consumers to hear. The roles became reversed.

At this time, businesses started seeing the true value of new media and began embracing it. If you fast-forward to today, all social channels have grown exponentially. Businesses that recognized the shift in communication early on are finding that social media is simply an extension of their traditional marketing strategy. Others that have been late to the game are playing catch up. And, of course, there are some who have yet to join in that will, unfortunately but likely, face many challenges when they realize the importance of social integration.

The “fad” factor comes into play as there are so many new social networks being introduced in today’s world. There are a LOT of social networks in today’s world. From image-based networks to video-based networks and beyond, it’s incredibly hard to keep up with them all, especially when they are geared toward very niche verticals.

Will one of these rise up to become the next Facebook? It’s possible. But, at this point, no one knows. Back in MySpace’s day, most of its users probably thought it was here to stay. The trend, however, changed.

With Facebook, it is somewhat different. While it is true that Facebook is losing some of the younger generation of users, this doesn’t mean that it’s dying. Facebook is still the go-to place for many users next to email. In fact, recent statistics from Digital Marketing Ramblings show that Facebook has 1.15 billion users, and 699 million daily active users. Does this sound like a site that’s dying? It is certainly possible that Facebook may not be around at some point. But, it doesn’t seem to be headed in this direction any time in the near future.

More importantly, even if Facebook goes away, there will be another network(s) that everyone will be using. Unless the communication model moves backward, which in all honesty is next to impossible, social media is here for the long haul.

A new study from Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project shows that social media usage among U.S. adults has risen 800 percent in just 8 years. Also among noteworthy news, Twitter users have grown 125 percent since 2010.

Pew Internet Study

On the business side, a study from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research shows that the corporate world gets that social media has immense value too:

Fortune 500 Social Media Usage

All these reasons are more than proof to squash the “Is social media a fad?” debate. Instead, how about we focus on making the current social platforms better for businesses to succeed?

 

What LinkedIn Is Doing to Remain a Competitive Social Network

LinkedIn Logo

LinkedIn has been gradually making it easier for brands to utilize its professional network as a marketing tool. Its latest effort includes a redesigned and expanded analytics platform for Company Pages.

At first glance, it’s clear that LinkedIn has taken some tips from Facebook. The layout is similar in terms of what “insights” it offers. But, it does provide a wealth of information. For each post, the analytics show the impressions, clicks, interactions, whether or not followers were gained, and the percentage of engagement.

Beyond this, marketers can see their total reach, their follower demographics, their follower trends, and how they compare to their competitors. Some of these areas, such as follower demographics can be further adjusted according to seniority, industry, company size, function, and employee. The overall product defaults to show data from the past 15 days, but this can be adjusted as well.

Basically, LinkedIn has gone out of its way to try to fill the needs of marketers.

Just before LinkedIn announced its analytics platform, the company rolled out Sponsored Updates, again similar to that of Facebook. The two new products, however, work in conjunction with each other. On LinkedIn’s blog, Aviad Pinkovezky, the company’s Monetization Product Manager, wrote:

“The new LinkedIn Company Page analytics and the recently launched Sponsored Updates empower companies, organizations, and institutions to reach the world’s professionals and engage them in rich and meaningful conversations.”

LinkedIn has previously included analytics, but the company has never had such a robust platform as its most recent release.

Last month, LinkedIn also gave Company Page administrators the ability to act as a brand. For instance, this capability allows brands to like, comment, and share, although the feature is not available to all Company Pages yet.

The Impact

While all these new features are exciting, what is the real impact? For starters, LinkedIn is clearly showing that it belongs in the social marketing mix. No, it may not be as big as Facebook or Twitter, but it definitely doesn’t have all the noise the others have. Also, while Facebook and Twitter have both demonstrated maturity in recent years, LinkedIn has always been on a different level. Even with its IPO, the network never received the deafening press that Facebook did. And now, as a publicly traded company, it has demonstrated strength and stability in ways that other tech companies simply cannot do.

Meena Krishnamsetty, the Editor and Co-founder of Insider Monkey, expressed her confidence in the platform over on Market Watch saying LinkedIn would rule Web 3.0.

“It is positioned to be the dominant social-media investment over the next decade, when Web 3.0 — the next iteration of the Internet — finally takes hold,” she wrote.

According to her, one of the strongest indicators regarding LinkedIn is its revenue diversification. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn doesn’t depend on its ad revenue. In addition to its ad program, it has premium subscriptions and job listings with which to pull in revenue. Now, it has Sponsored Updates to include in its profitability pool as well.

Krishnamsetty makes a good case for LinkedIn. It’s almost as if the network has risen quietly in the shadows of Facebook and Twitter. The question is, do marketers recognize the value of it?