The dynamic and shifting world of social media is so alive, it’s a marketer’s dream and nightmare at the same time. The challenge of keeping up is big, but the power of possibly going viral is a great lure.
Social media marketing is a tough game, and opting out of it is not an option for any business or brand. Knowing where social media is heading and what will determine its future state can make a big difference in formulating the right strategies and approach.
I see five trends that will hold the key to success at social media marketing: content, data, mobile, influencers, and automation.
1. Consumption Of Content On Social Media Is On The Rise
Right from cute kittens to updates on the upcoming presidential elections, social media has become the window to the world. According to a study conducted by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with the Pew Research Center, the use of Facebook and Twitter for consumption of news and content is on a steady rise. In addition, the overall time spent on social networking sites is also showing an upward trend.
It’s no surprise that businesses and brands are increasingly looking to content to propel interactions and engage more with their target audiences. However, the nature of social media is transient and quick. Hundreds of millions of tweets are posted on Twitter every day, and Facebook is even bigger.
For businesses and brands to make their presence felt, volumes of content have to be shared by them daily to attempt catching the eye of their fans and followers. Creating this volume day after day is next to impossible, and the next best alternative is to curate content.
Mixing impact-oriented original content with curated is a practical way to manage a solid social media presence. Content curation is already used by many brands for their Web sites and blogs, and its social media application is only easier and more useful.
2. Data, Only Data, Will Drive Smart Decisions
With so much chatter on social and so many users, social data provides an invaluable mine of insights. This data is the window to the customers’ minds and can inform very impactful decisions. There are primarily two kinds of social data–the user profile data and the mass of content being shared by users. While the former is relatively static, the latter is extremely fast-moving.
The user profile or demographic data can help shape better targeted advertising campaigns and is also useful for shaping an over-arching social marketing strategy. The other kind of data, which is also harder to mine and analyze, can help businesses and brands do a bunch of things. Listening to social chatter can help formulate content strategy, understand the sentiment of your audience, find brand ambassadors, fine-tune communication, and even help you react to events and micro-trends in real time.
As social media marketing grows more and more competitive and content moves at lightning-quick speeds, only smart and quick data-backed decision-making will be the true competitive advantage that businesses and brands will be able to boast of in the future. Getting a handle on your social data is an absolute essential.
3. Social Media Is Going Mobile
Agile marketing is all about speed, and what better way to catch an audience in real time than on mobile. A well-compiled report on digital, social, and mobile by We Are Social indicates there are close to 3.6 billion mobile users in the world and about 1.7 billion active mobile social accounts. Social media users have moved to mobile; it’s now the marketer’s turn.
Mobile brings a whole new set of opportunities for the social and digital marketer. While it allows for little in terms of space, mobile experience is much more personal, and with technology moving at pace, geo-targeting and contextualizing messages for the users will soon become the norm.
Mobile users spend a significant amount of their mobile time on social networks, leaving social media marketers a big opportunity to tap into. This is why it is imperative that social landing pages, content, and Web sites are optimized for the mobile experience.
The social media marketer also needs to be on mobile to ride the wave of transient micro-trends and react in real time. The Oreo Super Bowl tweet could only have worked at that precise moment, and enabled mobile devices can give you the power to act quickly. Mobile social media apps will be the future of social media marketing technology, enabling marketers to react more quickly and do more on the go.
4. Social Influencers Are A Big Opportunity
Influencer marketing is not just a buzzword, but a trend that’s here to stay. From a buyer's point of view, an influencer is an expert with a genuine opinion on a particular product or service and someone she can trust for a good recommendation. A McKinsey study found that consumer-to-consumer word of mouth (marketing-induced) was twice as effective in generating sales as paid advertising. Influencer marketing, if anything, should top this, considering that influencers are trusted figures in their circles.
Influencers can garner greater support for brands in less time, which is a huge opportunity for marketers. For instance, Altium Limited achieved great success in building awareness for one of its products, the NanoBoard 3000. The company reached out to citizen journalists in the technology space who were active on social media and asked them to review the product. Eighty percent of them posted an online review (mostly positive), and some included images. One of the reviewers even connected the company with two engineers at Apple who were also interested in reviewing the product.
While influencer marketing has been found to be effective in building brand awareness, it comes with some challenges, of which identifying the right influencers is the biggest. But having overcome such challenges, it is certainly a powerful strategy in the hand of marketers.
5. Social Media Automation Will Become Indispensable
Active Twitter and Facebook pages of businesses of any size have thousands of fans and followers, with big brands boasting hundreds of thousands or even millions. With these numbers, social media presence and interactions with followers can no longer be managed manually. That’s where the debate ends. For those still skeptical, here are some common myths busted on social media automation. Social media tools are already indispensable, and the future will see more advancements--and the accompanied debates.
Social media automation tools let you do many things, including scheduling posts for best times, monitoring social media conversations, and tracking the performance of your campaigns. While the general inclination is toward consolidating all these functions with a single tool, it’s often not possible or practical to do that. Staying open to the idea of working with multiple tools or apps often provides good results. Ask any social media consultant or agency, and they’ll all have their stack of favorite social media tools.
Social media is a fast-paced, ever-evolving world. Social media marketers have to adapt to the changes and trends--and even make the best of them to get some dramatic results. The dynamic nature of this marketing channel is what makes it so interesting and adrenalin-pumping.